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Elephant goad - Elephant goad (ankus)

Elephant goad (ankus)

  • Object:

    Elephant goad

  • Place of origin:

    Jaipur (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1870 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Gold, enamelled and set with natural colourless sapphires, and possibly colourless beryls and topazes.

  • Credit Line:

    Transferred from the India Museum in 1879

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    South Asia, Room 41, case 11

The ankus is a tool for the handling and training of elephants consisting of a metal hook attached to a short handle. The elephant is trained to respond to pressure applied to the sensitive skin behind the ears in much the same manner as horses by spurs.
Elephants have been used during religious ceremonies and processions and as mounts for royalty since antiquity. The ankus is therefore found in armouries and temples all across India, often ornately decorated with gemstones, or engraved with passages of sacred text

The ankus is one of the eight auspicious objects known as Astamangala in Hinduism, and is associated with certain other religions of the Indian subcontinent. A goad is also an attribute of many Hindu gods, including Ganesha.

Physical description

Elaborately ornamented elephant goad, with two terminal spikes of blued steel, one straight and one curved. Gold set with natural colourless sapphires and other diamond simulants on blue, green or red enamel with polychrome painted enamel on the grip, depicting scenes of the hunt.

Place of Origin

Jaipur (made)


ca. 1870 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Gold, enamelled and set with natural colourless sapphires, and possibly colourless beryls and topazes.


Length: 54.5 cm, Width: 14 cm, Thickness: 3.8 cm diameter at thickest part

Object history note

Acquired for the India Museum after being shown at the 1871 Exhibition; transferred to the South Kensington Museum in 1879. Acquisition records note the presence of diamonds; examination by Joanna Whalley on 3 September 2009 indicates that these are all diamond simulants, mostly natural colourless sapphires and possibly some colourless beryls and topaz.

Descriptive line

Elephant goad ankus gold set with natural colourless sapphires, polychrome enamel, Jaipur, ca. 1870

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Swallow, Deborah and John Guy eds. Arts of India: 1550-1900. text by Rosemary Crill, John Guy, Veronica Murphy, Susan Stronge and Deborah Swallow. London : V&A Publications, 1990. 240 p., ill. ISBN 1851770224, p.213, pl.188.
Susan Stronge, in The Indian Heritage. Court Life and Arts under Mughal Rule, V&A, 1982, cat. 449, p.136, ISBN 0906969263.
Lord Egerton of Tatton, Indian and Oriental Armour, London, 1896, p. 109, Cat. No. 391A
pps. 46 and 47
Jackson, Anna and Ji Wei (eds.) with Rosemary Crill, Ainsley M. Cameron and Nicholas Barnard, compiled by the Palace Museum, translated by Yuan Hong, Qi Yue and Liu Ran. The Splendour of India' Royal Courts : Collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum. Beijing: the Forbidden City Publishing House, 2013. Text in English and Chinese. ISBN 9787513403917.

Labels and date

Enamelled gold set with diamonds
c. 1870
02693 (IS)

This probably belonged to a traditional khilat, or dress of honour, given by a maharaja to a person of distinction. It was bought by the museum from London’s 1871 Annual International Exhibition. [27/9/2013]


Gold; Natural white sapphires; Enamel



Subjects depicted

Hunting; Elephant


ELISE; Ceremonial objects; Arms & Armour; Transport


South & South East Asia Collection

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