Aṅkus (अंकुस) comes from the Sanskrit word aṅkuśa (अङ्कुश) means "elephant goad". It is a hooked instrument with a sharp spearhead-like point. They were used by the mahout (the keepers, trainers, and drivers of elephants) to control elephants.
A small South Indian aṅkus. Probably ceremonial.
Sold by Mandarin Mansion in 2019.
Elephants were expensive, so only those of considerable wealth could afford them. They were also important and dangerous assets in the field. Those who controlled them well were of great importance to rulers. Good mahouts were often trusted with important tasks during processions, hunting, and warfare.
The importance of the aṅkus is underscored by the fact that the finest example of South Indian metalwork known in the world is not a sword, but indeed, an aṅkus. Now in the Bostom Museum of Fine Arts. It was said to have been in the collection of the Maharaja of Mysore, India. Sold by Spink and Sons, Ltd., London, to the MFA in 1995.
The aforementioned aṅkus in the Bostom Museum of Fine arts, , accession number 1995.11.
Image © www.mfa.org. Reproduced under fair use.