We forgot the ‘Elephant Day’
Elephant is a part of Kerala culture. No celebration or temple festival is complete without elephants. Kerala is a state having a lot of elephant lovers and elephant fan clubs. Many people are so much mad in elephant love that, seeing its tail and legs, recognize them easily and call their names. Yet, we forgot to celebrate National elephant day which was on October 4. Most sad thing is that almost all states celebrate it in their own way. But the state which exhibits their traditional culture world wide with the help of these animals, attracting the tourists, nowhere showed their respect towards them.
Thrissur – the true admirers of elephants.
The great admirers of elephants belong to Kerala’s cultural, Thrissur. 60-70 lakhs is the market value of a male elephant in Thrissur. Yet, people are coming forward to buy this animal, taking its insurance with high premium. Also, it’s not at all easy to meet the food expenses of an elephant. Thrissur is known as the land of poorams. Poorams are temple festivals accompanied with elephants. No one can even imagine a pooram without elephants. Elephants in a row standing, decorated with golden ‘nettipattam’ and colourful umbrellas carrying idols of temples is a spectacular scene to watch. Such poorams are always accompanied by Panchavadyam – the musical band composing of traditional instruments, idakka, ilathaalam, thimila, maddhalam and kombu. Thrissur Pooram known as Pooram of Poorams conducted before Vadakkumnatha Siva temple is the greatest of all – the best temple festival of Kerala.
If you want to learn how to love an elephant you should see Thrissur people. There are many elephant fans associations here belonging to different elephant names. Guruvayur Kesavan has a lot of fan followers all over Kerala and a lot of fan clubs. He is considered to be the most popular and best elephant of Kerala. Though he died in 1976, people had not forgotten him till now. He belonged to Guruvayur Krishna temple. Elephants are respected by Thrissur people by giving ‘Gajaraja’ designations, displaying flex boards, dispersing photos of elephants, framing their photos at homes and pooja rooms and by giving them warm welcome. Also, they are given sukhachikilsa (Ayurveda treatment, massaging and medicine) in the holy month of Karkidakam.
A day passed by without making any noise
Yet, this year this day passed by without any acknowledgement. Though October 4 was declared National elephant day by Central Government, Kerala didn’t pay attention to it. As a result, not even a single function was organized anywhere in Thrissur to honour these poor animals. Not only Thrissur, whole Kerala forgot the elephant’s day. I read through newspaper, when someone asked a forest officer about this day, he responded saying, “A day for elephants?” If it’s the case of forest department of Kerala and state government, what to say about normal people!
It’s not about just one day
This occasion is not just reminding that we forgot to celebrate – the state where elephants are used for carrying idols of temples. But it shows how we are neglecting care and respect to these animals. Latest news is that, Kerala Government is not spending time to make use of elephant grants given by Central Government. They are not even receiving it. Other states make use of more than 50 lakhs provided as Government grants. Though people welcome elephants on roads and festivals with cheers and love, also describe its wild beauty, truth is that no one really cares about the health of these poor animals.
Some days before I read news in newspapers that hurt me a lot. It’s true, elephants make the Hindu festivals grand. Yet, the distance they travel each day to different festival grounds and working restless, standing the whole day to cheer people, if some one just think for a moment, any person who has a heart will cry for sure. I have seen many elephants’ eyes filled with tears. It may be their mind’s words pouring as tears, though they can’t tell us. What I read was really heart breaking. Restlessness makes them injured too. Yet full time, they are put in chains without giving proper treatment and giving work in forests and wood mills. And, for festivals, to hide their wounds from others, cover them with elephant dung. Such a cruelty to poor animals! I doubt if normal man can do so, for their own benefits. That also, in the name of God!
No need for funds!
Years have passed since Kerala Government has asked those elephant funds. Not because they don’t need it. But, reason is Central government may ask previous accounts. It’s not only kids, but adults also fear such mathematical calculations a lot! It has begun from 1996-98 period onwards. Since those funds were not received yet, Kerala government can’t apply for such grants now. Thus, every year, a loss of more than 50 lakh rupees! But, neighbouring states, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka are well making use of those funds. Some states have even started Police force for elephants, using this grand. Their main job is to send back wild elephants which visit residential areas. They even train some of such forest elephants. Tamil Nadu itself has 21 such police men. A six men group is now residing in Kerala-Tamil Nadu border, Muthumala forest area.
41 day celebrations in Tamil Nadu for National Elephant Day
Tamil people celebrate National elephant day for 41 days. They construct special fences during this season and leave those elephants, free of chains. Also provide them conditions for mating. Not only that, they are given medical checkups during this season. If elephants have problems of vision, they are given eye treatments too! Special care for their feet is also given. Though Karkidakam month is celebrated in Kerala as ‘elephant special’, now many issues have already been raised saying such treatments are just a show and only animal feeding, ‘aanayoott’ is happening as a part of it.
Declared at Thrissur. But…..
This declaration was done at Thrissur in the year 2004. Many top officers of Kerala forest department were present. Many elephant lovers who were present at that occasion expressed their worries and openly told that Kerala elephants are not treated well. Later, each year elephant day was celebrated without much voice, but very soon it was stopped by elephant owners.
Elephants with ownership
Though more than 700 pet elephants are there in this state, forest department itself is saying, only 400 of them do have ownership. Truth is that, they even don’t know the exact number of Kerala elephants. If an elephant dies, its post mortem report is kept in a separate file. That’s the reason why such accounts are not integrated till now. Also, now it’s not possible to check from that long list of live elephants, how many have left the world. Though many requests are given to postpone honourship dates, authorities are saying no giving explanation that people may misuse it.
Earlier, mahouts were real elephant lovers. There was a deep bond between him and his pet. But now, those days have gone. They are given severe punishments for simple mistakes and not given proper care if injured. Also, restless job make those poor animals go mad. Everyone blame them seeing their gigantic size, if they cause any destruction losing their control. Truth is that they are suffering a lot and can’t express everything, those ill treatments, less nutritious diets, restless journeys, injuries and no sleep! Elephants carrying drunken mahouts make traffic blocks a lot. Such mahouts are often drug addicts too! They may mercilessly punish poor animals while drunk. Authorities never try to get into these problems. Again whole blames are put on these creatures mercilessly! Usually elephants are tamed by beatings and giving injuries, not with love. So, when elephants loss their control, first victim will be of course, mahout. So, such mahouts leave the place if he sees the situation becoming worse.
No elephant calves here
According to Kerala forest rules and laws, mating of pet elephants has no restrictions. But the problem is such kids belong to Government, not the owner. That’s the reason why owners are also not interested in this matter. Though such programs have been organized several times before, even a single one has not reached the title, ‘success’. Elephant sperms are available in Mannuthi centre. It has high demand from foreign countries too. They are using them to produce next generation of Asian animals in their zoo. Yet, no one from here is coming forward with such demands.
Elephants in disguise
If an elephant has bought bad fame, they will be given a new name. They remove their name locket chains first. Even their tusks are shortened to make them less identifiable. To avoid such malpractices, a new technology was introduced years before. Similar to identity card of people, saving both their foot prints and DNA in computer was the first procedure. It was to be done by Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Biotechnology, Thiruvananthapuram. Even, the amount of 1.5 crore Indian rupees was also granted. But due to some reasons, it was not implemented.
Though many elephant laws are there, these animals are not getting full protection and gratuity. Laws deny the process of processions where these creatures stay under sun for a long time. But in festivals and Onam celebrations, they are standing for a whole day hearing loud noises of people and instruments. Huge body doesn’t mean they are strong enough to withstand everything, more than a normal human being. So, truth is that though we say, we love our elephants a lot, it’s not in true sense. If so, we would have at least spent a few moments with this lovely creature, which spreads the name of this cultural state world wide. So, let me conclude my article with a humble request. If you see this creature anywhere, in a temple or road side, instead of seeing it as a funny animal and lucky or powerful creature, just give him a warm look and a small patting because its innocent mind identifies true hearts easily. Also, if possible, give him some coconut or plantain leaves, banana, jaggery or cooked rice. He loves such items a lot!
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