Origin: India

Date: 19th century

Materials: Steel, silver and brass

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The Elephant Goad (Ankus) is an unusual type of weapon, not used for combat, but rather for the training of elephants. The Ankus was in fact utilised during royal expeditions.

For example, the Mughal emperors Akbar (r. 1556–1605) and Shah Jahan (r. 1627–1658) trained cheetahs to stalk and hunt quick-footed prey such as deer and gazelles. Smart and powerful, elephants were also used for these expeditions, with mahouts (elephant drivers) using an ankus, or elephant goad, to guide the animal into behaving or moving in a certain way. (Met Museum)

Most examples of this weapon for ceremonial, and these were characterised by the level of details and craftsmanship. Our example is one of practical use. Though there is silver inlaid work throughout, the build represents practical use. These types were in fact kept in the harness of the elephants for easy access when required. For a visual representation of this, see ‘Study for Rao Ram Singh I hunting rhinoceros on an elephant’ at the Met Museum, which is attributed to The Kota Master 1690-1700 (link below). The Goad is also a popular weapon in the Hindu culture, and there are many statues and portraits of Ganesh holding the Ankus.

Our example is true to the traditional design with a hook on both sides and a concealed weapon at the bottom. The brass butt is of a dog-like animal leaping from the mouth of a tiger. The details of this scenery are fine, and there is a similar example at the Met Museum, Accession number 36.25.1868.



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