The freedom of art, through which horses dart…

horses in art and literature

“O mur monor begi ghora Sekuri ja toi sekuri ja…” croons the multitalented lyricist, actor, singer and musical heartthrob from Assam – Zubeen Garg fueling passion to the galloping horses of his heart, the ones which do not run back but just gallops away towards the horizon..

Picturising a sleek, dark, lean horse galloping away with its wind blown mane flying carelessly and comparing that to your heart strings…could anything be less artistic than this? Romanticism probably died an early death in defeat to the ranticisms of the world shown every day in the “memes” generated by the generation now and before, covering each moment of our lives, our feelings, the artistic with the non artistic. Gone are the days when even an animal could conjure a plethora of thoughts be it in the form of a song, paintings, literature and the works. We should be proud that there were times when we would romance a simple cup of tea with heartrenching lyrics as the king of “jibon mukhi” songs Kabir Suman wrote and sang “Tomake Chai” with “chai” being as in “want” and the song being “the want of a cup of tea!” Romanticism and art always had a “poster boy” in the humble horse, as Zubeen croons and hits the soul of his massive fan base with the horses of his heart, the horse has been a symbol or a metaphor of art even ages ago. 

The Black Beauty

Black Beauty

The first one that I remember is a story we read in childhood, it was a staple with all children of the seventies – “The Black Beauty” probably been adapted into motion pictures in the movies by now I guess. A novel written in 1877 by an English novelist Anna Sewell, it is an autobiographical story narrated by the protogonist, Black Beauty – a horse covering various incidents in his life and with each chapter ending with a moral on the values of life like kindness, sympathy, understanding and the works. The book has sold over a fifty million copies world wide and has over ten film adaptation with the famous Walt Disney adapting this story into a LP production – the first and the last for a Walt Disney production! Black Beauty was written by a bed ridden Anna Sewell and she succumbed to her illness just five months after the publication of her book – “The Black Beauty.”

Husain’s Horses

Husain's horses
Source: Artnet

M.F. Husain and his paintings need no introduction in the world of art, he was as iconic as his works as they were expensive. This painter par excellence has used “horses” extensively in his artwork with one painting titled “Sprinkling Horses” which sold at a whooping 1.14 million dollars! This painting is a dynamic depiction of horses mixed with a human figure as they say the Iman Husain atop the horse symbolising the Muslim Shiite iconography. Husain the painter has used horses as his subject since 1950 and his horses were almost always charging with a dragon like stance from front while they all had an elegant woman like grace from the hips below. Horses were as much as his muse as was the lovely Madhuri Dixit and other female forms like Goddess Durga et al. It is said that Husain always said,  ” People work all their lives and then sleep as if they’ve sold off their horses, I sell off my horses and then make films.” M.F Husain was ofcourse referring to his “horse” paintings!

The Trojan Horse

Trojan horse
Source: PBS

A mythological princess the Helen of Troy and alongwith it a metaphorical wooden horse, the Trojan Horse which has been depicted in history as one of the main characters of the Trojan War! Reading this chapter in our history books, I never imagined it to be mythological but that is what they say so now, though the war was of course true. The beauty of Helen became secondary when the teacher started narrating about the tens of thousands of soldiers who quietly climbed into this giant wooden horse which was pushed through the walls of Troy in the dead of the night. Then as the dawn broke out came these soldiers killing and defeating their enemies just for the sake of the beautiful Helen! Talk about romance and romanticism, it gives a beating to the rantings and the memes of today does it not?

Mohineer Ghoraguli

Ghora as in horse and ghoraguli as in horses! Mohin’s horses is a Bengali rock band of the seventies. Here we have a horse in art which has inturn been picked up from another horse in another form of art. Mohineer Ghoraguli derived their name from the poem called “Ghora” written by a famous Bengali Poet Jibamanda Das. 

“Moheen’s horses graze on the horizon, in the Autumn moonlight” wrote Das and the rock band singers picked up the phrase as the name for their band which brought in modernistic thoughts, themes and tunes in the field of Bengali music. Mohineer Ghoraguli wrote songs on the disadvantaged, underprivileged, the various social disorders, pollution and many other world problems and incorporated these into iconic songs that are evergreen and even more relevant today as the world lies crippled under these same disorders. The horse here was only a namesake totally symbolic to the works of Jibananda Das and this “folk rock band” which was formed as a window opening towards a new Society free from the predijuced humans of the past!

And my favourite –

The Highwayman

“And still of a winter’s night, they say, when the wind is in the trees,

When the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,   

When the road is a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,   

A highwayman comes riding, riding, riding…

Tlot-tlot; tlot-tlot! Had they heard it? The horsehoofs ringing clear;   

Tlot-tlot; tlot-tlot, in the distance? Were they deaf that they did not hear?

Down the ribbon of moonlight, over the brow of the hill,

The highwayman came riding..riding..riding…”

Wishes were actually horses and art did ride them!!!