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Elephant lovers win final round as government lifts ban on celebrity jumbo

Raman was banned from the ceremony by the Chief Wildlife Warden after the bull elephant ran amok, killing two and injuring seven others, when firecrackers exploded at a house-warming ceremony in the temple town of Guruvayoor in February.

india Updated: May 12, 2019 14:49 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Thiruvananthapuram
Thrissur Pooram,Vadakumnathan Temple,Thechikottukavu Ramachandran
Celebrity elephant ‘Thechikottukavu Ramachandran’ plays a cameo role announcing the beginning of Thirussur Pooram, Kerala’s biggest cultural pageant, on Sunday. (HT Photo)

Elephant-lovers have won the final round before Thrissur Pooram, Kerala’s biggest cultural pageant. As before, celebrity one-eyed jumbo, ‘Thechikottukavu Ramachandran,’ affectionately called Raman, will be present at the opening of the Vadakumnathan Temple’s southern gate to inaugurate the festival on Sunday.

Raman was banned from the ceremony by the Chief Wildlife Warden after the bull elephant ran amok, killing two and injuring seven others, when firecrackers exploded at a house-warming ceremony in the temple town of Guruvayoor in February.

Earlier too, Raman had killed 11 persons and gored two other elephants, leading to two six-month bans on public appearances by the jumbo imposed by the Kerala High Court. But elephant owners and Raman’s fans alike had threatened to boycott Pooram altogether, if Raman is left out of the festival, during which caparisoned elephants are a chief attraction. Having burnt its fingers on the Sabarimala issue, the CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) government was also eager to solve the elephantine problem, more so since Sangh Parivar activists, too, launched ‘Save Raman’, an online campaign to whip up support for the popular pachyderm.

After the Kerala High Court had on Friday refused to entertain a plea to lift the ban and left the decision to experts, a committee examined Raman and on Saturday gave a go-ahead but with conditions: that Raman’s owners, a temple trust in Thrissur’s Peramangalam, be held responsible for any mishaps during the festival and a 10 meter-tall barricade is erected around the animal.

People will not be allowed to crowd or greet Raman, who will be displayed for only an hour on Sunday. There are to be four mahouts with him. A total of 90 elephants will take take part in the week-long festivities, with 3.22 meter-tall Raman – the tallest captive tusker in India and second tallest in Asia – performing the vilambaram (opening) ceremony.

First Published: May 11, 2019 17:33 IST