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World Elephant Day: Gaj Mahotsav unites Indian artists, celebs for tusker friend

On World Elephant Day (August 12), the festival Gaj Mahotsav kicks off in Delhi, to showcase 101 elephant installations, photographs by artists and performances by Delhi-based rock bank Euphoria.

art and culture Updated: Aug 12, 2018 16:38 IST
Henna Rakheja
Henna Rakheja
Hindustan Times
Elephant,Gaj Mahotsav,World Elephant Day
A stainless steel bolts and bronze elephant installation by Priya Jhangu will be on display at the festival.

The elephant is an animal that holds a lot of fascination for everyone since our childhoods. It’s also worshipped. The Hindu god of good luck, Lord Ganesha is also the elephant god. It’s also India’s National Heritage Animal. However, the state of this majestic animal is becoming pitiable due to man’s conflict with the wild.

On World Elephant Day (August 12), a cultural festival in the Capital will unite artists and celebrities to raise awareness on elephant conversation, and reinforce its status as our National Heritage Animal.

Titled Gaj Mahotsav, the event organised by Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) and the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC), will sensitise people through different art forms including an exhibition of elephant themed paintings and installations. Actor and UN Environment Goodwill Ambassador for India Dia Mirza, who is also the WTI ambassador, has also lent support to the cause.

Actor Dia Mirza with an elephant installation created by Brinda Miller and Bandana Jain.

Ina Puri, co-curator of the exhibition, says, “It’s important to have festivals like these otherwise the elephant remains a creature in the wild, and people don’t become aware of the reason behind the conflict between man and animal. We need to see the elephant out of its utility.”

“We are all born free, and we must feel free to make the choices and follow the path that we need to in life, [and] so should all living beings.” — Dia Mirza, actor

The event highlight remains to be the 101 life-size art pieces representing the 101 elephant corridors of India. These have been painted by artists from across India. “We are all born free, and we must feel free to make the choices and follow the path that we need to in life, [and] so should all living beings,” believes Mirza.

Artist Brinda Miller, who has painted one of the elephant installations, says, “Elephants were one of the first animals that I must have learnt to draw as an artist. I had earlier painted a female elephant for the Elephant Parade that took place in Mumbai, and called it Rani. This time, along with artist Bandana Jain, I have conceptualised a male elephant installation and called it Gajendra. It’s got a lotus painted on its mat and back, which depicts the gentleness of the elephant, and a visual medium has a huge impact on people.”

An artwork titled Lost Horizon by Paresh Maity.

There will also be a photography exhibition, workshops, and talks by personalities. Alka Pande, art critic, who has curated the photography exhibition, says, “I have selected 51 photographs that will sensitise the common people to Asian elephants. Its a visual journey that sees elephants in art. Elephant is supposed to be the architect of the jungle, and [this festival highlights that only] if our animal life is safe, we are safe.”

But, that’s not all. There will also be screenings of films on elephants and performances by Delhi-based Indian rock band Euphoria, besides performances by renowned Indian dancers Padma Shri Astad Deboo, Padma Bhushan Mallika Sarabhai and Padma Bhushan Saroja Vaidyanathan.

Indian contemporary dancer Astad Deboo.

Indian contemporary dancer Astad Deboo, who has choreographed a special piece for the festival, says, “My performance will begin with the elephants in the wild, and the village enjoying a good harvest. [In the] next scene hunters see the elephants and as the dance progresses you see there is a clash between elephants and hunters and in the end both elephants as well as villagers and hunters are affected by the clash. The closing dance puts forward the question: Why can’t we respect the environment, and let the elephants have their space?”

The artists have looked at elephants in different ways, and some even feel that it’s important to shock the viewers through their work. Veteran wildlife photographer, Rajesh Bedi, whose work will also be on display, says, “I feel happy if my works can be used to conserve the habitat of elephants and their corridors. In the name of elephant project, there’s zero work happening in India. At least the ministry is doing something via this festival. But, we also need to show the sad part of the story to people, that is, how people worship the Ganesha and on the other hand kill the elephants.”

  • What: Gaj Mahotsav
  • Where: Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, 11, Mansingh Road
  • When: August 12 to 15
  • Timing: 9am to 9pm
  • Nearest Metro Station: Central Secretariat on Yellow and Violet Line

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First Published: Aug 12, 2018 16:37 IST