Ban on celebrity jumbo threatens to take sheen out of Thrissur Pooram
Keralas’ biggest cultural festival Thrissur Pooram, an ensemble of traditional percussion musical instruments, caparisoned elephants, decorative umbrellas and pyrotechnics, has hit a road block over the ban of one-eyed celebrity elephant named ‘Thechikottukavu Ramachandran.’
The 54-year-old tusker which has enough fan clubs and die-hard admirers in the state, was taken out of temple duty after it ran amok in February and killed two persons.
Thrissur district collector T V Anupama, who is known for her no-nonsense approach, has said a big no to the VIP jumbo, intensifying the standoff between elephant lovers and the government. Elephant owners have threatened not to parade their jumbos at the Pooram. In the week-long Pooram festival May 13 and 14 are most auspicious.
The tallest domesticated jumbo in the state at 10.5 ft, Ramachandran plays a key role in Pooram festivities every year. But his ban has angered his fans. The collector’s Facebook page is flooded and fans started a campaign called ‘Save Ramachandran’ and Sangh Parivar outfits have pledged their support to them.
“Pooram is incomplete without the presence of elegant Thechikottukavu Ramachandran,” said P N Nair, one of the fans of the jumbo saying it was highly improper for authorities to put him in the “most dangerous category” of animals.
But Kerala’s forest minister K Raju justified the ban.
“After the mishap in February the chief wildlife warden has banned its parading in public places and festivals. We can’t take any risk,” Raju said. He said elephant owners were playing politics and the government will not bow to their threat.
The minister had held talks with the elephant owners on Tuesday to break the deadlock but nothing came off it.
“We are willing to co-operate but the forest minister has made a controversial statement saying owners were torturing jumbos for money. It is an insensitive comment and we have decided not to dispatch our jumbos to any festival,” said Kerala Elephant Owners’ Federation secretary K Sasikumar adding the minister was responsible for the standoff.
In Kerala caparisoned elephants are often considered a status symbol for the rich. In February Ramachandran was taken to a house-warming function in temple town Guruvayoor when it ran amok after crackers were burst near it. The elephant trampled two persons to death and injured seven others, forcing authorities to ban it.
This is not the first such incident. Over the years, the elephant has killed 11 people and gored two other jumbos The Kerala High Court had also banned Ramachandran twice for duration of six months.
Elephant experts and veterinary surgeons have also warned against its public display because it is partially blind after it lost vision in one of the eyes during a mishap. But elephant enthusiasts and his fans are unmoved saying its ban was inappropriate. The state has 510 captive elephants and 400 are paraded in temple festivals and other functions. Guruvayoor temple has got single largest collection of domesticated jumbos in the country, 58.
Thechikottukavu Ramachandran is owned by a temple trust in Peramangalam in Thrissur. It was brought from Bihar in the early 1970s. It is a recipient of many awards including ‘Gajarajan’ and ‘Eka Chtrapathi’.