Matangalila and Hastyayurveda (study)

by Chandrima Das | 2021 | 98,676 words

This page relates ‘Elephants as fourth or fifth wing of the Royal army’ of the study on the Matangalina and Hastyayurveda in the light of available epigraphic data on elephants in ancient India. Both the Matanga-Lila (by Nilakantha) and and the Hasti-Ayurveda (by Palakapya) represent technical Sanskrit works deal with the treatment of elephants. This thesis deals with their natural abode, capturing techniques, myths and metaphors, and other text related to elephants reflected from a historical and chronological cultural framework.

Elephants as fourth or fifth wing of the Royal army

Royal army contained four wings such as soldier on foot, chariot, cavalry and elephants; they are collectively called “Caturaṅga senā’. So it is quite clear that elephants were one of the component parts of it. Ancient literatures also corroborated this view. The Hāthigumphā inscription of Kaliṅgarāj Khāravela (1st century CE) gives reference to his strong army consisting cavalry, elephant, infantry, and chariots.[1] Inscriptions like Jabbal Copperplate of Yaśaḥkarṇadeva (CE 1122)[2], Pithapuram inscription of Paṭhaviśvara (Śaka Samvat 1108, i.e. CE 1186-87)[3] also mention about four kinds of soldiers in their army.

On the other hand Daulatpura plate of Bhojadeva I of Mahodaya of Kanauj dated Śaka Samvat 100 (i.e. CE 706) tells about the Pañcāṅga senā including elephant squad of the Gurjjaras, i.e., boats, elephants, horses, chariots and foot soldiers which was fixed the glorious Mahodaya—

śrī mahodayasamāvāsit-ānekanau-hastya-aśva-ratha-patti-sampanna skandhāvārāt…..”[4].

The elephant squad was very strong especially in the regions of Vaṅga, Kaliṅga, Assam and in the southern regions. In the Hathigumpha inscription of the Kaliṅgādhipati Khāravela is said to have watered his elephants in the Ganga River, which indicates that he conquered the region with the help of his strong elephant squad[5]. Hathi-nivāsa-parisaraṃ—this reading of the phrase is more reliable than the previous one (hatthi-nāvana-paripuraṃ). Nivāsa=nirvāsa[6]. The reference seems to be to elephant preserves or some original form of khedā arrangement, invented by Khāravela. The elephants of Kaliṅga were very famous in early India. The strength of Khāravela probably lay in elephants. He took the fort of Pāṭaliputra with the help of elephants. Later days Xuan Zang in his account stated that Kaliṅga produced the great tawny wild elephant which much prized by neighboring provinces.

Gaṅga kings of Orissa were not only famous for their war-elephants but inscriptions tell about their vigor with such expressions that Mahārājādhirāja Koṅgaṇi alias Bhūvikrama had marks on his broad breast with the resplendent marks of victory grown from the wounds, resulting from the blows of the hatchets which were the tusks of the elephants:

kuliś-ābhighāta-vraṇa-saṃrūḍha-bhāsvad-vijaya-lakṣaṇa-lakṣī-kṛta-viśāla-vakṣaḥsthalaḥ” (l. 23),

King Śrīvallabha possessed hundreds of furious elephants these facts are known from the Spurious Islampur plates of the Gaṅga king Vijayāditya of his thirtieth year[7] (c. 8th century CE).

Vijayāditya himself was a good elephant and horse rider—

hasty-aśvārohaṇo” (l. 49).

The Nidhanpur copper plates of Bhāskaravarman refer to Supratiṣṭhitavarman, who was possessed of rich elephants (v.21)[8]. The Assam plates of Ballabhadeva, a prince, of Śaka samvat 1107 or CE1184/85 tells us that one of his predecessors Rāyarideva was engaged at the gorgeous festival of battle which was fearful on account of the presence of the lordly elephants of Vaṅga-“Vaṅga-karīndra-saṅga….”, made the enemy abandon the entire practice of arms on the battlefield, and who, in his own person rendered the creation of “the lion of the three worlds” (Trailokya siṃha) exceedingly fruitful[9]. It indicates to the huge and powerful elephants of the Vaṅga country as we all know that the Bengal region is famous for its elephants. Three records in the Bangalore Museum states that Amoghavarṣadeva (Vaddiga)…. Marvel with elephants; a wrestler against forest elephants (l.2)[10].

Footnotes and references:


Ibid., Vol. XX, p.87.


Ibid., Vol.II, pp.1-7.


Ibid., Vol.IV, p.48.


Ibid., Vol.V, pp.211-212


EI, Vol. X, Appendix, p.160-161.


Cf. Kāmandakiya nītisāra, XV, 7.


EI, Vol.XII, pp.48-55.


Ibid., p.78.


Ibid., Vol.V, pp.184&186.


Ibid.,Vol.VI, p.55.

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