Animania: An Exhilarating Translation of Mythological Animals

A visual vista of the Sacred Animals of India, re-imagined by illustrators across the globe.

Animania Exhibition- Animal World Map (2011) by Asmita Parelkar, Design TempleMuseum of Design Excellence

ANIMANIA is a visual journey, that seeks to rekindle our love for the animal world.

Carefully observing the ancient narrative of the Sacred Animals of India - Animania, recreates a modern day animal portraiture to build empathy and understanding.

Love Dome, Animania (2011) by Design TempleMuseum of Design Excellence

Animals were revered in Ancient India-either as deities or as vahanas (vehicles) of deities. Each ‘vehicle’ had a symbolic and philosophical significance-and they were prominently displayed along with gods and goddesses. Inspiring tales of their attributes were woven into fables, dating back 3000 years; which, along with other mythological beliefs and representations, kept alive the tradition of veneration, kindness and non-violence towards all creatures. These devout associations in the Past automatically brought about preservation of the animal world.

However, Modern India, like the rest of the world, has changed drastically. Rapid urbanisation has caused degradation of forest, loss of natural habitats, and a depletion of the animal population.

Animania Exhibition - How We Did It Then (2011) by Design TempleMuseum of Design Excellence

Hanuman Visits Sita in Lanka, Folio from a Ramayana (Adventures of Rama) (circa 1775-1800) by UnknownLos Angeles County Museum of Art

In Mythology

Animals were often featured in Myth Creation such as in the Ramayana and Mahabharata and the Samudra Manthana where they played a crucial role in elucidating the battle between good and evil. 

Karttikeya, God of War, Seated on a Peacock (Ganga period, about 12th century) by Indian; Andhra Pradesh, MadanapalleThe Art Institute of Chicago

Through Veneration

Animals were represented as deities and vahanas or carriers of deities. These animal forms could be real, mythological or, occasionally, composites. Often, these ‘vehicles’ indicated an undesirable quality that was controlled by the deity by which it was ridden - or denoted a good value inherent in that animal/bird that was exemplary to human beings. Featured here is a sculpture of Lord Kartikeya riding his Vahana, the peacock.  

Goddess Ganga seated on her Vahana-Makara (19th Century (1892))Indian Museum, Kolkata

In this painting, Goddess Ganga is shown riding her Vahana- the makar (crocodile)

Krishna Plays his Enchanting FluteLahore Museum

Through Religious Sects

The concept of ahimsa in Jain, Buddhist and certain Hindu sects strongly advocates non-violence towards all living creates, which includes the complete prohibition of the consumption of meat. This ideology not only allowed for the co-existence of animals with man but also the protection of the animal world as seen in the image to the right of Krishna with the cows and Gopis. 

Adventures of Two Travelling Priests, Folio from a "Panchakhyana" (Jain Recension of the Panchatantra) Series (circa 1725) by UnknownLos Angeles County Museum of Art

Through Storytelling

Animals were regularly featured in engaging children’s fables such as the Panchatantra (a compilation of stories that goes back more than 2000 years) and Jataka Tales (a voluminous body of Buddhist literature) where they were represented in both, human and animal forms. 

Capital with Winged Lion (2nd century) by UnknownLos Angeles County Museum of Art

As Symbols of Virtue

Animals were depicted as royal insignia owing to their virility and majestic appearance. For instance, the Lion Capital of Ashoka - a monolithic column comprising four lions facing the four cardinal directions - was created as a platform for the inscription of King Ashoka’s edicts during the Maurya Dynasty in the 4th-2nd BCE, and was later adopted as the National Emblem of India in 1950.

Animania Exhibition - How We've Seen It Here (2011) by Design TempleMuseum of Design Excellence

Animania Exhibition - Gharial and Star Tortoise (2011) by Christian MontenegroMuseum of Design Excellence

The Gharial and Star Tortoise

By Christian Montenegro | Argentina

Gharial / Fish Eating Crocodile (2011) by Christian MontenegroMuseum of Design Excellence


The gharial or crocodile is a symbol of maya or illusion, and is the vahana of Ganga, the river Goddess of purity. Ganga is said to have utilized her gharial to assist her in delivering the living entities of the three worlds from material contamination.

The submerged, upturned trees in the background at the upper edges of the illustration are representative of the illusions of reality. The gharial cuts through this stream of illusion in the foreground, reminding us that life should be led without the distractions of maya.

The gharial glides through the light blue, clear water in the middle section of the work, undistracted by maya - represented by fish and lotus flowers - in the adjacent, darker blue sections that surround it.

Star Tortoise (2011) by Christian MontenegroMuseum of Design Excellence


The star tortoise is the ‘vehicle’ of Yamuna, the river Goddess of sanctity, and is a symbol of perseverance and balance between good and evil.

The composition of the illustration is symmetrically balanced on either sides of the tortoise and its outstretched limbs. The work is split into two frames - the blue and the green colour - and is representative of the separation of the dual concepts of good and evil.

The radiating sun draws attention towards the mount placed on the tortoise. According to ancient myths, while the devas and asuras were churning the ocean in hopes of receiving the nectar of immortality, the mount which they were using as a churning staff began to sink. In order to raise the mount, Lord Vishnu took the form of stable / rigid strong tortoise.

Animania Exhibition - Lion and Peacock (2011) by Leandro CastelaoMuseum of Design Excellence

The Asiatic Lion and Indian Peacock

By Leandro Castello | Argentina

Asiatic Lion (2011) by Leandro CastelaoMuseum of Design Excellence


The lion is the ‘vehicle’ ‘of Rahu - a God associated with fame, fortune and prestige - and symbolises power and strength. Apart from Rahu’s association with worldly matters, he is also believed to cause eclipses.

This interpretation of the lion comprises simple, geometric lines and shapes that integrate to form a delicate, yet elegant and regal image.

The animator has incorporated the concept of solar time and into the mane of the lion. While the outer area of the sun is ringed by yellow spokes, the central portion is concealed by a black orb, which is indicative of a solar eclipse.

Indian Peacock (2011) by Leandro CastelaoMuseum of Design Excellence


The peacock is the vahana of Karthikeya - the God who conquers vices - and represents the six vices - sex, anger, greed, passion, ego, and jealousy.

The majestic form of the peacock is elegantly captured in this geometric, bold rendition. The viewer’s gaze is directed towards the peacock’s plumes where the six identical segments along the upper circumference of the plumes represent the six vices. The abundance of form and pattern in the illustration suggests the hedonistic qualities the peacock embodies.

Animania - Peacock Mirror (2011) by Divya ThakurMuseum of Design Excellence

Indian Vulture - Installation Image (2011) by Seijiro KuboMuseum of Design Excellence

The Indian Vulture and Indian Grey Mongoose

By Seijiro Kubo | Japan

Indian Vulture (2011) by Seijiro KuboMuseum of Design Excellence


The vulture is the vahana of Shani - the God of immense power and planet, Saturn - and denotes darkness and power.

In the illustration, the halo of seven rings that encircles the vultures head is representative of the seven rings that circumscribe Saturn.

The sinister aura of the vulture is unaffected by its closed and compact form. The narrow eyes, sharp, angular lines and commanding stance are indicative of a subtle, but fierce, authoritative energy that instils a sense of fear.

Indian Grey Mongoose (2011) by Seirjiro KuboMuseum of Design Excellence


The mongoose or nakula is the ‘vehicle’ of Kubera, the God of wealth, and represents intelligence, agility and riches. The mongoose is believed to be a receptacle of gems, and when pressed by Kubera, vomits forth riches.

The orangish-gold colour used in this representation of nakula is indicative of the luxury and riches that it embodies. The mongoose holds a soft presence that is paralleled in the usage of curved lines in this composition. A playful, mischievous sense is obtained through the mongoose’s keen eyes and the wry smirk.

Animania Exhibition - Black Buck (2011) by Lokesh KarekarMuseum of Design Excellence

The Black Buck

By Lokesh Karekar | India

Black Buck (2011) by Lokesh KarekarMuseum of Design Excellence


The black buck is the ‘vehicle’ of Chandra, the moon, and is a symbol of purity and peace

The agility of the animal has been captured through the smooth, sensual lines about its head and torso, while the restless nature of the black buck is set in the wave-like contours of the antlers.
The black buck’s head is gently turned to the side and its gaze is caught by the moon in the upper left section of the work.

The colour palette used in the illustration comprises calming tones, and parallels the tranquility felt by the black buck in the presence of Chandra.

Animania Exhibition - Parakeet and Barn Owl (2011) by Ingela P. ArrenhiusMuseum of Design Excellence

The Rose Tinged Parakeet and Barn Owl

By Ingela P. Arrenhius | Sweden

Rose Tinged Parakeet (2011) by Ingela P ArrheniusMuseum of Design Excellence


The parrot is the ‘vehicle’ of Kama - the Hindu God of love - and is a symbol of spring.

The animator has arranged nine parrots in a manner such that they form a tree, the tree of love. Each parrot appears to be performing a different act of love such as, sharing the forbidden fruit, courtship and getting struck by cupid’s arrow.

The bright, cheerful colour palette of the illustration evokes the vibrancy and joy associated with love and spring.

Barn Owl (2011) by Ingela P ArrheniusMuseum of Design Excellence


Uluka is the vahana of Lakshmi - the Goddess of wealth and wisdom - and denotes intelligence, affluence and good luck.

Each of the owls in the three strata represent one of the three qualities. The bespectacled owl in the upper stratum symbolises knowledge, the spherical pattern on the the owl in the central stratum is indicative of wealth, and the owl adorning the four-leaf clover in the bottom stratum signifies good luck.

The animator has directed the owls’ gazes towards each other, signifying the inter-connectedness of Wisdom, Wealth and Fortune.

Animania Exhibition - Imperial Eagle (2011) by Divya ThakurMuseum of Design Excellence

The Imperial Eagle

By Divya Thakur | India

Imperial Eagle (2011) by Divya ThakurMuseum of Design Excellence


The eagle or garuda is the carrier of Lord Vishnu and symbolises the Soul, Jiva Atma, that carries the Super Soul, Param Atma. It is also considered a metaphor for speed and attentiveness.

The halo that rings in the eagle’s head is a chakra, Lord Vishnu’s weapon.

The eagle’s sense of sharp astuteness is captured by his piercing gaze and motionless body. Its upturned crest and large imposing torso evoke a sense of regality and boldness.

Animania Exhibition- Tiger Rug and the Elephant (2011) by Josh BrillMuseum of Design Excellence

The Tiger and Elephant

By Josh Brill | USA

Tiger (2011) by Josh BrillMuseum of Design Excellence


The tiger is the vahana of Durga - the Goddess of shakti - and signifies strength, virtue and the destruction of evil.

The negative space of the illustration seamlessly merges with the form of the tiger creating a simultaneous frontal and side profile. The unity of contrasting forms is indicative of the existence of the opposing ideologies of good and evil.

Asian Elephant (2011) by Josh BrillMuseum of Design Excellence


The elephant is the mount of Indra - the king of Gods - and represents royal power, strength and stability.

The crowned, white elephant stands proudly against the royal purple background, and holds a commanding presence.

Art Class, Animania (2011)Museum of Design Excellence

ANIMANIA - Art Class At Lodi Gardens

Animania Exhibition Art Class (2011)Museum of Design Excellence

ANIMANIA - Art Class at Lodi Gardens

Animania - About the Exhibit (2011)Museum of Design Excellence

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