|A Fraser Album Artist, 1815-1819 Elephant and driver, probably from the Mughal Emperor's stable with a hunting howdar. thanks wikimedia commons (PD)|
. . . About the beginning of the seventeenth century, there might have been seen in India at the magniﬁcent court of Jehangir, a favorite of unusual intelligence and size, whose story has come down to us in memoirs written by the Emperor himself. It reads like a page from the Arabian Nights.
“Among my brother's elephants," he says, “was one of which I could not but express the highest admiration, and to which I gave the name of Indraging (the elephant of India). It was of a size I never beheld before —such as to get upon his back required a ladder of fourteen steps. It was of a disposition so gentle and tractable that under the most furious incitements, if an infant then unwarily threw itself in its way, it would lay hold of it with its trunk, and place it out of danger with the utmost tenderness and care. The animal was at the same time of such unparalleled speed and activity that the ﬂeetest horse was not able to keep up with it; and such was its courage that it would attack with perfect readiness a hundred of the ﬁercest of its kind.
“Such in other respects, although it may appear in some degree tedious to dwell upon the subject, were the qualities of this noble and intelligent quadruped, that I assigned a band of music to attend upon it; and it was always preceded by a company of forty spearsmen. It had for its beverage every morning a Hindostany maun (twenty-eight pounds) of liquor; and every morning and evening there were boiled for its meal four mauns of rice, and two mauns of beef or mutton, with one maun of oil or clariﬁed butter. From among all the others this same elephant was selected for my morning rides, and for this purpose there was always upon its back a howdah of solid gold. Four mauns of gold were moreover wrought into rings, chains, and other ornaments for its neck, breast and legs; and lastly, its body was painted all over every day with the dust of sandal-wood."
There is something quite captivating in the idea of all this oriental pomp enshrining the favorite of an emperor— in its careful tendance, its perfumes, jewels and musicians—the latter, in particular, being an attention as delicate as unusual.
From Lewis, E. (1892). Famous pets of famous people. Boston: D. Lothrop Company.. 76-77.