It is a unique ritual. Devotees chase an elephant for one hundred metres to catch its tail. The ritual is held in the Malayalam month of Meenam at the Umayanallur Sree Bala Subrahmanya Swamy Temple in Kollam. The ritual itself is named ‘catching the elephant’s tail’ (aanavaal pidi).

Cheered by hundreds of onlookers, including a good number of foreign tourists, the ritual was held in the precincts of the temple here on Tuesday. Temple authorities say the ritual has been in place for the past 1,500 years.

It is symbolic of the beliefs about the childhood pranks of the god-siblings Ganesha and Balasubramanyan.

Devotees take part in the ritual with utmost devotion by running after a tusker, trying to catch its tail. The elephant races, with its tail raised, for about 100 metres. Many of its pursuers manage to get hold of the tail. Those participating in the ritual say they attain some kind of spiritual bliss. The ritual gets over in less that a minute. This year, tusker Kadavur Sivaraju was selected for the ritual.

By 10 a.m., it was prepared for the ceremony by giving a bath. The unfettered tusker was brought in procession to the aanaakottil (kraal) and fed ‘nivedyam’ (devotional offering). It kneeled before the presiding deity, trumpeted and then began the ritual run.

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