The Agni Purana

by N. Gangadharan | 1954 | 360,691 words | ISBN-10: 8120803590 | ISBN-13: 9788120803596

This page describes The management of the horses (ashvavahana-sara) which is chapter 288 of the English translation of the Agni Purana, one of the eighteen major puranas dealing with all topics concerning ancient Indian culture, tradition and sciences. Containing roughly 15,000 Sanskrit metrical verses, subjects contained in the Agni-Purana include cosmology, philosophy, architecture, iconography, economics, diplomacy, pilgrimage guides, ancient geography, gemology, ayurveda, etc.

Chapter 288 - The management of the horses (aśvavāhana-sāra)

[Full title: The diseases of the horses (aśvacikitsa) and the management of the horses (aśvavāhana-sāra)]

Dhanvantari said:

1. I shall describe the essence of (science relating to) the management of horses [i.e., aśvavāhana-sāra] and the treatment of their diseases [i.e., aśvacikitsa]. In order to achieve dharma, artha (virtue) and kāma (enjoyment and prosperity) (a king) should acquire (good) horses.

2. (The asterisms) aśvinī, śravaṇa, hasta and the three uttaras (uttarāṣāḍha, uttaraphālgunī and uttarabhādrapada) are commended for the first ride on the horses.

3. The early winter, winter and spring are commendable for riding the horses [i.e., aśva-vāhana]. The riding of the horses in the summer, autumn and rainy season is forbidden.

4-6a. One should not whip the horses severely or with other kinds of sticks or at an improper place. One who rides a horse at a place abounding in nails, thorns and bones, on a rugged ground, on a sandy and muddy ground and spoilt by pits and falls without knowing the temper (of the steed) and without the saddle would be carried away by the horse even as he is seated on its back.

6b-7a. There may be an excellent person among the learned, a fortunate one who knows the behaviour (of the horse) and is able to ride without any instruction on account of his practice and application.

7b-12a. The different gods are assigned on (the different parts of) the body of the horse that has been consecrated, and faces the east, commencing with the syllable oṃ and ending with ‘obeisance’ with the respective bīja[1] in order. (Lord) Brahmā (is assigned) in the mind, (Lord) Viṣṇu in the strength, Vainateya (vehicle bird of Viṣṇu) in valour, the Rudras on the sides, Guru in the intellect, the Viśvedevas in the vital parts (of the body), the Moon and the Sun in its glances and eyesight, the two Aśvins (the celestial physicians) on the ears, the Fire (god) on the stomach, Svadhā. in the sweat, the (goddess of) speech on the tongue, Wind (god) on speed, the vault of the heaven on the back, all the mountains on the tip of the hoof, the asterisms in the pores of the hairs, the digit of the moon in the heart, the Fire-god in the lustre, the goddess of love on the buttocks, the lord of the world on the forehead, the planets in the neighing, Vāsuki (a foremost serpent) on the chest.

12b. One who is to ride (the horse), should fast, worship the horse and recite (the following mystic words) in the right ear (of the horse).

13-19. “Oh! Horse! You are a Gandharva prince! You listen to my words. You are born in the family of Gandharvas. Do not become a defiler of the family. O Horse! Remember your creed by the true words of the brahmins, of Soma, of Garuḍa, of Rudra, of Varuṇa, by the strength of Pavana (Windgod) and by the radiance of the Fire-god. You remember that you are the son of a paramount sovereign. You remember the promise (you had made at the time of churning the ocean). You remember the daughter of the ocean (Goddess Lakṣmī). You remember the kaustubha jewel. You were born in the divine family at the time of the churning of the milky ocean by the celestials and the demons. You keep up your promise. You were born in the family of horses. You become my eternal friend. O Friend! You listen to this well. You be ready as my vehicle. You be victorious. You protect me and bring me success in the battle. In olden days the demons were destroyed by the celestials riding on your back. I will now ride on you and conquer the army of the enemy.”

20. After having repeated (the above prayer) into the ears (of his steed) the rider should confuse the enemy, saddle the horse and ride (the horse). (This would give him) victory in the battle.

21. Generally the defects in the horses are produced in their bodies. The excellent riders should convert them into good qualities with much effort.

22. The good qualities that are due to the ability of the riders would appear as natural.

23. Other riders would destroy even the natural qualities. Some know the good qualities. Some others know their defects. One is fortunate who knows (the qualities as well as the defects in) a horse. A stupid one is he who does not know both.

24. Even though one is a good judge, he is not commended if he does not know how to manage a horse, does not know the means (at the time of an emergency), acts rash, is of irritable nature and engages in excessive punishing at the vulnerable points.

25. One who knows the means (of handling an emergent situation), one who knows the temper (of the horse), one who is pure, one who removes the defects and takes the (good) qualities is always an expert in all acts (engaging the horses).

26. One who has entered the riding ground holding the bridle should ride his steed either from his right or left.

27. An excellent horse should not be whipped at once after mounting. Whipping causes fright and fear would produce confusion.

28. The rider should conduct (the horse) in a gallop in the morning holding the rein. (He should conduct the horse) slowly in the evening holding the rein but without handling it.

29. (The following are the four political expedients): stroking is said to be conciliation, isolation (from the other steeds is) division, whipping with the whip and other things (is) punishment and biding time (is reckoned as) gift.

30-31. Each succeeding one should be employed when each preceding one fails. While riding a horse, (the bridle) should be placed without touching the tongue. The reins with hundreds of threads should be entered at the tip of the mouth. (The horse) should be made to forget (that) and then one may ride. One should (ride) slowly if the reins have become loosened.

32. If the tongue of the horse is ulcerated, the joint on the tongue should be released. The tight hold should be released till the horse does not give up its jumping.

33-36. The cuirass should be tied when the steed is released. (A horse) that has a raised face by nature should have its cuirass made loose by the foremost rider and then mounted with a sportive look. One that would make the left fore-leg (of the steed) joined with the left rein, would get the hinder-leg seized. By that the right one (also controls). One that practices in this way with the left rein, the two feet (would be controlled). Then the foot would be held from the left itself. If the fore-feet are released, one would become firmly seated.

37. The left fore-leg should be tied with the rein to the left hind-leg (of a horse) of mischievous habit. It should be ridden by holding the left rein.

38. The nature of the horse is to turn round its face again. It is not on account of tying the legs of the horses thus.

39. After having looked at a trusted horse and after having taken a firm seat on the saddle, (the horse) should be made to touch his leg with the face by holding (the rein). Such a (posture known as) lokana is beneficial.

40. The rein is clasped after pulling and firmly pressing with the legs. It is said to be vakkana if the two legs are bound.

41. It is considered as moṭana if there is binding of the legs with the rein and letting it go by freeing the fore-legs.

42. A wise man should know the loss of consciousness and destruction for a horse and the fourth rule, namely, the moṭana, is laid down.

43. A horse whose leg does not touch the ground in a small circle, that foot should be restrained by means of moṭana and vakkana.

44. It is said to be saṅgrahaṇa when it is held with exertion and when one goes slowly holding it after fastening well on the seat.

45. After striking on the side by kicking (the horse) that has distracted mind while one remain on the seat, the rein is drawn and held by the foot. It is known as grāhya-kaṇṭaka-pāyana [pāyanam].

46. If a horse stands on the feet and hurts the rear legs, it is known as khalīkāra (hurting).

47. It is known as gahana (intensified), if (the horse), that is in any one of the motions[2], is held after striking with a stick or with the leg as desired.

48. It would be ucchvāsana (exhalation), if the horse is hurt and taken through a quadrangle by means of a different bridle by cheering.

49. It is considered to be mukhavyāvartana (turning the face away), if the nature (of a horse) to turn its face and move towards the place (from which it has been taken out), is restrained and held.

50. After restraining by any one of the three (ways) in order, it should be controlled by taking to the courses such as the circles and the like in order.

51. A wise man should relax and ride a horse that raises its head from its knee onwards. One should rise a horse till its limbs are light.

52. A horse that is soft at its shoulder, light at its face and flexible at its joints, when it becomes controlled by the rider, then it should be tamed.

53-54a. The hinder leg should not be freed when (the horse) becomes quiet. Then it should be drawn forward with the hands by means of the bridle. The horse stands with the part about the hips becoming normal, the neck raised, and face on level.

54b-56. If (the horse) keeps the hinder legs on the ground and the fore legs lifted up and runs very fast, one should hold the bridle with the fist and stop it. If the horse does not stop when suddenly pulled thus and if it shakes its body, it should be stopped by taking it in a circular path. The horse that casts off the shoulder should be stopped by means of the bridle.

57. The cowdung, salt and (cow’s) urine boiled with mud is besmeared on the body as a remedy for bites of flies, etc.

58. The scum of boiled rice should be given by the rider to (the horses) belonging to the bhadra and other breeds. The bites of tiny insects make the horse feel indolent and hungry.

59. A horse should be trained in such a way that it would become tamed. Horses would perish if they are made to run much. They do not get practice if not made to run. If the faces become white, (the horses) should be made to run.

60-61a. After having pressed the horse well with the two knees (one should ride the horse) with a firm fist. Gomūtra, kuṭilā, veṇī, padmamaṇḍalā, and (padma) mālikā are well known as the pañcolūkhalikā.

61b-62a. Similarly saṅkṣipta, vikṣipta, kuñcita, yathācita, valgita and avalgita are said to be six kinds of phases (of a horse). The path would be hundred dhanus (a measure of length equal to four cubits) or eighty or ninety (dhanus).

63. (Horses are said to be of four varieties such as bhadra, manda, mṛga and saṅkīrṇa.) The (type of horse known as) bhadra could be trained well, the manda variety, (by making use of) a stick. (The type) of horse (known as) mṛga (is classified) taking the shank of a deer (as the basis). The above characteristics would be found mixed in the saṅkīrṇa class.

64-65a. The horse that eats sugar, honey, and fried rice and has a good aroma is said to be clean and belonging to the brahmin class. The horse that belongs to the warrior class would be lustrous, meek and clever. (If the above qualities are found in lesser proportions it is known as the vaiśya class.) (The horse that is) impure, unsteady, dull, ugly, foolish and wicked (is said to belong to) the śūdra (class).

65b-66. The horse that would show saliva when being held by the bridle, should be driven in phases by holding and loosening the rein. I shall describe (to you now) the characteristics of the horses etc. as expounded by (the sage) Śālihotra.[3]

Footnotes and references:


The mystical letter forrming the essential part of the mantra of a deity


The trot, the gallop or the canter.


Śalihotra [Śālihotra?] is credited with the authorship of works on veterinary science.

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