Various methods of capturing and training
elephants were evolved over a period of time in different
geographical regions of the country. The ‘Pit Method' was
popular in southern India until recently. The Khedda (i.e.
Stockade Method), with many variations, has been
prevalent in different parts of the country and has also
been recorded by Megasthanese, the Greek envoy to the
court of the Emperor Chandra Gupta Maurya (third century
B.C.). It was introduced to the Mysore Plateau in southern
India by Sanderson in 1874. Mela Shikar (i.e. noosing from
the back of a trained elephant) is popular in the
northeastern part of the country. Sanskrit literature
describes two more methods of capturing elephants: the
use of female elephants as decoys and the use of nooses
concealed on the ground. Indian experts have also gone to
other Asian countries to teach the art of capturing and
training elephants.

Elephants were domesticated in the early days mostly for
military purposes. The use of war elephants has been
recorded in the military history of India, from the famous
battle between Alexander the Great and King Porus, ruler
of Punjab, on the banks of the Jhelum in 326 B.C. to the
war of Shakkar khera in 1724 A.D. The British put
elephants to use to mobilize their resources in
northeastern India against the Japanese during the
Second World War. In the modern era, however, elephants
have been associated with state pomp, viewed as status
symbols by princes and the landed gentry, used for the
great Shikar (hunting) meets, for elephant-capturing,
logging operations, tourism, temple processions, circus
shows and, to a limited extent, for agricultural works.

An extensive body of literature has been produced in India
on the management of domesticated elephants. The sage
Palakapya (fifth or sixth century B.C.) is reputed to be the
author of Hasti ayurveda, a treatise on the medical
treatment of elephants and Matanglila, which is a treatise
on the physical and mental characteristics of elephants,
their capture and care. Hastividyarnava, the famous
Assamese treatise on the medical treatment of elephants
was authored in the 18th Century by Sukumar Borkayat on
instructions from the then Ahom queen. G.P. Sanderson's
Thirteen years among the wild beasts of India (1879), John
Henry Steel's A Manual of the Diseases of the Elephant
and of his Management and Uses (1885), G.H. Evans'
Elephants and Their Diseases (1910), A.J.W. Milroy's A
short treatise on the management of elephants (1922), E.
O. Shebbeare's Soondar Mooni (1958) and P.D. Stracey's
Elephant Gold (1963) are some of the classics on
domesticated elephants in recent times.

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