KARI for Elephant is Not a Tamil Word?-Part 3 (Post No.11,287)


Post No. 11,287

Date uploaded in London – 22 SEPTEMBER 2022         

Contact – swami_48@yahoo.com

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We have seen so far, the oldest image of Elephant is in India (Indus- Saraswathi River basin civilization) and the oldest word for Elephant is in the Rig Veda, the oldest book in the world.

We have also seen that the word Elephant is derived from Sanskrit Ibha, that became erepa in Phoenician, elepas in Greek and Latin and Ibha in Tamil (see 500 year old Tiruppugaz of Arunagirinathar and older literature). We also saw that Karin is found in older Sanskrit literature.

Now I add more points from the most famous Tamil work Tirukkural of Tiruvalluvar:

Elephant is used by the poet at least in 8 places-

Kural – 500, 597, 599, 678, 758, 772, 774 and 1087

A fierce elephant that has faced lancers, can be foiled by a fox, if it is struck in a marshy ground – 500

Here Tiruvalluvar uses the animal fables such as Panchatantra and Hitopadesa to teach us that cunningness can defeat even the most powerful person. Great Hindu heroes like Veera Vallala were defeated by Sultans’ cunningness. Veera Sivaji used the same tactics to defeat the Moghul kings and Sultans

Though wounded with arrows, the elephant stands firm in his greatness; he who has spirit never loses heart when he fails- 597

Through elephant, the poet teaches us a lesson; Forward ever, Backward never.

The elephant is huge and has big tusks; but assailed by the tiger, he flinches in fear- 599

Ancient Tamil land was greener than today. Thick forests occupied in the west of Tamil Nadu. So poets know about the fights in forest.

A tame elephant is employed to ensnare a wild one. So make one action the means of achieving another- 678

This is a good lesson. Attract someone with something.

The oldest reference to this is available Kautilya’s Artha shastra; later we find it in 2000 year old Akananuru. Paranar gives some interesting information about catching elephants.  Some Tamil men used to visit prostitutes in the night. One woman accuses them of immoral behaviour and the news reaches the ears of that courtesan. Immediately she says, Let him come to this red light area; I will drag him by his neck chain and clothes and hug him and bind him with my plaited hair and imprison him in my chest, in front of his own woman,  like the Aryan trained women elephants catch the male elephants. If I don’t do it I will consider my mother has wasted her time in raising me.

Here we get the word Aryan trained female elephants. So it looks like North Indians used this technique first. Tamils used another technique to catch elephants, which is also described in the literature. They dug a big pit and hid it by covering it with bamboo sticks and leaves in their usual route. When they come to drink water, at least one of them will fall in the pit. Then they catch it and bring it home.


Valmiki also used it 3-56-31, 6-16-6

तत्रैनां तर्जनैर्घोरैः पुनस्सान्त्वैश्च मैथिलीम्।

आनयध्वं वशं सर्वा वन्यां गजवधूमिव।।3.56.31।।


तत्र there, सर्वाः all, एनां मैथिलीम् this Sita, घोरैः terrrific, तर्जनैः threatening, पुनः again, सान्त्वश्च by gently coaxing, वन्याम् wild, गजवधूमिव like a female elephant, वशम् under control, आनयध्वम् being her.

There you all bring her under control through forcing and cajoling as one would do to tame a wild she elephant.

shruuyante hastibhir giitaaH shlokaaH padma vane puraa |
paasha hastaan naraan dR^iSTvaa shR^iNu taan gadato mama || 6-16-6

“Previously in a forest called Padmavana, some maxims were spoken by elephants, which saw men with nooses in hand. Hear and I shall tell them.”

naagnirnaanyaani shastraaNi na naH paashaa bhayaavahaaH |
ghoraaH svaarthaprayuktaastu j~naatayo no bhayaavahaaH || 6-16-7

“For us, fire or weapons or nooses are not begetting fear. The terrific kinsmen, incited by selfishness are begetting fear to us.”


Having Wealth is watching Elephant Fighting from High Hill

What is achieved by a man that has wealth is like witnessing a fight between elephants, having climbed to the top of a hill- 758

Tiruvalluvar himself should have watched such a fight in the thick of the forest. Ancient Hindu kings arranged fights between bulls, cocks and elephants ( I have published a picture of arranged elephant fight from an old English book in my blog)

This couplet comes under the topic ‘On Making Wealth’ .

Tiruvalluvar used elephants more than any other animal to teach us moral lessons and management lessons. No wonder he did it because the ancient Chera (Kerala) country was full of elephants. There is even a saying in Tamil that (Pandya country is famous for pearls, Choza country is famous for food (rice) and Chera country is famous for Elephants.2000 year old Sangam poets also used this animal more than others.

The poet compares the safety and security of a person getting down to a business enterprise, with the full backing of limitless financial resources behind him, without any risks in the undertaking, to the person on the hill watching the fighting elephants.

The chief advantage of wealth is the security it gives


Aim High

Tiruvalluvar give us a management lesson. Think like Ambani and Adani and achieve it; think like Tata, Birla, Goenka and Mittal and achieve it ; even if you fail in it, you don’t lose much; always Aim High is his lesson taught through elephants.

To hold a lance aimed at an elephant and miss it better than an arrow that has hit a hare in the forest- 772

Having thrown his spear at an elephant, he is delighted to pull out the spear struck in his own body- 774.

Both these couplets occur under the topic Valour. The poet is taking us to a battle field where a hero is facing an elephant brigade. The whole world knows that Hindus invented Chess game (Chatur Anga= Four Fold army) on the basis of four fold army – Ratha Gaja Turaga Pathaathi- Chariot, Elephants, Horse, Footmen (soldiers).

Think big and get it done is the lesson, we learn from the elephants.

For the Kural couplet 774 ,Dr S M Diaz, IG of Police, Tamil Nadu, gives us more information in his beautiful English commentary on Tirukkural.

His translation is

A soldier’s javelin wounded an elephant, which ran away with it, but looking around for a weapon,

He spotted another javelin stuck in his own body and smilingly retrieved it.

Diaz adds

Rajaji (First Governor General of India) interprets it

“The hero hurls his javelin at the attacking elephant, which runs away with the javelin sticking to its body. He then looks about for a fresh weapon, with which to receive the next elephant. At that time, he realises for the first time, that a javelin has pierced him  and is sticking in his own body, without his having known it. Smiling at joy in finding a weapon, he plucks it out and arms himself with it.

Tamil Nadu Police Medal

IPS officer Diaz adds,

“In  this connection, I recollect some pride, that I was instrumental in helping to fabricate the design of the Chief Minister’s Police Medal on instructions from the then Chief Minister, representing the soldier plucking his steel from his own body and standing ready to face the next elephant. This medal is awarded every year for gallantry to policemen on September 15.


The bodice that her well formed bosom is the cloth that covers the eyes of an elephant in a rut- 1087

This is poet Kalidasa’s favourite image as well.

In the foot note on this couplet V V S Iyer records:

But for the vestment (covering her beauteous breasts) men would be smitten by her beauty and die. It is usual for mahouts to cover with  metal plates the eyes of the elephants, which are expected to become rabid.

Diaz adds

By drawing a veil across the full and beautiful breasts of the young lady , Valluvar enhances the beauty and aesthetics of the female form. On the other hand , Kalidasa, in Sakunthalam, does the opposite. In the first clandestine view by Dushyanta of Sakunthala, her garments are loosened by a lady attendant, and the breasts are brought into his clear view.

To be continued………………………………..

 Tags- Elephant fights, Tirukkural, Rut, S M Diaz, Valmiki, Elephant catching, Kautilya

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