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"Hasthyaayurvedam" and "Aanappavu"

[Elephant Treatment and Elephant Taming]


"Paalakaapyam" is a treatise (Granthham) authored by Sage Paalakaapya. This work is better known as Hasthyaayurvedam (Encyclopaedia of Elephants and their Treatment). There were a few Namboothiris who had studied it and practised the techniques.

Avanapparambu Narayanan Nambudiripad was perhaps the foremost in the treatment of elephants. He practised his knowledge till his death at 79 in ME 1119 (1943 - 44). His younger brother Godan (alias Anujan) was also an expert in this field, though he was better known for his extra-ordinary abilities in the treatment for toxicity ("Vishachikitsa"). The former was recognised by everyone as an authority on all matters concerning elephants. He had transferred his knowledge to many mahouts and turned them into experts on aspects like maintenance of elephants, and control of rogue elephants and those that have run amuck.

Poomulli Neelakandhan Nambudiripad had studied Paalakaapyam and used to treat elephants, and so did Vaidyamadham Valiya Narayanan Namboodiri. The latter's grandson, Vaidyamadham Cheriya Narayanan Namboodiri (present Chief Physician of Vaidymadham Vaidysaala) has translated Paalakaapyam from Sanskrit to Malayalam.

The Moosses of Pulamanthol family - late Sankaran (Kunjanujan) Mooss, his younger brother Aryan Mooss and their father - also used to treat elephants.

[Editor's Note: Among those now living, Avanapparambu Maheswaran Nambudiripad is one of the foremost experts in Hasthyaayurvedam. His son, Dr Sankaran (Jayan), though treats for toxicity, has not had much opportunity to treat elephants.]

The term refers to the art of taming elephants, and not treatment. But one has to know everything regarding elephants - the vulnerable parts of their anatomy ("Marmams") (this is important in treatment too); climbing up on top of the elephants and getting down; understanding the signals that can be given by pressing the feet behind the ears; making elephants do different things through signals (expert mahouts need to know this); knowing the habits of rogue elephants so as to help to control them; taming those that have run amuck; use of the stick ("Vati"), hook ("Thotti") and long pole ("Valiya kol"); controlling the elephants frpm atop with the hook and stick to prevent being shaken down, etc. Elephants can gauge the caliber of new mahouts (or strangers) by the way the mahout climbs up, positions the stick and hook on the head and inserts the feet into the rope normally tied around the elephant's neck. "Aanappaavukaar" (taming-experts) should have some knowledge of elephant treatment too; and mahouts should know some Aanappaavu also.

Among Namboothiris, the best known Aanappaavukaaran was Moothedathu Kadalayil Namboodiri. Prof: Vazhakunnam, the then famous magician, had studied Aanappaavu before taking up magic into which he was initiated at Avanapparambu, although he had gone there to learn more about Aanappaavu. Kadalayil Namboodiri, Karekkad and Koyparambil Nambiar learned Paavu under Kodungallur Kunjikuttan Thampuran. The first one became a great Aanappavukaaran, the second, an expert mahout, and the third, proficient in treatment.

Arepphan and Paroli were expert mahouts. In recent times, Nibha Namboodiri (Kodeeri) became the first Namboothiri female mahout, though she has not taken that as a career.

| Article No:20.7 | Last update of this article:30th October 2001 |
Article prepared by: A S Maheswaran Nambudiripad, Avanapparambu Mana, Kumbalangatt, Wadakkancherry, Thrissur Dist.

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