45 Words for Elephant!


Picture shows Gaja Samhara Murthy (Shiva), Indrani and Indus Seal (Indra?)

Elephants are renowned for their long memories, so it’s probably not a good idea to make an enemy of one. But a boy in Kumbakonam (Tamil Nadu, India) made an elephant enemy. He gave the elephant a coconut shell without coconut but, with white colour lime. The elephant was taken through the same street for the same festival after a year. It identified the boy and took revenge upon him by hurling him through the air. He died on the spot.

Scientists in Africa have confirmed elephant’s long memory. They claim the mammals are capable of storing up grievances and wreaking their revenge on humans. Evidence is now emerging that they are capable of passing their grievances from mother to calf—ensuring that their anti human vendettas carry on for generations. Mr Joyce Poole of Amboseli Elephant research Project in Kenya has collected evidence for this.

U.Ve. Saminatha Iyer, the doyen of Tamil literature, has written some true stories about elephants in his collection of essays.

Earlier under the title ‘Indra in Indus Valley’, I posted Indra on his Vahana Airavata. Some scholars thought that the figure standing on the elephant is a woman. A Bangladesh statue shows even Indrani on elephant. So if it is not Indra, we may take it as Indrani. (Please see the pictures). A form of Lord Shiva is known as Gaja Samhara Murthy, also stands on an elephant.

Pallava Elephant Crown and N.W.kings

A Pallava  inscription in Kanchi Vaikunda Perumal Temple (Vide. Dr Nagasamy’s Tamil book Yavarum Kelir, page 30) says a crown looking like an elephant head puzzled Nandivarma Pallavan’s father. The ministers who brought it on a plate explained it as the crown of the Pallavas. Indo Greek Kings in North Western Part of India wore such elephant head shaped crowns.


Picture shows Coin of Indo-Greek King Demetrius (200 BC)

U.Ve.Sa’s elephant story: TEARS OF AN ELEPHANT

The following anecdote was narrated by U.Ve Saminath Iyer, Doyen of Tamil Literature, in his essays: The royal elephant of Pudukottai Samasthanam refused to eat any food for several days. When the Dewan Regent Seshayya Satrigal summoned the mahout, he told him he was appointed only recently after the death of old mahout. He told the regent that the elephant was in ruts and so he put chains in all it’s four legs. When the regent visited the elephant he gave him rice, sugarcane and jaggery. It refused to eat them and shed loads of tears. Suddenly the elephant extended its trunk towards a lady in the crowd which gathered there out of curiosity. That lady started crying loudly. When the Dewan Regent asked her the reason for her sorrow, she told him that her husband who died two weeks ago was the ex mahout. “I myself have fed this elephant umpteen times when my husband was alive. When people told me it had gone mad I wanted to see it as I raised it as my own son”.

When the dewan regent asked her to give the elephant a sugar cane she did it with utmost fear. But to everyone’s surprise the elephant patted its body with the sugarcane and started eating it. She gave more fodder and the elephant ate everything she gave. Now everybody knew that it was the sadness that made the elephant to shed tears. The lady continued feeding it for a long time till the new mahout was accepted by the elephant. Elephants were kinder and more grateful than human beings!

45 Names for Elephant

Following names are found in the ( தமிழ் நிகண்டு )Nighandu (poetical Lexicon) for elephant:

Tumbi=தும்பி, Karini=கரிணி, Tol=தோல், Sundali=சுண்டாலி, Kumbi=கும்பி, Karaiyadi=கறையடி, Kunjaram =குஞ்சரம், Pakadu=பகடு, Kaliru=களிறு, Putkai=பூட்கை, Kari=கரி, Matangam=மாதங்கம், Vazuvai=வழுவை, Vezam=வேழம், Varanam=வாரணம், Moy=மொய், Umbal=உம்பல், Erumbi=எறும்பி, Uva=உவா, Pongadi=பொங்கடி, Tanti=தந்தி, Atti=அத்தி Kadivai=கடிவை, Kayam=கயம்,Nagam-நாகம, , Sinduram=சிந்துரம், Tungal=தூங்கல், Nirumatam=நிருமதம், Pazaikkai=புழைக்கை, Val vilangu=வல் விலங்கு, Nalvay=நால்வாய், Pukarmukam=புகர்முகம், Matavalam=மதாவளம்,Dantavalam=தந்தாவளம், Marunma=மருண்மா, Kaima=கைம்மா, Vayama=பெருமா, Manthama= மதன்மா, Matakayam=மதகயம், Ambal=ஆம்பல், Ibam=இபம், Poakamபோதகம், Kalabham=களபம்

Female Elephants

Atttini=அத்தினி, Karini=கரிணி, Vadavai=வடவை, Piti=பிடி

Young ones

Kayantalai=கயந்தலை, Potakam=போதகம், Tudiyadi=துடியடி, Kalabham= களபம், Kayanmuni=கயமுனி

Special Names

Indra’s elephant Airavata இந்திரனின் யானை பெயர்=ஐராவதம், Mahabharat elephant name =Asvattama மகாபாரதத்தில் வரும் யானை பெயர்=அஸ்வத்தாமா, Elephant killed by Krishna =Kuvalayapeetam கிருஷ்ணன் கொன்ற யானை=குவலயாபீடம், Elephant tamed by Buddha= Nalagiri புத்தர் அடக்கிய யானை= நளகிரி, Lord Kartikeya’s elephant= Pini Mukam பிணிமுகம், சம்ஸ்கிருத இலக்கியத்தில் மற்றொரு யானையின் பெயர் சந்திரலேகா Chandraleka

Words for elephant in other languages came from the Sanskrit word Ibha= Ebur (Latin), Ephos (Greek), Ebu (Ehyptian).

Hindus believe that there are eight Sacred Elephants posted at Eight Cardinal Directions. So they are called Ashta Dik Gajas. They are : East- Airavata, South East—Pundarika, South—Vamanam, South West—Kumudam, West—Anjanam, North West—Pushpadantam, North—Sarvabhaumam, North East—Supra Deepam .(தமிழில் அஷ்ட திக்கஜங்கள்: ஐராவதம், புண்டரீகம், வாமனம், குமுதம், அஞ்சனம், புஷ்பதந்தம், சர்வபௌமம், சுப்ரதீபம்).

Also read 1)200+ Tamil Proverbs about elephants 2)Elephant Miracles and 3.Indra in Indus Valley.