The Journey of Elephant as a Decorative Element in Saharanpur Woodcraft: A Cultural Investigation

Aayushi Verma1 & Ila Gupta2

 1PhD Junior Research Fellow (UGC), Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee, Uttarakhand, India. Email:

2Professor & HOD, Department of Architecture and Planning, Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee, Uttarakhand, India.

Vol. 1, No. 2, 2016 I Full Text PDF

 Received August 29, 2016; Revised September 07, 2016; Accepted September 10, 2016; Published September 17, 2016


According to existing literature, art and craft are the essential activity of human mind featured with imagination and innovation and ornamented by variation of shapes, texture and colors.  It laid emphasis on aesthetic excellence and creative collaboration through the design element. Through the ages, design component is considered as the visual dialogue and straightest path for the understanding of divergent culture, religion and tradition. The language of design deals with the external and internal aspect of images that create visual appearance and forms a relationship between art and craft. Over a period of time, elephant form has been applied in various art, craft and architecture with hidden meaning. Concerning to this, Saharanpur the commercial district of Uttar Pradesh rose to prominence during Mughal Period. Situated in the Indo-Gangatic Plains under the shadow of Shiwalik foothills, the district reveals a strong cultural past with aesthetic expression. Under the patronage of different monarchs it developed a unique style of wood carving primarily done on Shisham wood borrowing elements from Mughal art and architecture, a characteristic of Indo-Islamic-Persian style. Saharanpur woodcraft became a part of cultural heritage and protected by Geographical Indications (GI) tag. In Saharanpur woodcraft, elephant as a decorative element has been lavishly implemented with the abundance of floral and geometrical decorations on wood and stone carving as well as wall paintings. These wide varieties of decorations demonstrate the glimpse of Indian art as well as the mystery of Mughal art. Despite knowing the existence of the elephant motif in Hindu mythology, it was adopted in the Mughal art with impressive manner. The aim of writing this paper is to study the factors which were largely responsible for the application of elephant motif in Saharanpur woodcraft. The purpose of depiction of this motif is not only the ornamentation and decoration but also the adoption of it in human life with essential aspects. The conclusive remarks will highlight the significance of elephant motif for woodcraft.

 Keywords: Elephant, Decorative Element, Hindu Mythology, Mughal Art.