Address and specialist needed (Making of Inflammable Arrows)

sudheer birodkar sudheer_birodkar at
Mon Aug 25 12:47:44 UTC 1997

Here is an extract on the making of inflammable arrows. This comes from 
a text "Ancient India as described by Ktesais the Knidian" Transalted 
from Greek by J.M.McCrindle, Published by Trubner and Co. London in 1882 
(One Thousand Eight Hundred and Eighty Two) P.28.

The Greek text is believed to be dated around the 4th Century B.C.E. 
(Before the Common Era). Ktesias was supposed to be a physician at the 
court of the Acheamenian (Hakkamanishiya) Kings who ruled Persia from 
the 5th Century BCE to the 3rd Century BCE.

Here is his passage:

"There is bred in the Indian river a worm like in appearance to that 
which is found in the fig, but seven cubits more or less in length while 
its thickness is such that only a boy of ten years old could clasp him 
within the circuit of his arms." 

In this passage Ktesias is seemingly referring to some species of  the 
Indian Python.

The text further says, "For catching this worm a large hook is employed 
to which a kid or lamb is fastened with hooks of iron. The worm being 
landed the captors hang up its carcass and placing vessels underneath it 
leave it for thirty days. At he end of thirty days they throw the 
carcass, and preserving the oil they take it to the king of Indians 
alone, for no subject is allowed to get a drop of it. This oil like fire 
sets everything ablaze over which it is poured and it consumes not alone 
wood but also animals. The flames can be quenched only by throwing over 
it a large quantity of clay and that too of a uniform consistency."

This passge describes the process of extraction of body oil from a 
python which it describes as highly inflammable. Such oils we are told. 
were used in tipping arrows to make them inflammable. This could be the 
process of making inflammable arrows which have been referred to as 
Agni-astras and agni-bans in Indian epics.

This hypothesis obviously is a only conjecture and need not be taken as 
a gospel truth.


>From indology-request at Mon Aug 25 05:07:21 1997
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>From: Ditte Koenig <ditte.koenig at>
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>Subject: Address and  specialist  needed
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>Does 1) anyone know the address (e-mail?) of G. Gropp in Hamburg? And
>does 2) anyone know who is a specialist in questions of pre-islamic
>weapons (axes, bows etc) in India/Pakistan/Afghanistan? =
>Thank you!
>Ditte Bandini-K=F6nig
>-- =
>Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften
>>Felsbilder und Inschriften am Karakorum Highway<
>Karlstr. 4  D-69117 Heidelberg
>Tel: ++49-6221-543273    Fax: ++49-6221-543355
>mailto:ditte.koenig at

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