Ankus head overall
Overall length

77.8 cm

Head size

Spearhead 12 cm long

Hook 22 cm wide


652 grams




South India


From the collection of Han Hendriks 1919-2008.


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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.

Elephants were expensive, and important and dangerous assets in the field. Those who controlled them well were of considerable importance to rulers and trusted with important tasks during processions, hunting, and warfare. The aṅkus, in that sense, was as much as a tool as an emblem of rank.

For more, see my glossary article: Aṅkus (अंकुस)


This example

A rare south Indian ankus head, made of forged iron. It consists of a spearhead with a long tang with a threaded end. Attached to the tang on one side is an iron hook that is shaped like a parakeet.

Like parrots, parakeets can learn how to mimic human speech and were found to be able to memorize the chants uttered by worshippers in temples, which made people think of them as sacred. They are considered to be the vehicles ("vahana") of the Hindu gods Kamadeva and his consort Rati, who represent love and desire. Goddess Meenakshi, consort of Shiva, is also often depicted holding a parakeet, and the parakeet is associated with the goddess Andal, a Tamil poet and saint devoted to Vishnu.

The head is mounted on a long tang with a threaded butt end. The whole was once probably mounted on a wooden shaft, with a pommel screwed at the bottom.

South India, 17th to early 18th century.



The piece comes from Han Hendriks (1919-2008), a notable Dutch blacksmith with a forge in the Balistraat, The Hague. He kept a study collection of antique ironwork from around the world, some of which I have been able to purchase from his descendants.

South Indian ankus head
South Indian ankus head
South Indian ankus head
South Indian ankus head
South Indian ankus head
South Indian ankus head
South Indian ankus head

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