Horse, elephant and Dravidian

Palaniappa at Palaniappa at
Sun Jul 6 06:18:06 UTC 1997

In Classical Tamil, there is a word, 'mAn2', which seems to denote wild
animals and especially antelope/deer. This word is contrasted with 'An2'
which refers to the domesticated cattle. The term used to refer to wild
cattle is 'AmAn2'. This pair of 'mAn2' and 'An2' seems to be comparable to
the contrasting pair 'mRga' and 'pazu' in Sanskrit. But there is a
significant difference which seems to give some important information
regarding the domestication of the horse and elephant, if it can be called

In Sanskrit, horse is included in the category of 'pazu' as a domesticated
animal. But in Classical Tamil literature which comes several centuries
later, the horse is still called 'mAn2'. This is in spite of it being very
widely used by itself for riding as well as for drawing chariots. This seems
to suggest two things to me. For one, Dravidians did not domesticate the
horse (which everybody knows anyway) and secondly, and more importantly, the
language has preserved the original 'alienness' of the horse even after so
many centuries if not millennia. This is one more evidence for the
extraordinary preservation of ancient cultural elements in Classical Tamil.

Another interesting fact is that apart from the horse, the elephant is also
called 'mAn2'. When coupled with the fact that CT often talks about the Aryan
language spoken by the elephant trainers/drivers, it leads one to wonder if
the training of wild elephants was an Aryan contribution? or Did the
semantics of 'mAn2' change?

In Sanskrit, which category does the elephant belong to?
Thanks in advance.


S. Palaniappan

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