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Hastin (हस्तिन्) is a term for elephant used in Vedic texts. Other terms for elephant include Ibha (इभ) and Vārana (वारण).

The elephant in the Rigveda[edit]

In Rig Veda 1.84.17 and 4.4.1. and probably other instances the Rig Veda seems to refer to elephants (e.g. Bryant 2001: 323), an animal that is native to South Asia. It has been speculated that some of these verses might be references to domesticated elephants.[1] In RV 1.64.7, 8.33.8 and 10.40.4, "wild" elephants are mentioned.

Mrga Hastin[edit]

In the Rigveda and in the Atharvaveda, the term is translated as elephant (according to Keith and Macdonell, Roth and other scholars).[2] In the Rig Veda, Mrga Hastin (animal with a hand) occurs in RV 1.64.7 and RV 4.16.14. An equivalent word for elephants in Tamil is "kaimmā" (கைம்மா) which also means "animal with a hand" (Kalithogai, 23; Purananuru, 368).


RV 9.57.3 and RV 6.20.8 mention ibhas, a term meaning "servant, domestics, household" according to Roth, Ludwig, Zimmer and other Indologists.[3] Other scholars like Pischel and Karl Friedrich Geldner translate the term as elephant.[4] According to Sayana,[4] Mahidhara[4] and the Nirukta,[4] ibha is translated as elephant. Megasthenes[4] and Nearchos[4] also connect ibha with elephant. The term ibha is only used in the Samhitas, and especially in the Rig Veda.[5][6]


Another term that may mean elephant is "Varana" (RV 8.33.8; RV 10.40.4). According to Macdonell and Keith, "Varana" refers to elephants.[7]

The elephant in other Hindu texts[edit]

The Akananuru (27) and the Purananuru (389) state that elephants were raised and trained in ancient Tamilagam's northern boundary of Venkatam hills Tirupati. Another Sangam poem says that the elephants here were trained in a northern tongue which could well be Sanskrit.[8]


  1. ^ RV 4.4.1, 9.57.3 (where "the people deck him like a docile king of elephants"), 6.20.8; Talageri, Shrikant (2000)
  2. ^ Vedic Index, II, 501; II, 171
  3. ^ In RV 4.4.1 and 6.20.8, ibha is translated as servants/attendants by Griffith.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Vedic Index, I, 79
  5. ^ Vedic Index, I, 79.
  6. ^ RV 1.84.17; 4.4.1; 9.57.3; and perhaps 6.20.8. Vedic Index, I, 79.
  7. ^ Vedic Index, II, 288
  8. ^ Mullaippattu 35, quoted from Kalavai Venkat, Review of "Early India"


  • Bryant, Edwin (2001). The Quest for the Origins of Vedic Culture. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-513777-9.
  • Macdonell, A.A. and Keith, A.B. 1912. The Vedic Index of Names and Subjects.
  • Talageri, Shrikant: The Rigveda: A Historical Analysis. 2000. ISBN 81-7742-010-0

See also[edit]