Les éléphants sous la cour ahom (XIIIe-XIXe s.)

Nicolas LAINÉ

fr Anthropozoologica 45 (2) - Pages 7-25

Published on 31 December 2010

Elephants under Ahom's court (13th-19th)

Since Ancient texts Northeast India is quoted as being a region where wild elephants can be found in abundance. It remains a place which has given birth to long traditions relating to the capture and to the domestication of the animal. The natural environment of the Northeastern region constitutes, indeed, a tremendous habitat for the elephants and remains today one of the last bastions of the Asian elephants in the world. The Ahoms, after whom comes the name of the existing state of Assam, are Shan conquerors, native of upper Burma, who migrated in North-East India at the beginning of the 13th century. Their territory has progressively stretched in the whole alluvial plain of Brahmaputra, which they dominated up to the arrival of the English (beginning of the 19th century). During these six centuries, the Ahoms knew how to exploit the rich natural resources of their kingdom, particularly the elephants. During their rule, these animals were captured, used and maintained into a sophisticated domesticatory system controlled, managed and organized at the highest level of the monarchy. This article has as intention to present some elements of this system (classification, capture methods of capture, training, use, etc.) from vernacular available sources, in particular the Hastividyarnava, a famous treatise on elephant domestication dated from the Ahom period.

Keywords :

Ahom, elephant, domestication, domesticatory system, Assam (Northeast India).

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