Elephantology and its Ancient Sanskrit Sources

by Geetha N. | 2012 | 36,369 words

Elephant is considered as an inevitable part of Indian community. So they developed the study of Elephant which is based on Hastyayurveda and Matangalila. Even from the ancient time Indians were awareness about their hygiene and health. They were protected against diseases. They protected not just their own race but also plants and animals. Therefo...

Chapter 8 - The Uses and Values of Elephants

As a tamable but a wild animal, the elephant is useful to mankind in many ways. Elephant's body useful or parts of its limbs have direct use. The most important benefit is derived from harvesting the tusk for ivory. Besides ivory, different parts of the elephants like hide, milk, urine, dung, flesh, bone, pearl, must, etc. are used by people for international trade. Apart from these, they have got another totally different purpose ie medicinal. Most of the limbs or parts of the body of an elephant have medicinal value. For example, the ivory is considered as hair promotive and must fluid is beneficial in disorders of bile, phlegm and wind and an antidote to poison and an effective healing agent. Elephant provides employment for local people and increase the income by its body parts, and ecotourism and by festivals.


Ivory of elephant is considered as international economic importance. In medicinal purpose, ivory is an important ingredient in preparing a concoction to make hair promotive. Sushruta advise that if ivory is burnt, grined into powder and then mixed with goat’s milk, hair may spourt up even on one’s palm.[1]

Indian artisans carved ivory at least as early as the third century B.C., fashioning it into religious images as well as ornaments like bracelets and combs. However, the reverence for elephants in Buddhist and Hindu culture, as their considerable value as tame animals, would have prevented the wholesale collection of ivory as a commodity. The Mughal emperors and their successors used ivory to decorate their thrones and for other lavish objects of art. Under British rule in India, the supply of ivory was further exploited. In East Africa, ivory carving grew into a sizeable industry in places like Kerala and Rajastan. In ancient times craftsmen working in ivory were employed in royal palaces to inlay thrones, couches and other furniture with ivory. An ivory wrist band is considered auspicious at a Hindu wedding. Kavya literature depicts that ivory is an important fact in royal palaces such as ivory seats, and ivory chariots. Ivory is considered as an important chemical composition, because it is essential dentine. It consists to 57-60 percent calcium salts which are mainly phosphates. Variety of articles can be made from ivory dust by placing it in moulds under room temperature.

Human beings done cruelty to elephants or killing them for ivory. The ivory trade make him more beneficial. Ivory is known as white gold. According to Vagbhata, ivory is a best medicine for Indralupta (Indralupta is the heirs fallen as round from the head).

Elephant hide

Elephant hide is used for making belt, suit-cases, umbrella, stands, upholstery for stools and sundry articles. It is said that hide is burnt and the ash is used to cure leucoderma. Hide is also used for making Boots. It is the world’s largest imported items. Elephant hide is used as an acne cure.

Elephant tail hairs

The hairs from the tail, agglutinated are made into rings, bangles and wrist-bands. In Kerala wearing of these is considered auspicious.


The large thick nails are used for making knife handles, buttons, spoons and plates.


Flesh of elephant is eaten by aborigines of Africa, Asia, Burma, Nagaland and China. The meat is generally cooked with spices and oil and then served. Meat is preserved for future consumption after being dried in the sun.[2] Elephant flesh is believed to cure asthma, arthritis, night blindness, spinal trouble, and is regarded as an aphrodisiac. It is still in demand for medicinal purpose. Ashtangahridaya suggests that elephant flesh is reduced cough and wind.

Hastikravyam gurusnigdam vatalano shleshmakarakam
bhahuprishtipradam caitra durjarom mandavahnidam
virukshano lavamascesham viryoshnapittadushanah
svadamla lavomascesham gajah shleshmanilapaha

According to Caraka, elephant flesh is beneficial to those who suffering from constipation. Taken regularly, it helps to build up the body.

Elephant pearl

It is seems to be only an assumption:—

ete karacaranadahatoklamavipakasha
bhupadukakshagajavarma ketushsyanasanairdustaih

As an antidote to poison Caraka recommend wearing of elephant pearl.


Elephant urine is a best medicine. According to Caraka it explains as follows:—

hastimutramathoshtrasya hayasya ca kharasyaca
ushnam tishnamatho
ruksham katukam lavananvitam
mutramutsadane yuktam yuktamalepaneshu ca
yuktamastapane mutram yuktam capi virecane
svedesheshvapi ca tadyuktam manaheshvandeshu ca
udareshvatha carshah su gulmi kushtikilashishu

tadyuktamupanaheshu parisheke tathaiva ca
dipaniyam vishaghnam ca krimighnam copadishyate
pandurogasrshtanamuttamam sharma cocyate
shleshmanam shamayet pitam marutam canulomayet
karshet pittamatobhagamityasmin gunasamgrahah
samanyena mayoktastu prthaktvena pravakshyate
avimutram satiktam syat snigdom pittavirodhi ca
ajam kashayamadhuram pathyam doshannihanti ca
gavyam samadhuram kimciddoshagnam krimikushtanut
kandu m ca samayet pitam samyagdoshodare hitam.
arshah shophodaraghnam tu saksharam mahisham saram
hastikam lavanam mutram hitam to krimikushtinam

Elephant urine is salty, beneficial for patients of worms and Leprosy (kushtha) and commended for retention of urine and feces poisons, disorders of cough and piles.

It is believed to cure asthma, cough, dysentery constipation and rheumatism. It decreased vomition, cough, worms, leprosy and wind.

Elephant Dung

Elephant dung is used for sterilising women the kunchimartantra prescribed the water present in elephant dung mixed with honey to be taken for seven days. The dung of an elephant calf (Karivenna) which has not yet started eating grass is also prescribed for colic, wind, diseases affecting the rectum and other such disorders. If there is too much discharge of phlegm, the extracted juice of elephant dung mixed with honey should be administered to the patient. Elephant dung is also used for making mosquito coil, paper and cusion. It is also used for making bio-gas; and it is used to cure pain due to nail bite and also to cure leprosy.


Rut fluid (must) of an elephant is used for massaging genitals with. It is used to remove blotches on the human skin. It is also considered as a good hair promotive and beneficial in disorders of bile, phlegm, and wind and an antidote to poison and an effective healing agent. It is also prescribed for leucoderma and for treatising sores resulting from leprosy.[6]


danti shyamasmritasangah paravatashanguka
pralepa syadgajastani nimbo bhallatakani ca

It is used for curing for piles which are not bleeding, Caraka recommends an ointment made from elephant bone and neem. It is also used as a poison ditector and penis as an aphrodisiac.


A paste made of elephant teeth is applied to remove pimples and boils[8] and is used for some medicinal purposes like the mumps treatment. It is also used head ache. The teeth mixed with water and Kibble it and make paste, which is used for headache.


Ushtrinamatha naginam vadavayah striyastatha
prayasho madhuram shitam stanyam payo matam
prinanam brihanam vrishyam medhyam balyam manaskaram
jivaniyam shramakaram shvasakasanibarhanam
nasyalepavagaheshu vamanasthapaneshu ca
virecane snehena ca yayah sarvatra yujyate

Elephant milk is sweet, nutritic, smooth, indigestible and bitter taste and it gives body strength and cold to eyes and act as tonic.


Curd prepared with the milk of an elephant cow, is light in indigestion, subdues cough, and is heat-making in its potency. It leaves an astringent after taste and increases the quantity of fecal mater.[10] It is promoting beauty.


Butter prepared with the milk of an elephant cow is astringent, and it brings about a suppression of stool and urine. It is bitter, light and stomachic and proves curative in cutaneous affections, poisoning, worms in the intestines and derangements of kapham (cough). It proves beneficial in eye-diseases, haemoptysis, epileptic fits and vertigo. Cow's urine together with ghee and the two varieties of turmeric are commended for jaundice. An infusion with the above remedy soaked in oil is commended for constipation.

Elephant dung paper

The technology of making paper from the elephant dung was developed in Thailand. From this, the letter pad, drawing sheet, visiting cards, etc are made. The price of one packet containing 20 visiting cards is near Rs.140. The foreigners are very much interested to bring this type of cards. These are selling in the label of maxims. This is 100% natural and handmade one.

The process of making the paper from elephant dung is very easy one. This technology practicalising through heating, boiling and the ingredients adding, avoiding the bad smell colouring, and the threads are removing from the elephant dung.[11]

Indirect uses and values

Indirect use value is derived from the natural functions of the elephant, ie.

i) act as a disperser of seed.

ii) provide food through brought-down and branches to browsers.

iii) provide food to other wild animals etc. wild boars mongooses, horn bills which feed on the dung of elephants.

iv) elephant dung is full of humus and nutrient materials and elephant serves as a fertilizer producing system in the forest ecosystem.

v) their ability to create light gaps in the forest for establishment of seedlings.

vi) creation of light gaps harmful to fungal pathogens that cause damping off of seedlings.

Thus elephant is a useful animal like coconut tree. Now elephant had a bracelet badge to considered it as a lineal animal from the above consideration the elephants are considered to be a tiger in its position.[12] Almost all poets signifies elephants in their Kavyas.

Footnotes and references:


S.S. D.C.1. 88.


AE. 10, 122.


Carakasamhita. XXIII. S.119. 376.


Carakasamhita.(Sushrutasamhita) 94-96.11


Carakasamhita Sushrutasamhita. 93-102.


A.E. 10, 123.


Carakasamhita. XIV. 55-231.


A.E. 10-123.


C.S. S.S. II.12. 106-112.


Sushrutasamhita Sutrastana. XIV.


Anaye Ariyan. Anaye Ariyam.18, 49-65.


Malayala Manorama Newspaper report 1.09.2010.

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