Kerala’s beloved elephant ‘Jumbo King Padmanabhan’ no more
One of the most celebrated temple elephants of Kerala, Gaja Ratnam Guruvayur Padmanabhan (84), a house hold name in the state, died on Wednesday, said Guruvayur temple board. The tusker was carrying the ‘thidambu’ (miniature of the idol of presiding deity) of Lord Sri Krishna, at Guruvayur temple since 1962.
Known for its gentle behavior, ‘Jumbo king Padmanabhan’ has left a story full of legends behind. Endowed with a trunk that touched the ground, good shape and elegant tusks, he was known for his calm nature and never ran amok during festival, said Jumbo lovers. He was conferred ‘Gaja Ratnam’ title by the temple board in 2004 and enjoyed special privileges and status among temple elephants.
Always in great demand, he had fetched a fee of Rs four lakh for just an appearance at a temple procession in Kochi a few years ago. He was given a reception to remember at the state capital in 2006 in the presence of three ministers, film actors and members of the erstwhile royal family of Travancore. He was rewarded with a gold chain weighing 101 sovereigns on the occasion.
The temple board said Padmanabhan was dedicated to the temple in 1954 as a 14-year-old pachyderm and he started carrying the ‘Thidambu’ of the Lord in 1962. The board said he was ailing for the last two months due to age-related ailments. The temple said a befitting memorial will be built for the star elephant.
Domesticated elephants are an integral part of people’s lives in Kerala, which boasts of several fan clubs dedicated to them. No festival makes it big without the presence of caparisoned tuskers. Besides temple festivals, elephants’ presence is regularly seen in cultural programmes and wedding functions.
Guruvayur temple has 58 elephants-- the largest captive herd in the country. Most of the elephants are donated by devotees, mainly businessmen and film personalities as a thanksgiving to the deity.
In 2001, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa had donated an elephant to the temple after her party’s landslide victory in state assembly elections. It literally triggered a rush to donate pachyderms to the temple, forcing the temple authorities to accept symbolic donations with a payment of Rs 10 lakh.