SV: SV: wheeled vehicles

Lars Martin Fosse lmfosse at ONLINE.NO
Thu Apr 12 08:52:06 UTC 2001

David Salmon wrote:
>On the other hand, in Multan I once saw a super-large, four-wheeled oxcart
with rubber tires pulled by two magnificent, huge, pure creamy white oxen
the old Zebu type, huge curved horns rising above their heads, which could
have kept pace with some trucks....

I mentioned that the chariot was used for hunting. Here are a couple of
verses from the beginning of Kalidasa's Shakuntala, showing how the chariot
functioned. The king has been pursuing a deer for some time and describes
the speed and grace of the animal as it flees, "but lightly skimming the
ground". The charioteer answers:

"Long-lived one, seeing that the ground was uneven, I pulled up the reins
and slackened the speed of the chariot. But now that you are on level
ground, you will not find it difficult to overtake him."

The rest of the sequence leaves little to the imagination as far as speed
is concerned. One may argue that Kalidasa wrote long after the Vedic
period, but shouldn't we still combine this evidence with what we know of
Vedic chariots? Or should we assume that India in later times developed a
much faster and more agile chariot?

That wouldn't quite jibe with the idea that everything wonderful was
already invented in the Vedic period. If the Vedic literature describes a
chariot that seems to function the way described by Kalidasa, why not
assume that it was basically the same kind of contraption? Kalidasa's
chariot must have been light in order to move with a deer.

Best regards,

Lars Martin Fosse

Dr. art. Lars Martin Fosse
Haugerudvn. 76, Leil. 114,
0674 Oslo
Phone: +47 22 32 12 19
Mobile phone: +47 90 91 91 45
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Email: lmfosse at

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