Matangalila and Hastyayurveda (study)

by Chandrima Das | 2021 | 98,676 words

This page relates ‘Elephants and land grants’ 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 and land grants

Elephants performed a significant role in the land grant issuance process especially in South Inida. They were used for measuring the land and also for demarcating the boundary of a donated land. Officers of elephant squad or guilds of elephants were been seen to be engaged in land grant procedure. According to D.C. Sircar[1] the Mehar plate[2] of Dāmodara records a grant of lands in favour of Brāhmaṇas. At the end of the king’s description in verse, there is one stanza introducing Gaṅgādharadeva who was the officer in charge of the royal elephant force. The introduction of this person cannot be explained unless it is supposed that he was the real donor of the grant although the king was not eager to mention the fact explicitly in the document[3]. Another incident described in the Nagardhan plates, which we have already mentioned that on the request of the assembly of the corporation, including of hastivaidyas a land was granted by Svāmirāja[4].

The Bahur plates of Nṛpatuṅgavarman give a unique feature as similar to the Lyden plates. It refers to the fact that having read the order; the headmen of the nāḍu reverently placed it on their heads and circumambulated the limit of the three villages granted. Line 40 of the Sanskrit portion suggests that, as in the case of the Lyden plates that the headmen were accompanied by an elephant whose foot prints marked the boundaries, on which they raised stones and planted milk-bush (l.53, 55). According to the report submitted by the headmen of the nāḍu, their boundaries were shown in the journal by Hulthzsch in the two subjoined diagrams (l.56-66). The ruler Nṛpatuṅga of the land thinks highly himself after he has given to those scholars the three villages, provided with an executer, their limits having been circumambulated by an elephant, accompanied by all immunities, and protected by freedom from all taxes[5].

In another case, the Anbil plates of Sundara-Cola of the 4th year records the grant by the king. The plot of land, defined by letting a she-elephant go round it, was given the new name of Karuṇākara-maṅgala [Karuṇākaramaṅgalam]. The ceremony of letting loose a she-elephant to go round a plot of land intended to be granted to any one is an ancient institution it is referred to in the Lyden grant also as Kariṇī—parikramaṇa-vispaṣṭa-sīmā-catuṣṭayam; a she-elephant is let loose her wandering path is carefully marked and, after she returns to the place from which she started, the plot of land enclosed by the path of the elephant is granted to the donee. This ceremony is called Kariṇī-parikramaṇa or in Tamil Piḍi-śuḷdal. As the boundaries have to be fixed in the extreme detail, as traced by the path pursued by the sheelephant, the Tamil portion of the record here: after this follow the lists of objects contained in the village granted, of the sources of the income, such as taxes, etc., and any other privileges enjoyable by the donee[6].

Thus elephants were used for the fixing boundaries of the granted lands, and also in some records we saw elephants as a witness of the grants. It may possible that this technique flourished the measuring unit of “gaja”.

Footnotes and references:


EI, Vol. XXXIII, pp.50-56.


Ibid., Vol. XXVII, pp.182ff.


Ibid., Vol. XXX, pp.52-53.


Ibid., Vol.XXVIII, pp. 1-11.


Ibid., Vol. XVIII, pp. 8-14.


EI, Vol. XV, pp.55-56.

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