Matangalila and Hastyayurveda (study)

by Chandrima Das | 2021 | 98,676 words

This page relates ‘Mythological motifs related to Elephants’ 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.

Mythological motifs related to Elephants

Mythology is, in fact, an immense synthesis deriving its elements from a hundred different directions and incorporating every conceivable motive of religion. The motives of religion are manifold. Earth worship, sun worship, nature worship, sky worship, honour paid to heroes and ancestors, mother worship, father worship, prayers for the dead, the mystic association of planets and animals. In the Indian imagination there is a unique sympathy with animal expression. Elephants are very popular and often are central to such themes. Not only mythologies but inscriptions and sculptures also register the indispensability of elephants. This generated a deep impact on society.

Both Brahmanical and Buddhist iconography give immense importance to elephants. To mention a few popular themes used in iconographic representations related to elephants for example are the depiction of eight elephants of cardinal points with their consorts, the golden egg of which the elephants were born, elephants-goad and so on. Even the mudrās related to elephants are worth mentioning, for example gaja-hasta mudrā, gaja-tāṇḍava mudrā and so on. A table is appended below to support this discussion.

Theme Term Concept Associated Religion
The Golden- Egg from which elephants were born Aṇḍa-rūpa; Brahmāṇḍa; Hiraṇyagarbha It is associated with Brahmā. Actually it refers to the shape of Cosmic Egg or Golden Egg of divine one. Brahmanism
Elephant-goad Aṅkuśa; gajāṅkuśa; pāśa Symbolic of Tantric manifestation. Brahmanism and Buddhism
Elephants in Eight-sacred symbol (as gaja/ diggajas in) Aṣṭamaṅgala; Aṣṭamaṅgala dravya. In South India the symbol included aṅkuśa instead of elephant icon.   Brahmanism
Aṅkuśa in āyudha puruṣa Aṅkuśa in male āyudha puruṣa; āyudha; āyudha devatā Personification of arms used by Śiva and Viṣṇu. Aṅkuśa is symbolised as mate āyudha puruṣa. Brahmanism
Elephant skin used as body covering of Śiva Dharmapāla; dvārapāla; dvārapālikā Guards of the door of temple of Viṣṇu and Śiva Brahmanism
Eight Elephants with their consort Diggajas; gajas Represents power and majesty stands as support for the world and in case of temples for the structure Brahmanism
Elephant as vehicle Gaja According to Purāṇic tradition vāhana of Indra Brahmanism
A ritual hand pose used in the dance in which the arm, usually the left, is held across the body, slightly bent at elbow and at the wrist to resemble the trunk of an elephant Gajahastamudrā It denotes strength and frequently associated with the Lord Śiva Naṭarāja Brahmanism
Animal composed of half elephant (gaja) and half lion (siṃha) Gaja-siṃha Purāṇic mythic animal Brahmanism and Buddhism
Body pose (bhaṅga) Gajatāṇḍava Refers to a dance position. It is assumed by the Lord Śiva in which one foot rests upon an elephant’s head. Purāṇic myth of Gajāsura Brahmanism
Animal: half elephant (gaja) and half bull (vṛṣabha) Gajavṛṣabha Mythical animal. It is frequently employed as an attendant to a deity Brahmanism
Lion trampling an elephant’s frontal globe Gaja-Śārdula Symbolic of a ruler’s victory, here a ruler has been depicted as a lion and elephant is a musted one and hence its capture or killing indicates the rulers victory Primarily Barhmanical, yet secular
One of the elephants of cardinal points Puṇḍarika; Kairava Elephant which holds up the south-east quarter of the earth Purāṇic description Brahmanism
Elephant as one of the essential seven marks Saptaratna; rājakakuda Seven marks; signs of a Cakravartin; a universal ruler Brahmanism Buddhism
A weapon which passively direct to an elephant Tomera It refers to a long, iron, mace-like offensive weapon which is wielded generally from the back of a war elephant. It is frequently associated with the deities Agni, Hara, Ahirbudhnya and others. Brahmanism
Trunk of elephant Tuṇḍa; Tuṇḍaka Trunk of elephant mainly associated with Lord Gaṇeśa Brahmanism
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