is very short work, known for its historical and prosodic importance rather than
its subject matter. Gaja Shastra is the art and craft of maintaining and treating
elephants. ‘Gajashtaka’ is a set of eight poems which describes this craft. This
work is purportedly written by Shivamara-2, a king belonging to the Western Ganga
dynasty that ruled in South Karnataka. He was in power during the ninth century.
(830 A.D.) He was a scholar in many branches of knowledge such as ethics, archery,
grammar, poetry and the art of looking after horses and elephants. This fact is
documented in an inscription found at Nelamangala in Bangalore district. Another
inscription found in
Humacha, (Panchabasti Shilashasana) tells us that the ‘Gajashtaka’ written
by Shivamara, was as popular as ‘OnakevADu’ and ‘Ovanige’. Obviously these two are
popular song forms of that period. With all this, ‘Gajashtaka’ is yet to be traced.
Shivamara is supposed to have written ‘Gajamatha Kalpana’ in Sanskrit and ‘Sethubandha’
in Prakrit. Even they are not found.
is perhaps the first written work in Kannada making use of Tripadi meter. This is
also the first ‘Ashtaka’ kavya in Kannada. The reference to ‘Ovanige’ and ‘onakevADu’
in the context of ‘Gajashtaka’ makes them at least as ancient as ‘Gajashtaka’. This
gives us some gleanings about the folk meters of that period.