The book ventures to look into eras bygone in order to chronicle the passage of three mega species-the rhinoceros, tiger, and elephant across millennia in early north India. It carefully sifts through an archive comprising faunal remains and visual depictions retrieved from the archaeological record as well as a gamut of Sanskrit, Pali, Prakrit, and classical Western accounts to document the presence of these big mammals in various cultural niches from hunter-gatherer societies to the first urban civilization of India and beyond. The narrative goes beyond treating these species as mere cultural icons to one that is also sensitive to their importance as markers of ecology. The focus is two-fold: to comprehend perceptions, attitudes, and sensibilities oscillating between veneration and persecution in order to reconstruct the cultural dimensions of human-megafaunal relations in the past, as also to use these species to understand the larger ecology of ancient India.
At a time when the conservation of our megafaunal heritage is a major concern for biologists, ecologists as well as conservationists, this book underlines the need to historicize human interactions with these mega mammals keeping in mind that an animal’s past is critical in thinking about its future.