Former Environment Minister Maneka Gandhi’s call for shifting Thrissur Pooram festival held in the months of April or May to cooler months was rejected by Thiruvambadi and Paramekkavu Devaswoms which organise the festival.
Ms. Gandhi had suggested that elephants participating in the festival could escape the heat and stress of summer months if the festival was shifted to October or November.
While the representatives of Thiruvambadi and Paramekkavu Devaswoms rejected the proposal, Kummanam Rajasekharan, State general secretary of Hindu Aikya Vedi, said it was a proposal worth discussing.
Around 100 elephants, including those paraded by the two major dewaswoms and other smaller temples, reach the Pooram ground during the festival.
K. Manoharan, president of Paramekkavu Devaswom, said the temple followed a two-and-a-half-century-old festival schedule. Each temple followed specific rituals and schedules, which include the conduct of festivals. Such practices followed for long could not be altered, he said.
M. Madhavan Kutty, president of Thiruvambadi Devaswom, said the elephants attending the festival were taken care of. They were provided wet gunny bags to stand on and were kept in the shade to protect them from the sun. The animals were occasionally fed with watermelons and cucumbers to beat the heat, he said.
The devaswom provided the animals ‘sukha chikilsa’ (rejuvenation therapy) after the festival, under the supervision of experts. The issue of animals struggling in the heat during Thrissur Pooram did not arise, he said.
Meanwhile, Mr. Rajasekharan said the Hindu Aikya Vedi would provide a platform for priests, the faithful and the representatives of the devaswoms to discuss the issue. Temple rituals should change with the changing times, he said. However, as the parading of elephants was linked to temple rituals, the sentiments of the faithful should be taken into consideration. A consensus should be reached on the issue after deliberations were held with all sections concerned, he said.
Elephant specialists said captive elephants in Kerala attended around 80 festival events a year.
P.S. Easa, executive committee member of Project Elephant, said temples, mosques and churches that paraded elephants for their festivals should jointly address the issue. Ideally, the practice of parading the animals should end. If paraded, the number of animals participating in the event should be reduced and proper space should be provided for each animal to stay comfortably, he said.
Welcoming the suggestion, P.O. Nameer, head of the Centre for Wildlife Studies of the Kerala Agricultural University, said the stress the animals underwent in the State while participating in the rituals often went unnoticed. Shifting the festival season would save them from considerable stress during sultry months, he said.