State to spend Rs. 1.53 crore on the camp
Jumbos lazed around on the nine-acre site along river Bhavani at Thekampatti near Mettupalayam where the annual 48-day rejuvenation camp for mutt and temple elephants began on Thursday.
According to its mahout, Lakshmi from Tiruchi obeys commands in Hindi. Another elephant, also named Lakshmi, from Irattai Tirupati temple in Tuticorin and Gandhimathi from Tirunelveli enthralled visitors by playing the mouth organ.
Kumaran from Tiruchendur and Booma from Oppilippan temple were so friendly with each other that the handlers had a tough time separating them.
Of the six camps held so far, four were at Mudumalai. Mettupalayam was chosen for last year’s camp and this year too.
The State will spend Rs. 1.53 crore on the camp.
Of the total 43 elephants listed for the camp, only 31 could make it.
Officials said that two more elephants — Lakshmi from the Manakula Vinayakar Temple in Puducherry and Fathima Beevi from Nagore Dargah — are expected by Thursday night.
The temple elephants have been kept separately from the Forest Department’s elephants. Eighteen camp elephants of the Forest Department are part of the camp.
Sixty-one-year-old Soolikambal of Nagapattinam is the senior most and seven-year-old Sundaravalli of Azhagarkoil in Madurai is the junior most in the camp.
Minister for Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR & CE) P. Chendur Pandian and Minister for Forests M.S.M. Anandan, Secretary to Government for Culture, Tourism and HR & CE R. Kannan, Mettupalayam MLA O.K. Chinnaraj and Collector Archana Patnaik fed the jumbos. HR & CE Commissioner P. Dhanapal said the health condition of the elephants had been assessed and the diet chart was prepared.
Public will be allowed to visit the camp from Friday.
It will be open from 10am to noon and from 3pm to 4.30pm. On weekends visitors could come from 8.30am.