Sights from Punnathurkotta palace, near Thrissur — home to more than 60 elephants that are fed, nurtured and trained to perform specific duties at religious festivals round the year.Text and Photos:K.K.Mustafa
Punnathurkotta, once the palace of a ruler in Kerala, serves a different purpose now. The palace grounds are used to house elephants belonging to the Guruvayur temple.
The unique elephant sanctuary, the only one of its kind in the world, has nearly 65 elephants now. It is spread over 10 acres.
Many popular elephants of Guruvayur have become part of history. Memories of Gajarajan Kesavan — known as the king of all elephants in the State — are still alive in the hearts of those who love him. With his mammoth physique, Kesavan was known for his intelligence and devotion to the temple.
The Punnathurkotta facility is used to train elephants to participate in religious festivals throughout the year. The compound has a nalukettu, a traditional rectangular home with a central courtyard, which belonged to the Punnathur Raja. It is poorly maintained and presently houses a training school for mahouts.
The Punnathurkotta facility has become unique in the country, thanks to veterinary doctors, mahouts and elephants, who live here as one big family. It’s a shelter where elephants are taken good care of and protected from illness. The place is a monument to the deep relationship between humans and animals.