The Elephant in the Temple

August 1, 2017

From military camels and hunting cheetahs, to herding dogs and talking mynahs, animals have been living, working, playing and performing with humans in India for centuries. In this intimate book, John Lockwood Kipling writes about animals in daily Indian life, bringing alive the sights, sounds and smells of the nineteenth century.

In these tales, forty restless elephants are hoisted into a steam ship and nearly sink it; a guilty goat gets the thrashing of its life; a cheetah-keeper wakes up every night to a feline bed fellow; and a dog follows a king to heaven.

Kipling describes the animal kingdom with the authority of a naturalist, paired with a sympathetic engagement with Indian culture. He narrates religious myths, traditional folktales and incidents from day-to-day life with relish, peppered with local sayings—‘The Indian lover can pay his sweetheart no higher compliment than to say that she runs like a partridge.’

Lavishly illustrated with Kipling’s own pen-and-ink drawings, and enhanced by his son, Rudyard Kipling’s verse, The Elephant in the Temple offers a fascinating glimpse of a time when birds and animals used to ‘come and go at their own pleasure, and rub shoulders with humanity.’ This wittily written book is a delight for aficionados of Indian history and animal lovers everywhere.

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