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Reproduced from Asian Agri-History Vol. 8, No. 2, 2004 (115–127)
On Elephants in Manasollasa – 2. Diseases and Treatment
Nalini Sadhale1 and Y L Nene2
1. B-1, Kanakalaxmi Apartments, Street No. 6, Hardikar Bagh, Himayatnagar, Hyderabad – 500 029, Andhra
Pradesh, India (email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
2. Asian Agri-History Foundation, Secunderabad – 500 009, Andhra Pradesh, India (email: email@example.com)
Hastishastra or the science dealing with elephants originated in India. Kings in ancient India maintained a separate division of manned elephants in their armies. Capturing elephants from forests and managing them was an important activity in most kingdoms. The article “On elephants in Manasollasa – 1. Characteristics, habitat, methods of capturing and training” was published in the previous issue of this journal. In this article English translation of 58 verses (Manasollasa: Section II, Chapter 6 – Baladhyaya) and a commentary are presented. It is obvious that the knowledge of was extensively used to treat various ailments of elephants during the twelfth century AD. The reference to plant diseases is worth noting.
This article should be read in continuation of our earlier article (Sadhale and Nene, 2004). The following are the fifty-eight verses dealing with nourishment and upkeep of the elephants as also their ailments and treatments (Shrigondekar, 1925; Manasollasa: Section II, Chapter 6 – Baladhyaya). A large number of Sanskrit names for herbs appear in the text. Readers will find the Latin equivalents in Table 1.
620. Brave elephants of good breed, born in the Kalinga (region between Vaitarini river in Orissa to the mouths of Godavari) forest, when well trained and kept ready, are victorious in war.
621. A single well-developed brave elephant of huge size, equipped with all the desirable marks, having eyes rolling with intoxication is sufficient to vanquish the enemy.
622. The real strength of the kings desiring victory in war is the division of elephants. So the kings should recruit several elephants in their armies.
Food and other comforts
623. The king, therefore, should make a special effort in providing proper nourishment to them. They should be provided the best rice mixed with ghee and enriched with curd,
624. – food that is rich in fats, pieces of sugarcane sweet like nectar, rice plants tender and green like a parrot’s feathers,
625. – gruel of newly harvested wheat, stalks of barley, along with fruits as also grass either green or dry, depending upon the season, and
626. – various milk preparations sweetened with sugar, and water twice a day. By providing bathing facilities (in rivers etc.),
627. – bed on soft dust and enjoyment of sporting in dust, the elephants should be kept happy so that they develop well physically.
628. Captivity, lashing, ailments, memories of the happiness of freedom enjoyed in the forest, staying in the captivity only physically with heart elsewhere, incompatible food, indigestion, exertion, and lack of sleep,
629. – are basic causes of the diseases of the elephants. Those should be properly treated by medicines procured from forests or purchased from the shops.
630. [The length of the animal determines the dose of the medicine]. Thus per aratni
(45 cm) the dose of a powder is ten palas
(350 g), that of a thick paste is double of that (twenty palas
) and that of a decoction is stated to be an adhaka
631. When the prescription (mentioned hereunder) merely states the name of a medicinal plant, it should be interpreted as the root of that plant*. The word ‘liquid’ indicates water reduced to half** of the quantity initially added (to prepare a decoction). Kala
(time) should be taken to mean the time of waking up in the morning (early morning) and the word ‘urine’*** means elephant’s urine.
[i. *Root, bark, leaf, flower and fruit are the five parts, technically called panchanga
of a tree or a plant used in the preparation of medicines. Usually the part to be used is specified. Here the writer wishes to indicate the root part although not so specified.
ii. **For preparing decoction for treating humans, generally the quantity of water added to the ingredients is in the proportion of 16:1. It is reduced to one fourth of this quantity in the boiling process to prepare a decoction. Here the writer instructs to reduce it to half, for preparing decoctions for elephants.
iii. ***The word ‘urine’ normally indicates cow’s urine in the ayurvedic prescriptions. In the case of elephants here, it is indicative of elephant’s urine according to the author.]
Special care of a new captive
632. An elephant afflicted by pain caused by his new (first) captivity should be made to drink water from big tubs. He should be made to come out of water (in which he should be allowed to pass most of the day time) only when half a yama
and a nadika
is all that remains of the day.
is equal to three hours and a nadika
is equivalent to twenty-four minutes.]
633. The elephant should then be tied to a post. He should be sprinkled with ghee that is washed hundred times, all over the body, day and night, by an expert.
634. After two days, the elephant should again be sprinkled thoroughly with ghee. If suffering from cold, an experienced person should sprinkle the elephant with some oil.
635. Gradually, the time he is allotted to pass in water should be reduced. He should be given sugarcane pieces, lotus stalks and lotus fibers as also tasty plants to eat.
636. The plantains, bulbs, roots of the water lily, shringataka, kaseruka
, roots of madhu kakola, vara
(?) as also that of aragvadha,
637. – and all that pleases the mind of the elephant should be given to him to alleviate his despondence. And now I shall state the remedial measures to be adopted in the case of elephants suffering from physical ailments.
638. I shall deal with the master of all diseases first. It attacks the “sentient” and the “non-sentient” alike. It goes under various names and can attack anyone from the time of birth till the end.
639. It goes by the name jwara
(fever) among humans, palaka*
(pakala and pakaja
being the other readings) with reference to the elephants, abhitapa
in case of the horses, and varaka
are the other readings) in the case of donkeys.
’ can be easily connected with the name, ‘Palakapya’, the sage who wrote the first work on hastishastra .
Perhaps the sage came to be known by this name as he knew some cure for the deadly disease.]
640. It is called alasaka
with reference to camels and ishvara
with reference to cows, akshaka
when it relates to snakes and haridra
when it concerns buffaloes.
is the fever of sheep, mrigaroga
of the deer, avapata
of the birds, and indramada
642. The name of the fever of bushes is granthika
, of trees and medicinal plants is jyoti
, of flowers it is parvata
and of lotus creepers it is rupaka.
is called churnaka, lala, madhuka, ushara
when the context is of grains, kodrava
, vegetables, earth, and water respectively.
644. All these are the names indicating ‘fever’ alone in this world. Except human beings no other species can tolerate fever.
645. No instructions for the treatment of palak
a are, therefore, provided. It encroaches first all the inner vital elements* and appears on the surface (of the body) only in an advanced stage.
[*Fluids, blood, flesh, fat, bones, bone marrow, and semen are stated to be the seven inner dhatus
being almost incurable is, therefore, a deadly disease. Most of the scholars have, therefore, not described the treatment of this disease.
Treatment of diseases of kafa and vata
647, 648. Suvaha, surasa, daru, musta, kushtha, rasonaka, madhushirsha, vidanga, bharngi,
two varieties of siddharthaka, mulaka, panchakola
, two types of karanja,
the great panchamulas
are the remedies prescribed for the treatment of the diseases caused by (imbalance of) kafa
(phlegm) and vata
Treatment of diseases of vata and pitta
649, 650. All the diseases of elephants caused by (imbalance of) vata
(wind) and pitta
(bile) are cured without fail, by a mixture of guduchi,
two types of parnika,
two types of meda, jivaka
, two types of kakoli, ashvagandha, vidari
either in powder, paste, or decoction form.
Treatment of diseases of kafa and pitta
651. Patola, patha, kushtha, nimba, dhatri, amrita, visha, dhanyaka, parpata tikta
are prescribed for curing the diseases caused by (imbalance of) kafa
(phlegm) and pitta
[As per the theory of Ayurveda, diseases are caused due to the vitiation of one, two or all the three doshas
(imbalances of kafa
, and pitta
). As the diseases of elephants are treated here on the basis of vitiation of two doshas
only, it is possible to guess that diseases of elephants are not caused by vitiation of one or three doshas.
Remedy for pain
652. Hingu, sauvarchala, shunthi
and cane jaggary are prescribed as a remedy for pain and also application in the eyes of the paste of tryushana*
or of shunthi
alone is prescribed (as a remedy for the same).
mixed to form a soft thick paste. It should be noted that Ayurveda recommends application of medicines in the eyes as a remedy for acute pain.]
Stomach disorders and treatment
653, 654. The combination of ashvagandha, kana, ratri, krimighna, rasapanchaka
(?)* each taken in the quantity of eight palas
(280 g) (but not exceeding one fistful in quantity) compounded with panchalavana
(five salts) completely cures the diseases caused by maruta
(wind). The same combination cures strangury (painful discharge of urine), inflation and pain of stomach. [The five salts are: saindhava
(sodium chloride – rock salt), sauvarchala
(black salt; kala namak
(sodium sulfate with traces of iron sulfide), samudra
(sodium chloride), and gadam
salt – sodium chloride, sodium sulfate, and sodium carbonate).]
Gaertn.) contains five out of six rasas
(tastes) (excepting the saline), viz., sweet, sour, pungent, bitter, and astringent. It is possible that the word rasapanchaka
here indicates amalaki
Appetite and digestion
655–657. The combination of kutaja, shringavera, yavakshara
(impure carbonate of potassium and sodium), chitraka
, two types of puti, siddhartha, vidanga, ativisha
, pippali, pippalimula, rajani, shigru, kushthaka
, salt, vacha
when powdered and mixed with cow dung is the superb medicine for strengthening jatharagni
(the power of digestion) of elephants. The same medicine also completely cures samavayu
(the toxin produced due to indigestion mixed with vata
) and the disorders caused by it.
658, 659. A lump made out of the powders of saindhava
(rock salt), jiraka, danti, shringavera
two types of karanja, krishna, patola
, leaves of nimba, jyotishmati, guduchi,
elephant’s desire of eating mud enhancing quickly the digestive power.
660. Trivrit, arka, snuhi, danti, nili, lavanapanchaka
(five salts; see 653, 654), and brahmi
are purgatives and cure pain, germs and inflation of stomach.
Throat disorders and treatment
661–663. The powders of patha, patola, kushtha, nimbabhu, nimbaparpata, jyotishmati, snuhi, vasa, chavya, granthika, shigruka
, vacha, katphala, rodhra, chitraka,
fruits of two types of brihati (brihati and
kantakari), tikta, duralabha
, ratri, karanja, triphala, trikatu, trayamana, paushkara, gajapippali,
mixed with honey cure throat diseases.
Edema and its treatment
664, 665. Saindhava, nagara, kushtha, vacha, shigru
, two types of nisha (haridra and daruharidra), siddharthaka,
(impure carbonate of potassium and sodium) all powdered together, mixed thoroughly with curd and slightly heated cure the edema caused by kafa
(wind). Making the (affected) part (of the body) sweat by covering it or by other appropriate means can also cure edema.
666. When edema is ripe and ready to suppurate, the dung of the elephant mixed with saindhava
(rock salt) should be applied carefully on the wound to drain out the pus.
Treatment of wounds
667. When the elephant is freshly wounded and the blood and the bile get extremely imbalanced, a mixture of ghee and honey should be filled in the wound for a period of three days.
668. The leaves of tila
pounded with rajani
and mixed with honey is the best medicine for cleaning and healing of the wounds.
Disorders of the eyes and their treatment
669, 670. A wick (a kind of a soft stick to be directly applied to the eyes like collyrium) made out of the fruits of kataka, rodhra, madhuka
, thick paste of chandana, prapoundarika, manjishtha, valaka
[a product from ushira
(vetiver) ?] is recommended for all the eye-diseases of elephants. The powder and the liquid of the same are also recommended for the purpose.
Wounds of soles
should be poured into the extract of the trees having milky sap and the powders of triphala, rochana, laksha
(a resinous substance secreted by a scale insect (Laccifer lacca
Kerr) and used chiefly in the form of shellac, sindura
(red lead), rodhra, guggula, bhallata, rajani, ghontaphala, kasira (kasima), saindhava
(rock salt), the saurashtrikanjana
[antimony (?) or a special clay from Saurashtra (Gujarat) having alum-like properties], extract of sarja, shriveshtha
(oleoresin from pines) should be mixed with it and the mixture should be heated on low fire constantly stirring with a large ladle till it becomes a thick and sticky paste. An expert should apply a thick layer of this for dressing wounds of the elephant’s sole and then tie it with a piece of cloth. With this ends the topic of elephants’ diseases and their treatment.
Sanskrit glossary for some medicines used for the elephants
675–677. [This portion is numbered among the verses but is actually composed in prose.]
Parnika = mudgaparni
, mashparni. Ugragandha = vacha, rasona. Rasa-panchaka
(no equivalents for this are stated). Putidwaya = krishna, pippali. Vasa = atarushaka
. Granthika = pippalimula. Katphala = kashmirya. Saurashtrika = tuvaramrittika
. Trivrit = trisneha. Shriveshtha = saraladruma-niryasa
[exudation from sarala
Verses 630 through 677, taken from Section II, Chapter 6 – Baladhyaya, deal with the common ailments of domesticated elephants. It is obvious that treatments of such ailments must have been worked out after a good deal of experimentation. Logically, most of the treatments are based on Ayurveda, which possesses a wealth of knowledge on medicinal plants and their use in treatment of diseases. A close look at the recommended herbals will convince anyone that the knowledge of treating humans under the Ayurvedic system had been extended to animals such as elephants (Chunekar and Pandey, 1998).
Verses 623 through 627 deal with nourishment and other comforts to be provided to captive elephants. The components of food ration included cereals such as rice (enriched with curd), and wheat (gruel), fat-rich foods (oilseeds ?), succulent fodder consisting of plants and sugarcane, fruits, and green or dry grasses. Grasses that elephants in their natural habitat eat are: Saccharum spontaneum
spp., and others (Daniel, 1998). At the present time, mahouts often feed tender branches of trees, many of which apparently do not constitute elephant’s normal food in forests. Milk and milk products, sweetened with sugar were also recommended in the diet. For comfort, soft dust bed and bathing facilities have been mentioned.
Verses 628 and 629 refer to psychological problems such as the captivity and “memories of happiness of freedom enjoyed in the forest” and physical problems such as “incompatible food, exertion and lack of sleep”. It seems the author of Manasollasa, quite rightly, has traced the origin of most disorders to frustrated mind; unsuitable food, exertion, and lack of adequate rest (sleep). Most medical practitioners today trace the root cause of many human ailments to the lack of the same basic psychological and physical requirements.
Verses 630 and 631 indicate kinds of prescriptions (pastes, decoctions, etc.) and an indication of the quantities of required medicines to be calculated on the basis of animal’s length. Today we calculate dosages of medicines per unit of body weight. When facilities to weigh an animal of the size of elephant were not available, it was most appropriate to relate dosages to parameters such as the length or height of the animal.
Special care was provided to newly captured elephants (verses 633–637). For a few days, these were given a lot of water to drink, massaged with ghee which was washed a hundred times, protection of the dark skin from exposure to sun, and were fed sugarcane, lotus stalks, water chestnut, bulbs and roots of water lily, tubers of kaseruka
), etc. All this special treatment was given to calm down the animal and make it comfortable.
[Cleansing of the ghee with water enhances its efficacy. If washed hundred times the efficacy of the ghee is further enhanced. It is the washing of the ghee and not that of the elephant, which is recommended.]
Verses 638 through 646 deal with a topic called “fever”. There was a distinct name given to the “fever” of groups of animals and plants. From the description, it is evident that the terms used for “fever” were for the chronic illnesses for which a cure was not known, and the suffering individual was expected to die. Since Ayurveda treated all animals and plants on the basis of tridosha
(imbalance of each of the three humors – kafa
, and pitta
), it is not surprising to find names given to incurable diseases of plants as well. In verse 643, we find the term churnaka
specified for grains, lala
L.), and madhuka
The word churnaka
in Sanskrit means a powdery mass. It is most likely that the word was used for smut diseases, which affect cereal grains quite commonly and no remedy was known at the time of Someshvardeva. The word lala
means saliva or saliva-like, which could easily be the honeydew stage of ergot disease; kodrava
) is commonly affected by ergot under high humidity conditions. The British foresters recorded common occurrence of ergot in P. scrobiculatum
in 1930s in Chennai (Daniel, 1998). The word madhuka
means honey or honey-colored. Could this be a reference to blights, especially of the cucurbits and brinjal that used to be the major vegetables consumed? When a blight
occurs, leaf color changes from green to yellow to light brown before necrosis occurs. In verse 642, the “fever” of bushes is called granthika
, which in Sanskrit means knots. One wonders whether root-knot nematode infestation was common in bushes. The word jyoti
was given to the “fever” of medicinal plants; jyoti
connotes Sun and Moon indicative of heat and cold. Diseases of medicinal plants caused by heat and cold that may destroy the medicinal properties of these plants may be connected here. Thus the word jyoti
“sun scald” or “low temperature injury”. The relevance of the term parvata
to flowers and that of rupaka
to lotus creepers could not be established. Parvata
can indicate hardening. Could it be connected with a fatal disorder in flowers which involves hardening of petals, etc.? Rupaka
is something that superimposes itself on the original color, shape, etc. The word also connotes white color. Is it a reference to heavy powdery mildew that would make leaves appear grayish white?
It is interesting that the author of Manasollasa considers a saline, infertile soil (ushara
) as an incurable “fever” of soil and dark blue-black (polluted) water (nilika
) as the “fever” of water (verse 643).
It has been stated that no other entity, except humans, can recover from “fever” (verse 644). This must be a reference to those fortunate few humans, who survived the chronic ailments. From verses 647 through 674, the author of Manasollasa describes the ailments that could be cured mostly through herbal medicines and the use of a few salts. The diseases were treated following the Ayurvedic prescriptions with dosages adjusted to the size of elephant. The ailments included disorders caused by the imbalance of kafa
, and pitta
(verses 647–651), non-specific body pain (verse 652), eye problems (verses 652, 669, 670), digestive disorders (verses 653–660), throat problems (verses 661–663), edema or dropsy (verses 664–665), open wounds (verses 667–668), and the sole wounds that occur most frequently. The Mughal king, Jahangir had recorded in detail an incident of rabies in two of his
favorite elephants in early 17th century (Nene, 1998). Subsequently the British also recorded incidence of rabies (Daniel, 1998). Watt (1890) mentioned two major diseases of elephants, the dropsy and the wasting disease. It is evident that though the knowledge of elephant diseases had increased substantially by the 19th century, ayurvedic medicines still found frequent applications (Watt, 1890). Today we know several diseases of elephants such as tuberculosis, tetanus, enterotoxaemia, anthrax, haemorrhagic septicaemia, colibacilosis, salmonellosis, leptospirosis, rabies, foot and mouth disease, as also those described in Manasollasa (Rehman, 2003). The “fever” could be tuberculosis, which was not understood until the 19th century.
It should be noted that the modern authors (e.g., Daniel, 1998) have based their writings mainly on the accounts published by the British foresters and hunters, and have unfortunately ignored the knowledge that existed since the ancient times.
The authors are grateful to Dr Shakuntala Dave for her assistance on aspects related to Ayurveda.
and Pandey, G.C.
1998. Bhavaprakasa Nighantu (Indian Materia Medica) of Sri Bhavamisra. Chowkhamba
Bharati Acadamy, Varanasi – 221 001, India. 984 pp.
1998. The Asian Elephant – A Natural History. Natraj Publishers, Dehra Dun, Uttar Pradesh, India.
1998. Jahangir: A naturalist – II. Description of fauna. Asian Agri-History 2:97–120.
2003. Infectious and non-infectious diseases of elephants. In: Health Care, Breeding and Management of Asian
Elephants (Das, D., ed.). Publ. Course Director, Refreshers’ Course for Field Veterinarians and Director, Project Elephant,
Government of India, New Delhi. Assam Agricultural University, Khanapara, Guwahati, Assam, India. pp. 108–118.
and Nene, Y.L.
2004. On elephants in Manasollasa – 1. Characteristics, habitat, methods of capturing and
training. Asian Agri-History 8:5–25.
1925. Manasollasa Vol. I. Gaekwad’s Oriental Series No. XXVIII. Baroda, India. (The present translation is
based on this text.)
1890. A Dictionary of Economic Products of India. Volume 3. Cosmo Publication, New Delhi, India. (Reprinted 1972.)
Table 1. Herbs used for treatment of elephant diseases.
(Willd.) Hook.f. Thomp.
Wall. ex Royle
(Roxb. ex Lamb.) G. Don
(Willd.) Hook.f. Thomp.
(Arnott) Bhandari com. nov. 671, 672, 673, 674
Buch.-Ham. ex D. Don
(Lour.) Raeusch. (?)
(Roxb. ex Flem.) Karst
chavya, chitraka, nagara, pippali,
(Koen. ex Retz.) Sm.
(L.) Roxb. (?)
Shigru/shigruka Moringa oleifera
Lamk. 655, 656, 657, 661, 662, 663, 664, 665 Shringataka
L. var. sarson
Suvaha (nirgundi) Vitex negundo
Royle ex Benth.
(L.) Wall. ex DC.
(Roxb. ex Willd.) DC.
Visha Aconitum napellus
1. Mixed dried root powder from Clerodendrum phlomoides
, Aegle marmelos
, Stereospermum suaveolens
, and Oroxylum indicum
2. Mixed dried fruit powder from Terminalia bellirica
, Terminalia chebula
, and Emblica officinalis
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