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K. V. Ramakrishna Rao, B.Sc., M.A., A. M. I. E., C.Eng (I)., B. L.,

25 (Old.9), Venkatachala Iyer Street,

West Mambalam, Chennai – 600 033




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 The title is chosen euphemistically and figuratively to analyze the antiquity of Ramayana, Valmiki and certain information available in the literature1. In Valmiki Ramayana2, there have been specific references and description about certain strange animals, which are very much intriguing, perplexing and interesting too for researchers with scientific background to appreciate, assess and decide the authenticity of such literary evidences. The references and description found in Sundarakandam are as follows:


1.     The grand palace of Ravana was protected by many strange animals.

2.     Certain characteristic horses were neighing.

3.     There were many elephants and they had four tusks.

4.     Protected fat animals and birds were also there.

5.     The palace was protected by four tusked elephants and as well as three tusked animals. However, three tusked animals are not named.

From the scientific point of evolution of animals in accordance with the geological eras go back to millions of years back. How, then such description could be found in Valmiki Ramayana? This is critically analyzed in this paper.

The description found in Sundarakandam: Interestingly, Valmiki or the poet who wrote Ramayana mentions about certain fantastic, strange and mysterious creatures and animals in his work. The details are as follows:


1.     The grand palace of Ravana was protected by many strange animals.

2.     Certain characteristic horses were neighing.

3.     There were many elephants and they had four tusks.

4.     Protected fat animals and birds were also there.

5.     The palace was protected by four tusked elephants and as well as three tusked animals. However, three tusked animals are not named (emphasis added).


The first four depictions are in Sundarakanda (4.25-30) and the fifth one also in Sundarakanda (9.5) of Valmiki Ramayana.


A translation from other version / Critical Edition etc: For comparison and considering other view, the verses and their translation from the following website is given: Incidentally, this is also from the critical edition of Ramayana prepared by the Baroda Institute.

triviSTapa nibham divyam divya naada vinaaditam |
vaaji heSita samghuSTam naaditam bhuuSaNaiH tathaa || 5-4-26
rathaiH yaanaiH vimaanaiH ca tathaa gaja hayaiH shubhaiH |
vaaraNaiH ca catuH dantaiH shveta abhra nicaya upamaiH || 5-4-27
bhuuSitam rucira dvaaram mattaiH ca mR^iga pakSibhiH |
raakSasa adhipateH guptam aavivesha gR^iham kapiH || 5-4-28


26,27,28.. mahaakapiH= The great Hanuma; aavivesha= entered; guptam= secretly; raakshasaadhipateeH= Ravana's inner city; trivishhTapaHnibham= (which was like a) paradise; divyam= best one; vaajighoshhitasangushhTam= resonating with neighing of horses; tadhaa= and; naaditam= made noisy; bhuushhanaiH= with ornaments; radhaiH= by chariots; yaanaiH= by vehicles; vimaanaishca= and by aerial-cars; tadhaa= and; bhuushhitam= decorated by; subhaiHhayagajaiH= by auspicious horses and elephants; swetaabranicayopamaiH= equalling a group of white clouds; vaaraNaishca= by great elephants; caturdantaiH= with four tusks; mR^igapakshibhiH= by animals and birds; mattaiH= in heat; ruciradvaaram= with a beautiful entrance; raksh*tam= protected; yaatudhaanaiH= by raksasas; sumahaaviiraiH= with great strength; shahasrasheH= in thousands.


The great Hanuma entered secretly Ravana's inner city which was equal to paradise, rendered noisy by neighing of horses and tinkling of ornaments, by chariots, vehicles and aerial-cars and decorated by auspicious elephants and horses and great elephants with four tusks and by birds and animals in heat. It had beautiful entrances and was protected by thousands of rakshasas with great strength.


uttamam raakshasaavaasam hanumaanavalokayan |
aasasaadaatha lakshmiivaan raakshasendraniveshanam || 5-9-4
catur viSaaNair dviradaiH triviSaaNaiH tathaiva ca |
parikSiptam asambaadham rakSyamaaNam udaayudhaiH || 5-9-5


4,5. atha= thereafter; hanumaan= Hanuma; lakshmiivaan= the glorious one; aasasaada= neared; uttamam raakshasaavaasam= the best residence of Rakshas; raakshasendraniveshanam= (and) the house of Ravana; parikshiptam= containing; chaturvishhaaNaiH= ( elephants) with four tusks; tathaivacha= and also; trivishhaaNaiH= those with three tusks; dviradaiH= two tusks; asambaadham= not crowded; rakshyamaaNam= protected; udaayudhaiH= by those bearing raised weapons; avalokayan= observing (it).


Thereafter, Hanuma the glorious one neared and observed the best residence of Rakshasas and the house of Ravana, containing elephants with four tusks and also those with three tusks, those with two tusks and still not crowded. It was protected by soldiers bearing raised weapons.


Here, the word “matta” is translated as “heat” instead of “fat”. In another place, “matta dhyvpasamakula” (Yuddhakanda.2-10) is translated as “filled with fatty elephants” only. However, three and four tusk elephants are recognized, but their significance is not interpreted scientifically. Even the scholars who prepared critical edition have not noted as to how the interpolators of the first or fourth century could have incorporated such details without actually seeing!


What are the Animals described here? The animals and birds described are like this: There were many strange animals. Certain characteristic horses were neighing. There were many elephants and they had four tusks. Protected fat animals and birds were also there. In fact, the dinosaurs in the formation stages looked like birds without wings just like penguins. In fact, according to Phylogenetic taxonomists, birds are by definition maniraptorans and the other maniraptorans are their closest relations. A maniraptora is defined as containing all dinosaurs features closer to birds than ornithomimids. Paleontologists have found the fossils of dinosaurs-birds / feathered dinosaurs / dino-birds at <ST1:COUNTRY-REGIoN>China</ST1:COUNTRY-REGIoN> (Sinosauropteryx), Madgascar (Rahonavis), Southern <ST1:COUNTRY-REGIoN>Germany</ST1:COUNTRY-REGIoN> (Neopteryx), <ST1:COUNTRY-REGIoN>Italy</ST1:COUNTRY-REGIoN> (Scipionyx), <ST1:COUNTRY-REGIoN>Mongolia</ST1:COUNTRY-REGIoN> (Mononykus) and so on. There were four tusked elephants and as well as three tusked animals. However, three tusked animals are not named. That even the scholars, who edited and prepared the critical edition of Ramayana have noted and included in the edition is significant. In fact, it notes that the horses are “wondrous steeds”. However, they have neither objected to such description of birds and animals nor declared such verses interpolated. Therefore, the description is to be verified scientifically for its veracity and authenticity. As now, geologists, paleontologists, biologists and other scientists have provided enough evidences about the origin of different animals and birds from the available information, the possible description is correlated.


Photo courtesy:





720.jpg      K. V. Ramakrishna Rao,

The four-tusk elephants are named as Stegotetrabelodon syrticusTetrabelodon angustidensGomphotherium,TetralophodonTrilophodon and Platybelodon and they are recognized by the paleontologists in 19thand 20th centuries only.


According to modern scientists, the big elephants with big jaws and small teeth are called Tetrabelodon and others Deinotherrium, which lived about 13 to 135 million YBP. The elephants with big ears and lengthy and bent tusks lived about 63 to 135 million YBP during cretaceous period. The elephants with dense hair, bent tusks lived about a million YBP during Pleistocene period. These type of animals have been depicted on the horns of deer known as Arknecian.

One / two / three / four-tusk Elephants: Scientifically, the existence of one / two / three / four tusk elephants have been proven based on the fossil evidences. They are discussed as follows with diagrams. They are represented as Trilophodon, mammithera. Scientists accept that the small, tapirlike Moeritherium, the earliest member of the proboscidean line, gave rise to a large and widespread population of which the African and Indian elephants of today are the only living representatives.












This is the one-tusker elephant found around camp in Ruaha, <ST1:COUNTRY-REGIoN>Kenya</ST1:COUNTRY-REGIoN>.

Four-tusked Trilophodon lived from the Miocene epoch (26 million years ago) to the Pleistocene epoch (2 million years ago) in Eurasia, Africa, and North America. Also seen in the Miocene epoch were the downward-curving tusks of Deinotherium. Platybelodon, with its lowered, flattened, shovel-shaped tusks probably used for scooping vegetation from the water, occupied Asia and North America in the late Miocene epoch and the Pliocene epoch (7 million years ago). The largest proboscidean, the Imperial Mammoth,Mammithera imperater, was well adapted to the cold in Eurasia, Africa, and North America during the Pleistocene epoch. Its teeth were much like those of the modern elephant.



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Evolution of Elephant is Implied? By mentioning three-four tusk elephants together and separately, was Valmiki implying the evolution of an elephant? About elephants scientists point out that most elephants found on <ST1:COUNTRY-REGIoN>Sri Lanka</ST1:COUNTRY-REGIoN>, male or female, have no tusks, though, Tusks continued to grow throughout the elephant's life, in other cases. How, then, Valmiki could locate elephant with tusks, that three-four in Lanka. Does it mean that the Lanka, he describes is different from the present <ST1:COUNTRY-REGIoN>Sri Lanka</ST1:COUNTRY-REGIoN> / <ST1:COUNTRY-REGIoN>Ceylon</ST1:COUNTRY-REGIoN>?


Among the Asian and African elephants, there are two species. The Asian elephant, Elephas maximus, found in <ST1:COUNTRY-REGIoN>India</ST1:COUNTRY-REGIoN> and SE Asia, and the African elephant, Loxodonta africana, found in Africa south of the Sahara. African bull elephants may reach a shoulder height of 13 ft (4 m) and weigh 6 to 8 tons (5400–7200 kg). Their tusks are more than 10 ft (3 m) long and weigh up to 200 pounds (90 kg) each. Females are somewhat smaller and have more slender tusks. African elephants have enormous ears, measuring up to 42 in. (107 cm) in diameter. The long, conspicuously wrinkled trunk terminates in two fleshy, fingerlike protuberances, used for handling objects. The Indian bull elephant reaches about 9 ft (2.7 m) in shoulder height and weighs about 3.5 tons (3200 kg); its tusks are up to 6 ft (180 cm) long. The female of this species has no tusks. The ears of the Indian elephant are much smaller than in the African species, and the trunk somewhat shorter and smoother, ending in a single protuberance.These are the figures generally given by the scientists to depict how the elephants evolved and developed into other categories during millions of years and then attained the present form with two tusks.

So fascinated by the four-tusk elephants, <ST1:COUNTRY-REGIoN>Libya</ST1:COUNTRY-REGIoN>, in 1995 issued stamps, as shown on RHS depicting Stegotetrabelodon syrticus.

Photo courtesy from:

Many more photos can be seen in the website.

Strange Neighing Horses and wondrous steeds: The details given by Valmiki about horses have been very intriguing as scientists have never perceived the presence of horses in the southern hemisphere. According to them, the very first horses evolved on the North American continent over 55 / 60 million years ago from small dog like animals. Over millions of years they roamed the grasslands slowly extending their range to most of the continents on earth. Then horses migrated across the Bering land bridge from North America into what is now Siberia. From there, they spread across Asia into Europe and south to the Middle East and Northern Africa. Horses vanished from both north and South America in a wave of extinction that occurred at the end of the Pleistocene epoch, about 15,000 years ago. Horses nearly became extinct in the rest of the world as well, by about 7000 years ago the worlds only horses were confined to a small area in the still open grasslands steppes of <ST1:COUNTRY-REGIoN>Ukraine</ST1:COUNTRY-REGIoN> and central Asia. For further details, see the websites:


Scholars always argue that horse was not there in <ST1:COUNTRY-REGIoN>India</ST1:COUNTRY-REGIoN> before c.1000 BCE. Therefore, the horse in Lanka is anathema to the present day archaeologists and historians. Here, also Valmiki’s description is perplexing. Neighing horses and “Wondrous steeds” are mentioned in the critical edition also (pp.598-99), as has been recorded by H. D. Sankalia3. Does it mean that he saw them at the end of the Pleistocene epoch, about 15,000 years ago?


Evolution - Past to Present

The Meaning of the Word "Elephant”

The word "elephant" has both Greek and Latin origins. This applies specifically to the elephant's scientific genus name "Elephas". In Greek linguistics, elephos represents an antlered beast or stag. 
The roots of the word "elephant" in Latin is divided into two words: "ele” means arch and "phant” means huge. Also, the genus name, Loxodonta, for the African elephant means lozenge-shaped teeth for the chewing surfaces.


Mammalia (Class)

About 180 million years ago, mammals arose from a 'reptile-like' lineage about the same time as true dinosaurs. About 80 Million years ago the genetic linage of elephants split from primates. The 'tree' shrew is considered our nearest common ancestor.

It is believed that 50-60 million years ago, Moeritheriums, approximately the size of current day pigs, were the roots from which the proboscideans evolved. Based on both morphological and biochemical evidence, it is generally agreed that the manatees, dugongs, and hyraxes are the closest living relatives of today's elephants. This is incredible given the vastly different sizes, external appearance and the fact that these animals occupy completely different habitats.

Proboscidae (Order)

The order under which Elephants are classified is the Proboscidea. This means animals with trunks/proboscis.
Over the course of evolutionary history, it has been estimated that there have been about 352 species of Probscideans. The creatures of this order have inhabited every continent except Australia and Antarctica. All but two (the African and Asian elephants) have died out.

It has been hypothesized that Proboscideans were able to exist in so many environments because they were capable of specializing to particular habitats. This enabled them to disperse across the continents. However, this very advantage became a disadvantage in the face of radical changes in their habitats. Because of their specialization, they were unable to adapt to change to survive. Their large sizes and the other problems associated with their enormous structure proved to be a hinderance to their adaptive abilities.

The trend in the evolution of Proboscidea has generally been an increase in size, related in longer limb bones and larger skulls and teeth. As Proboscideans have grown taller, their trunks have grown longer.

Because their heads are far from the ground, nature has compensated for this height by developing the trunk as a necessary tool. For such large animals, the trunk has provided a fast and convenient way of reaching food and water on the ground. This has meant that they do not have to bend down to drink or feed, which would put them in a vulnerable position. A long trunk has enabled Proboscideans to investigate the ground and eat and drink, while still watching and listening for approaching danger. As a result, nature has selected in favour of longer trunks. This is one of the elephant's most interesting and unique physical features.

Elephantidae (Family)

The family Elephantidae developed from the order Proboscidea. The Asian elephant, African elephant, and the Mammoth sit within this family. Previous to these species, however, were other closely related ancestors:

This species lived about 26 million years ago and it was characterized by having four tusks. Two tusks curved upward out of the upper jaw, and two tusks curved downward out of the lower jaw.

This creature had two downward curving tusks that were probably used in a shovel-like manner to scoop vegetation out of the watery swamps where it lived. It existed approximately 25 million years ago. They had no tusks in their upper jaw, making them somewhat unusual.

This creature also had two lower flattened tusks, again probably used for digging and scooping vegetation.

More correctly classified as part of the family Mammutidae, the remains of the first Mammutidae, descended from the paleomastodon, were found in 25 million-year-old Oligocene strata in Africa and Eurasia. These animals were about the size of today's elephants, but more solidly built with a hairy body.

Elephas Maximus / Asian Elephant (Genus)

At about the same time that the mammoth was coming into existence, so was the Asian elephant, under the genus Elephas. The proper name of the Asian elephant is Elephas maximus. It also originated in Africa, and it is believed to have a stronger evolutionary tie to mammoths than it has with African elephants, or that African elephants have with mammoths.

Asian elephants spread throughout Eurasia, and they now exist in India, Sri Lanka, China, and South East Asia. Elephas maximus indicus is the Indian subspecies. Elephas maximus sumatranus is the subspecies of Sumatra. On the island of Sri Lanka, there is also a subspecies called Elephas maximus maximus. The isolation that the island has provided has allowed a divergent evolution to occur. Most of the bulls there are tuskless, though they are not a separate species. This may be the result of a selection process in which, over a period of centuries, bulls with particularly large tusks were shot by ivory hunters, and had fewer offspring as a result. This is a sad, but interesting example of the role that humans can play in the evolution of other species.

Loxodonta Africana/African Elephant

The African elephant, Loxodonta africana, appeared about 1.5 million years ago. It is the 'newest' elephant species in evolutionary terms. It differs from the Asian elephant in its larger size, and the fact that both males and females have tasks.

The largest of all elephants is the the savanna or bush elephant, Loxodonta africana africana. There is also a much smaller forest elephant called Loxodonta african cyclotis, which inhabits the equatorial rain forests of West and Central Africa. They tend to have small, rounded ears and darker skin. Interbreeding occurs between the savanna and forest elephants in areas where the two habitats meet.

At one time African elephants inhabited the whole of the African continent. Now they are found only south of the Sahara, due to shrinking habitat and the effects of man's presence (namely the ivory trade). Another interesting evolutionary feature of elephants that is particularly relevant to African elephants is their infrasonic hearing and moaning. This ability to hear sound waves below our own hearing level is a crucial means of communication for elephants out on the wide-open plains. In this way, they can talk to each other without alerting predators to their position (the predators can't hear their communication). This convenient ability was naturally selected for because of the advantage it gave elephants.

The Zoo (Domesiticated) Generation

The recent International Convention on Species Protection bans the capture of elephants living in the wild and any trade in such animals. Therefore, it has become inherent that zoos establish their own breeding programs, as the wild animals will no longer be a source for zoos. Over the past few decades, cpaptive breeding progrmas have become more successful and this has led to the development of a zoo generation of elephants. These elephants are essentially pets, dependent upon human care. They grow up in captivity and are not considered wild animals. Because zoologist and keepers have a significant hand in determining which pairs of elephants breed, it will be interesting to see whether a zoo subspecies of elephant will develop. Because of the limited selection of captive elephants, inbreeding and other weaknesses may play a signifcant role in the nature of the future 'zoo species'.

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