The Makara: Transforming a mythical creature into an object of Art

By Dennard H D’Souza ,Research Associate, Maritime History Society

My first encounter with the Makara was on a gateway of the Sanchi stupa. It featured a man wrestling with a serpentine monster geared with tusks of an elephant. Little was I aware of the creature and its significance in the Indian scheme of tradition. All of a sudden, it appeared in bas-reliefs and sculpture in lands as far as Japan. This set me thinking about the concept of Makara as a marine being that suddenly became a decorative motif all throughout Asia.

The Makara is a mythical creature which resides in the depth of the waters, where it lives in a state of elusive isolation. Like all mythical creatures, the Makara too has many fantastical descriptions. But most plastic representations  portray it to be serpentine with a mouth of a crocodile and tusks and snout of an elephant.

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