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The elephant king of Guruvayur

It's going to be a feast fit for a king. And the guest list is just as impressive ? ministers (three of them), royalty, movie stars and famous personalities.

india Updated: Jan 13, 2006 04:01 IST

It's going to be a feast fit for a king. And the guest list is just as impressive — ministers (three of them), royalty, movie stars and famous personalities. The star of the show: Padmanabhan, the elephant king of the Sree Krishna temple in Guruvayur.

It's been 50 years now that Padmanabhan has been carrying the thidamabhu (miniature of the presiding deity). And on Sunday, Thiruvananthapuram will honour him with gold, silver and aana oottu (elephant feast). “We are planning 50 sovereign gold medals, a silver crown and a sumptuous feast for Padmanabhan on his maiden visit to Thiruvananthapuram,” reception committee secretary K. Anil Kumar told HT.

Guruvayur’s pride, the 64-year-old ‘Gaja Ratnam’, is no ordinary elephant. Endowed with a trunk that touches the ground, a well-carved shape and intelligence, he is known for his calm and obedient nature and has never run amok during festivals. Last year, just for an appearance at a temple procession in Palakkad, he fetched a record Rs 2,22,222.

“He will be brought in a decorated vehicle. At least a dozen temples, including the Sree Padmanabhasawmi shrine, have planned receptions for him,” Anil Kumar said.

Guruvayur — with the world’s largest collection of captive elephants (62) — traditionally anoints the most elegant and enduring of the animals ‘Gaja Kesari’ (elephant king). And the Gaja Kesari is a king in every sense of the word — with a throne, specially erected concrete canopy and VIP care. Life is good for these temple elephants, who are contributed by devotees. And except for strict celibacy, they enjoy everything else. They carry official and pet names, their daily food bill alone amounts to Rs 32,000 and their only job is to take part in temple festivals.

These elephants are such an integral part of Guruvayur that the temple’s recent offer to devotees to donate an elephant symbolically by paying Rs 5 lakh hasn't gone down well at all. Guruvayur continues to be flooded with elephant donation requests.

An elephant donation is the highest form of thanksgiving. Four years ago, Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalitha had donated a tusker after her landslide victory in assembly elections.

First Published: Jan 13, 2006 04:01 IST