Matangalila and Hastyayurveda (study)

by Chandrima Das | 2021 | 98,676 words

This page relates ‘Concluding Remarks’ 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.

Concluding Remarks

In this chapter we have seen that elephants were an important commodity in early India and even later. Equally important were the tusks and also small pieces of ivory which were obtained as a result of regular cutting of tusks. In this context we have also discussed Kalpanāratnam which is a text on cutting of the tusk of elephants. The text being composed by a ruler reflects the significance of this act of cutting off of the tusks at regular intervals. We have also discussed that catching of elephants was a very elaborate affair and it not only required huge skilled man power, pre and post operation arrangement but also was an extremely expensive affair. Hence mostly these were done under royal patronage and indulgence. The elephants which were captured were classified and some domesticated or trained and could fetch huge sum of money. Often the rulers exchanged these with other animals like horses. Such a reference is found in Udyotan Suri’s Kuvalayamālā where the ruler of Kosala bought horses from a trader and as payment gave him elephants. The trader claims to have earned good profit out of this deal. Detailed survey of epigraphic data reflects a queer silence on trading in either elephants or elephant products. This in turn reflects a highly organised state intervention in the buying and selling of elephants and it’s by products.

Trade in elephants, ivory and other associated products were highly productive. Trade in elephants and ivory has been addressed by several scholars in the past. Trautmann also discusses to some extent the trade in elephants and the people involved in this trade. Here we have further elaborated the minor steps involved and persons expected to participate in the process of capture and trade. We have tried to map the areas where elephants were abundantly available and also the process of procuring elephants, classifying them and training them for fetching good price. We have also tried to identify the people involved in the elephant trade and also in the procurement of ivory. This was a major desideratum since this is not discussed in any ancient text the attempt to reconstruct the process has not be made yet.

There are a few stages through which elephants were procured for trade. Here we have mapped this process which has been provided below in the form of multiple charts.

Understanding or mapping the demand for elephants: A communicator who would communicate the demand to the catchers. No specific term has been found for such a communicator or intermediary. Following table shows the pre-capture process, its preparation and persons involved with it.

[Table 5: Pre-Capture process, preparations and persons involve]

People involved Term/ Terms Work assigned References
Elephant herdsmen (Mātaṅgalīlā, Chapter X, v. 4) Hastipā Making of pen for catching elephants and catch desirable elephants and lead them to first-class elephant herders Mātaṅgalīlā (Chapter X, v. 5) mentions about another group of superior herders (hastipendrai)
Forest people aṭavi Presumably supplier of the information of elephant herds Arthaśāstra (2.2.6)
Elephant catchers Kuñjaragraha, nāgabandhaka Directly involved in this process Lexicon of Amarasiṃha and others
Nooser Phāndi Uses the noose to catch the wild elephant Mātaṅgalīā  
Elephant-drivers Yantustaṃ vidyād, matimāna, adhoraṇa Led trained elephants to wild herd to capture them Arthaśāstra, Mātaṅgalīlā, Gajaśāstra  
Tool-makers No specific term used Engaged in the precapture process Mātaṅgalīlā, X Chapter
Socket makers No specific term used Made trapping pen Mātaṅgalīlā, X Chapter
Cutters of the cords of socket No specific term used Cut cords of the socket Mātaṅgalīlā, X Chapter
Suppliers of wood No specific term used Supplied woods for catching technics Mātaṅgalīlā, X Chapter
Suppliers of food No specific term used Supplied tempting fruits etc. for trapping elephants Mātaṅgalīlā, X Chapter
Suppliers of seductive materials No specific term used Supplied seductive herbs etc. vaśālobhana technic Mātaṅgalīlā, X Chapter
Ointment makers No specific term used Made seductive ointment and medicinal ointment Mātaṅgalīlā, X Chapter
Herders with crowd No specific term They shouted and took elephant herd towards the trap Mātaṅgalīlā, X Chapter
Rope and noose makers No specific term used They make rope and noose to catch elephants Mātaṅgalīlā, X Chapter
Hole makers or yielders No specific term used Made hole specially in the āpāta and avapāta trapping technic Mātaṅgalīlā, X Chapter


[Table 6: Elephant catchers and their associates]

People involved Term/ Terms Work assigned Remarks Reference
Elephant catchers Kuñjaragraha, nāgabandhaka Catching elephants   Lexicons of Amarasiṃha and others
Expert identifiers with knowledge of technique No specific term (probably the same as above) Identifying and classifying elephants according to their qualities and characters This was probably a group which included elephant experts, identifiers, elephant catchers and assistants All elephant treatises mentioned about this group
Veterinary doctors Hasti vaidya They were present at precapture. However their work would begin once the animal was captured. Arthaśāstra, Gajaśāstra
Elephant driver Adhoraṇa Led the trained elephants to seduce and catch wild elephants, took them to stall.   Arthaśāstra
Nooser phāndi Uses the noose to catch the wild elephant   Mātaṅgalīlā, Chapter X
Drummers No specific term Involved at the time of capturing process   Mātaṅgalīlā, Chapter X


[Table 7: Capturing activity, creation of elephant reserves (hasti vana) and small abode]

People involved Term/ Terms Work assigned Reference Remarks
Superintendent/ overseer of elephant-forests Nāgavanādhyakṣa Head of the elephant forests Arthaśāstra, 2.2.10  
Elephant catchers Kuñjaragraha, Nāgabandhaka Directly involved in catching elephants Lexicons of Amarasiṃha and others  
Guards of the elephant forest Nāgavanapāla Protected the elephant forest Arthśāstra, 2.2.7  
Superintendent of elephants Hastyādhyakṣa Head of the department of royal elephants Arthśāstra, 2.31.1  
Supervisor of elephants Nāgādhyakṣa Skilled elephantsupervisor Mātaṅgalīlā, Chapter XII, v. 1  
Elephant keeper Hastipaka Associated with Nāgavanapāla Arthśāstra, 2.2.10  
Elephant rider Hastyārahaka Associated with Nāgavanapāla Arthśāstra, 2.2.7  
Elephants driver Adhoraṇa   Arthśāstra, 2.32.16  
Fodder giver Yāvasika   Arthśāstra, 2.32.16  
Stall guard Kuṭīrakṣa He guards the elephant stall Arthśāstra, 2.32.16  
Expert identifiers with knowledge of technique No specific term This was probably a group which included elephant experts, identifiers, elephant catchers and assistants Mātaṅgalīlā  
Veterinary doctors Hasti vaidya They were present precapture. Texts and inscriptions refer them However their work would begin once the animal was captured.
A veterinary medical-man Hastyāyurvedaparāyaṇo Also wellequipped in elephant science Many texts refer them Probably played important role both in pre and post capturing process
An officer in charge Gajagrahāya saciva Engaged in tying the captured elephants to posts Many texts refer them  
Foot chainer Pādapāśika Chaining the captured elephants Arthśāstra, 2.32.16  
Suppliers of water No specific term     According to the necessity of the maintenance of elephants this post is presumable
Professional grass cutters No specific term     According to the necessity of the maintenance of elephants this post is presumable
Grass supplier No specific term     According to the necessity of the maintenance of elephants this post is presumable
Cook Vidhāpācaka Cooked food for elephants Arthaśāstra, 2.32.16  
Stable creators No specific term Made stable comfortable for elephants All treatises on elephant referred it  
People involved Term/ Terms Work assigned Reference Remarks
Elephant tamers (in-charge of domesticating) No specific term Domesticated elephants Mātaṅgalīlā, Chapter XII, v. 2  
Elephantmanager No specific term Skilled in method of training Mātaṅgalīlā Chapter XII, v. 2  
Elephant trainers Anīkastha   Arthaśāstra, 2.32.16  
Forest people aṭavi   Arthśāstra, 2.2.10  
Border guards Sainika   Arthśāstra, 2.2.10  
Forest rangers Vanacaraka   Arthśāstra, 2.2.10  
Attendant Pārikarmika   Arthśāstra, 2.2.10  
Night attendant Upaśāyika Who guard the stable or elephants at night. Arthaśāstra, 2.32.16  
Record keepers of elephants (not mentioned in any other text other than Arthaśāstra) No specific term used Maintain the written record of wild and domesticated elephants– “nibandena vidyu Arthaśāstra, 2.2.11  


[Table 8: Post capture activities and people involved: Sending them to the elephant reserved]

People involved Term/ Terms Work assigned Reference
Group of superior herders Hastipendrai Moved trapped elephants gently from one to another post Mātaṅgalīlā (Chapter X, v. 5)
The inhabitant of a forest Aṭavi Involved in guarding material forests and elephant forests Arthaśāstra (2.2.6)
People involved Term/ Terms Work assigned Reference
Elephant keeper forest Nāgavanapāla Assisted Superintendent of elephants to protect the elephant forest Arthaśāstra (2.2.7)
Attendant   Pārikarmika Protected elephant forest the Arthaśāstra (2.2.10)
Guard   Nāgavanapāla Protected elephant forest the Arthaśāstra (2.2.7)
Border guard   Saimika Protected boundary of elephant forest the the Arthaśāstra (2.2.10)
Forest ranger   Vanacaraka     Arthaśāstra (2.2.)
Foot chainer Pādapāśika Bind the chain in foot of domesticated elephants Arthaśāstra (2.2.10)
Overseer of elephantforests Nāgavanādhyakṣa Protector of elephantforest (Nāgavana) Arthaśāstra (2.2.7)


[Table 9: People involved in making By-products]

People involved Term/ Terms Work assigned Reference
Ivory worker Dantakāra Related to elephant tusks and played important role in ivory trade Inscription form sculptural panel of Vidisa
Chank and ivory cutter śaṅkha-valayakāramahattara People who cut ivory or chank to make luxury products those took prime role in import export trade Mahāvastu
Ink maker No specific term used There were no direct mention of the people engaged in this process but epigraphic source indicates to them The Rewa stone inscription of Karṇa of the year 8
Physicians Vaidyas Medicines made from elephant milk, curd, ghee etc. Suśruta-Saṃhitā, (Sūtrasthāna)


[Table 10: Traders and others]

People involved Term/ Terms Work assigned Reference
Buyers Kretu Involved in elephant trade Mātaṅgalīlā Chapter 7
Sellers Vikretu Involved in elephant trade Mātaṅgalīlā Chapter 7


[Table 11: From literature to epigraphs: Elephant trade and taxes]

Purposes References
The price of elephants Mātaṅgalīlā -When one price is approved by both buyer and seller it was considered as the best price.
The taxes on sale of elephant Bilhari stone inscription of Yuvarājadeva II -an elephant (offered for sale) should be taxed four pauras–“Datte karī catuṣṭayamaṃga..”
Toll free elephant trade Copperplate charter of Kākatīya Pratāparudra of Śaka year 1244, i.e. CE 1322.
Let's grow together!

I humbly request your help to keep doing what I do best: provide the world with unbiased sources, definitions and images. Your donation direclty influences the quality and quantity of knowledge, wisdom and spiritual insight the world is exposed to.

Let's make the world a better place together!

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: