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Gaja Shastra in Hinduism – Study of Elephants in Ancient India

Gaja Shastra is a discipline of study of elephants in ancient Hindu India. Palakapya’s Gaja Shastra and Hasti Ayurveda are important books on elephant study in ancient Hindu religion. Author of Gaja Shastra Palakapya is mentioned in various other scriptures too.

Other important books on elephant in ancient Hindu world are:
  • Manasollasa by Somadeva,
  • Matangalila of Nilakantha and
  • Sivatattvaratnakara by Keladi Basavaraja.
The life span of an elephant is believed to be 40, 80 or 120 years depending on the auspicious marks on its body and sturdiness of its limbs. An elephant matures at the age of fourteen.

Palakapya wrote on methodology for sawing and pruning of tusks on auspicious occasions. He also wrote about the strategy of striking an enemy tusker. He also wrote about many martial arts connected with pachyderms.

Agni Purana mentions that a special rite involving an elephant was performed during warfare.

Kings used to worship the royal pachyderms during the Navratri festival before setting out on missions of conquest.

Arthashastra of Chanakya enjoins the allocation of certain Nagavana (forests) for elephants. Pratijna Yaugandharayana refers to one such nagavana and a special species of elephant, Nilakuvalayatanu.