Abstract: Ancient India has had a number of effects upon the world beyond its limits, some of them well known (Buddhism, Hinduism, yoga), some of them not so well-known (the number system with zero, language analysis). Indian kingship had an influence that was felt beyond India, not through military conquest but through the spread of its most distinctive invention: the war elephant. The institution of the war elephant lasted from the tenth century BCE to the nineteenth century CE, and spread from India as far afield as Spain and Indonesia—a three-thousand-year, international historical object whose history is hidden. I will explore that history and talk about the future of elephants.
Organized by the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures as part of our Pre-Modern India series.