Elephant Goad - Ankus
Date: 19th century
Materials and Techniques: Gold, steel or iron, enamel and precious stones
Dimensions: Length 54 cm, Weight 940g
Museum Number: The Wallace Collection, OA1382
These goads are recorded as being used in the 3rd century BC and vary hugely in design, materials and size. The goad is made to control an elephant and the basic form is a hook and a spike on the end of a long or short pole. The short version, like this one, is used when the elephant driver riding on the neck hooks the ankus behind either the left or right ear of the elephant to indicate which way to turn. The spike is to make it go faster or pull harder. A goad with a long handle was used by a man walking beside the elephant who had to reach up to the elephant's ear.
This ankus was made for the Maharaja of Jaipur in Rajasthan, India. It is made of iron or steel, covered with gold which has been enamelled and set with diamonds. Jaipur was famous for its beautiful enamel.
The Maharaja gave such objects as presents to his top courtiers, in an India system of present giving called 'khillat' which tied the recipient to his ruler by the process of giving and receiving in public. The recipient would want to use his gift, often an article of clothing like a robe of honour or a dagger or sword, to show off in public and to indicate his importance and his favour in the Ruler's eyes. An important man would therefore wear jewelled arms and elaborate jewellery at all times. The gift of an ankus was a symbolic gift of an elephant (elephants being extremely expensive and a symbol of royalty).