Rayamangalam went into a day of mourning as it buried two of the three women killed by tusker Thechikkottukavu Ramchandran during Thaippooyam festivities at the Koottumadam Sreesubramanya Swami Temple on Sunday. The third victim, Rama, will be cremated later.

The quiet town on the outskirts of Perumbavoor, about 30 kms from here, observed a dawn-to-dusk hartal on Monday after the temple festivities were brought to an abrupt halt by the tragedy, the like of which has never been witnessed by people in the locality.

“As long as we can remember there has not been any such incident around temple festivities here,” said a stunned Shaabu M. K., president of the Koottumadam Perekkattu Devaswom Trust.

The tusker’s caretaker Haridas E., representing the Thechikkottukavu temple trust, said that the elephant was in a pleasant mood in the run up to the festivities in the evening when the tallest elephant carries Thidambu. He said that the elephant’s behaviour was totally unexpected.

Eye witnesses said that the victims, including the 20 who sustained injuries, were following the elephants or were close to the tusker during the ceremonial procession around the temple.

They said that Thechikottukavu Ramachandran, who stands over 10 feet tall, was startled by the abrupt removal of the Thidambu and the movement of another elephant Kannan, which was standing belly-to-belly.

Heavy silence descended Monday morning on the sprawling premises of the Sreesubramanya Swami Temple, a sharp contrast to the picture of festivities on Sunday evening when thousands packed the grounds to participate in the ceremonial procession and Bhasmabhishekam.

Seven of the elephants were secured within the temple premises with Thechikkottukavu Ramachandran drawing the biggest crowd of onlookers.

The elephant was tired and listless, trying to break free of its fetters. Saju Paul, MLA, and Rayamangalam panchayat president Joy Poonelil went to the homes of the deceased to handover Rs. 10,000 each as interim relief for the families of the dead. The All Kerala Elephant Owners’ Federation has decided to provide Rs. 50,000 each to the families. Meanwhile, the condition of two of the more seriously injured, Archana, 21, and Ambujakshan, 71, are in a stable condition, according to sources.

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