Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya

Elephant in Musth

Rajasthani, Mewar,

Thikana Deogarh,

Iartist: Chokha, dated 1811.

Karl J. Khandalavala Collection


On a dark night of the fifth day of the month of Magasar (November–December), the royal elephant Madar Bagas has gone out of control while in rut. All four legs of the elephant are heavily chained, making it impossible for him to free even one of them. The person standing in front of him is trying to control him with firecrackers. The people working around appear tiny insignificant creatures in front of the mad, but majestic elephant. The white tusks against the dark background emphasize his fierceness. The shimmering metal chains glow in the light of the firecrackers thrown at him. The dark sky is dotted with tiny, glittering stars. The artist has emphasized the pinkish swollen gland between the ear and the eye of the elephant to suggest his state of musth which generally occurs in the winter months from November to January.

Only an artist like Chokha who excelled in recreating atmosphere and the mood of the moment in his paintings, could capture such a scene. He has subtly used shades of black and grey, and the technique of heavy stippling and fine lines to enhance the body contours of the elephant. Chokha was fond of using black in his paintings.

Inscription on the reverse:
Portrait of elephant Madar Bagas (from?) Kotah, presented by the painter Chokha on the fifth day of the dark half of Magasar (November– December), Samvat 1868 (= 1811 CE).


Folio from an illustrated manuscript of Devi Mahatmya

Illustrations 43; Folios 54

Western India, Surat

Samvat 1776 = 1719 CE

56.38 | Folio 32

The Devi Mahatmya of the Markandeya Purana (Adhyaya 81-93) is probably the most popular text copied and illustrated in almost all parts of India for religious merit as well as for reading and recitation. It contains the myth of the destruction of the all-powerful demon Mahisha and his retinue, by goddess Durga, the embodiment of the energies of all the gods.

The painting illustrates Brahmani, the shakti of Brahma, riding a canopied chariot, holding a sword and a noose in her upper hands while holding the reigns of her chariot with her lower right. Instead of a single swan as her mount, the artist has engaged a pair to draw her chariot. The Devanagari inscription on top reads as “Bhavani”.



Tamil Nadu

Period of Raja Raja Chola, Early 11th century CE

Ht. 39.1 cm

Karl & Meherbai Khandlavala Collection


Out of the various forms of Shiva, the image of Chandrashekara is peaceful and benign. As his name indicates, he has the moon on his head adorning his matted locks.

According to the legend, Shiva repulsed the demons with nonchalance. They threw at him a black antelope, but he killed it and held aloft. They flung the crescent at him, but he caught it and tucked it in his hair. Chandrashekhara stands erect, holding an axe and an antelope in his upper two hands. His right hand is in the abhayamudra, while with the other one he bestows a boon. His slim and elegant body is decorated with the necklaces, armlets, earrings and other ornaments.

This beautiful statuette, produced during the reign of the famous Chola King Raja Raja Chola in the 11th century CE, is a typical of the Chola bronze.


Krishna Sheltering Radha from a Storm

Rajasthani, Mewar

1700-1710 CE


Though depicting somewhat stiff and stunted human figures, the painting is lively with colour and movement. The gopas have come to the forest and are seated, covered with a blanket, near a fast-flowing rivulet or probably the river Yamuna which bends sharply at the left. Cows and calves of variegated colours have also drawn near to drink water. The westerly monsoon wind is blowing, bending the trees to the right. Krishna, standing under a tree, covers Radha with his kari kamari, the black blanket usually carried by cowherds. On the other side, a bed of leaves is prepared for them in a beautifully decorated arched pavilion and he is seen again in the centre, leading Radha to it. His black blanket is blowing about with the wind and can hardly protect them.

Dressed in bright yellow and orange attire, Krishna and Radha are set against the dark brown background typical of the Mewar school. Rain clouds have gathered in the sky, brightened by lightning which appears like golden snakes. The text of the inscription above the painting is probably from a composition by one of the saint poets of the Vallabhacharya sect.

Translation of Hindi inscription at the top:

The cool breeze is blowing, the bed of leaves is

prepared, protecting her with a black blanket as

she is thoroughly drenched, Krishna is now

leading Radha to the bower

Black Buck and the Doe

Black Buck and the Doe

Mughal; Late 17th century CE


Though not very uncommon, the black buck or the Indian antelope with dazzling colour and spiraled horns is often portrayed by the Mughal artists. It is the most beautiful of all the varieties of antelopes and is considered a sacred animal in northern India.

The black buck with a dark brownish black coat is strutting behind the fawn coloured doe, throwing his head upwards till his horns almost touch his back. The artist has not failed to paint his face glands, widely opened at this time of his rut period in February or March. The doe walking ahead is also enjoying the same mood. Both of them carry their neck straps with a ring in front to chain them when required. Fine anklets provide delicate adornment to the female for the delight of the master or the onlooker.

There is an elaborately decorated Qita on the reverse by Nishat Muhammad.

The verse is a prayer for the welfare and good health of the king.

May object


The ‘Sunfish’ is a deep sea dwelling fish which is rarely found on the surface of the sea. This fish was caught in an unknown fisherman's net, who dumped the fish at the Sassoon dock when no one was willing to purchase it. Mr. Ganesh Nakhwa, the President of the All India Persian Fisher Welfare Association and a fisherman, understanding the rarity of the species approached the Museum via the Mumbai edition desk of the Marathi daily newspaper Tarun Bharat'.

The specimen has been identified as Bump-head Sunfish or Southern Sunfish which is rarely seen in the marine ecosystem of the state of Maharashtra. This sunfish can reach up to 3.3m in length and 2300kg in mass, making it one of the two heaviest bony fish on Earth. This specimen was about three feet long and weighing thirty kilograms. Their food consists of jellyfish, squids, mollusks and small fishes.