A large variety of mythical animals form the inseparable part of India's traditions, culture, religious beliefs, art forms etc. Discuss while giving suitable examples in Indian paintings and sculptures.

Published: November 9, 2017

Animals and humans have been companions for centuries. Indian art is nearly 5000 years old and in so many thousand years, Indian artists have depicted animals, birds and insects in many imaginative ways. The history of art and painting in India begins with the pre-historic rock painting at Bhimbetka caves, where we have drawings and paintings of animals. Thousands of seals belonging to Indus Valley have animal figures such as unicorn, rhinoceros etc.
The mythical animals depicted in the early Indian motifs include winged lion, beaked lion, horned lion, winged stag, winged bull, bull with elephant face, winged goat, males and females with bodies or heads of lion, eagle, horse, elephant, monkey, fish etc. Such figures are available in the sculptures at Barhut, Sanchi, Amaravati, Nagarjunakonda and Mathura and murals of Ajanta.
The early sculptures and motifs depicting animals also got imbibed into popular culture and through the stories of Ramayana, Mahabharata, Jatakas, Puranas etc. have become an inseparable part of India’s culture. Key examples are Lord Narsimha (depicted as half lion and half human), Ganesha (half elephant and half human); Hanuman (Monkey God); Bagalamukhi (the crane-headed deity); Yakshas and Yakshinis (the demigods and spirits); Kamdhenu and Sheshanagh.

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