An Elephant Amok

Thanks to Max for showing me this story of an elephant in musth — “running amok” — from Through the Tiger's Eyes. There’s a lot more to the story, which I’ll have to leave out for copyright reasons, but I’m eager to track down this book.

There is a small, neat, whitewashed building roofed with terracotta tiles. A steep hill covered in large, black boulders rises directly behind the house, which in fact is the Kopa Dubri guard outpost. It was here Shivaji went berserk. There were signs that something was amiss with Shivaji about a month before this, when he started attacking Jung Bahadur, another large tusker.

Shivaji was fine for the next two weeks in the care of his grass cutter. But then the elephant came into musth properly and he went mad. Neither his grass cutter nor the other mahouts could control him. Shivaji broke the enormous chains that shackled him, dragging a length of chain on one of his hind legs, and took off into the jungle. He took all the female elephants and their calves with him. Three nights later, on a bright moonlit night, Shivaji with other elephants approached the guard outpost. They came silently. Three men were asleep inside, two laborers and a forester called Bagwan Das Patel. The men woke to the sounds of Shivaji tearing the back of the house apart. Other elephants surrounded the place. The two laborers ran up the steep slope behind the house. The elephants chased them but could not climb the rocky hill. Shivaji returned to the house and pushed the walls in with his forehead. Bagwan Das ran out of the other side and down the road. Shivaji ran after him. The two laborers heard Bagwan Das scream twice. They ran through the night to the next guard outpost, where they stayed until dawn. When they returned next morning, they saw Shivaji standing over Bagwan Das's inert body with the other elephants close around him. The laborers went on to the elephant village and raised the alarm. The mahouts rushed to the scene in a Jeep. The elephants had gone. First they found Bagwan Das's towel. Then they saw the marks of Shivaji's tusks in a sal tree. Bagwan Das's body was on the other side of the tree, literally torn limb from limb.

Shivaji, recaptured, is bathed and fed every day now and is no trouble. Everyone agrees Shivaji cannot help what he did. He went mad and did not know what he was doing.


  1. Thanks to you, Gordon, to have published the story of Shivanji. ;-)


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