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Pachydermal Issues


From WikipediaJust in case I had forgotten how life was back home, Kerala welcomed me with these two pieces of news both involving the state’s favourite animal, the elephant.

Now each temple in Kerala typically has at least one elephant to its name. Guruvayoor tops the list with 60 I think.  The said animals are kept nearby, washed and maintained by a mahout  ‘pappan’ and revered and loved by everyone in the town. In fact, we love them so much that in the monsoon season each lucky pachyderm gets an ayurvedic treatment to rest and relax its frayed nerves. After all, being pampered all year round is no joke. (I wonder if domesticated elephants in timber yards have heard about these job perks in temples, and whether they conside a switching careers).

1) So, anyway, back to the news. A temple near the town I’m from was preparing its three elephants for a ceremonial circumnambulation around the town. There was some delay in the start and one of the pachyderms got a lil restless, and gave his friend a poke. Said friend was not in a good mood, fell down and created a big ruckus. Needless to say the restless miscreant was chained up, and the priests tried to calm the upset one. In the meantime, the third pachyderm got fed up with his colleagues behaviour and decides he can do a pradakshina on his own. So this full grown male elephant all decked up in revelry marches out of the temple and into the middle of a bustling town. Did the people run for their lives? Was the police called? Nope. Apparently the pachyderm was so well-mannered in following all traffic rules through the busy streets.. nobody realized he was on his own. The unattended elephant walked 20 mins to his destination and it’s only then that the temple realized, oh look, he’s back!

2) The next piece of news was more entertaining. An elephant snuck out in the middle of the night from one of the temples and went missing. Now this is big news, an elephant is a matter of pride and lot of donations. How did it escape? Why did it run away? And more importantly, where does a 5000 kg, 10 ft tall mammal hide?! The locality around was searched by all but to no avail. Finally, two days later, some kids (in a cliched went-to-retrieve-a-ball story) found the pachyderm sitting in a shady grove of sugarcane fields, contently munching. AThe rumour is that the temple food disagreed with him but that’s the grapevine talking.

And there we have it. I’ve always been amazed at these elephants, especially during the times of the temple festivals (or Ultsavams or Poorams). Why a huge, 4 ton beast with 8 feet tusks allows to be dressed up with pretty nettipattams, bells, necklaces is beyond me. How it doesn’t go mad with the sound of the loud drums (thanks to the marars), with a thousand people all craning to get closer and feed it more bananas is a different matter altogether. Talk about patience! No wonder we love our state animal so much, who else would stand for such stuff.

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Comments on: "Pachydermal Issues" (1)

  1. This is an issue that is close to my heart and I am glad you are asking the right questions where people can read this. There is immeasurable cruelty involved in this business of involving the pachyderms in the variety of rituals that we have discovered in recent times in Kerala. First it was only in the temples and the timber yards that these animals had to toil. Now they have to endure the indignity of being hustled into a lorry or to trudge along the tarmac with heavy vehicles for company from one function to another. The mahout is more often than not drunk and ready to use his thotti (lance) at the slightest of straying. Just how they manage to retain their composure with the drums and crackers and the crowds around them all the time, beats me.
    It is time that this cruelty was banned along with bull fighting, jallikkattu and the like

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