January to April are the cruellest months for the captive elephants in Kerala when the places of worship in the God’s Own Country celebrates various annual festivals.
Parading of caparisoned elephants along the prickly hot black-top roads for hours together, even for days together in many cases, in connection with certain ritualistic ceremonies, is a painful sight for animal-lovers in the State during these summer months.
The hapless animals in captivity are put to stand in the scorching sun, denying even food, water and sleep, in the name of religion and tourism promotion. It is also a fact that no scripture or religious text say that temple elephant should be part of temple festivals, says Ms Sandhya, district co-ordinator of the Society for Prevention of Cruelty against Animals (SPCA).
Most of the temple festivals in Kerala are being held in the months of February to April which is the hottest period in the State. The elephants are being rented out for various temple functions at the rate of Rs 30,000 to Rs 1,00,000 a day, making it a ‘harvest’ season for the elephant owners, contractors, mahouts, etc. A hefty sum from the temple revenue is also found to have been spent on elephants during the festivals.
Elephants turning violent during ceremonial processions have also become a regular feature during the festival months and the latest incidents have been reported from Vallamkulam near Thiruvalla and from Palakkad on Sunday.
A temple elephant, Narayanan, that turned violent amidst the ritualistic ‘Parackezhunnellippu’ procession had crushed a car parked in a residential compound and toppled a mini lorry parked on the roadside at Vallamkulam, besides uprooting a few trees. The pachyderm was tranquilised and tethered, later.
The elephant tethered in an open compound on the wayside was left to stand in the scorching sun.
Dr Gopakumar, veterinary surgeon attending the elephant, told The Hindu that the animal was in a pre-masth (pre-rutting) stage and it needed rest, cool surroundings, lot of water to drink, special diet, etc.
Dr Gopakumar has advised the temple authorities to shift the elephant to a cool place soon.
It was the sleepless days and over-working that had turned another temple elephant violent immediately after the culmination of this year’s Aratt procession at the Sree Parthasarathy Temple at Aranmula a few weeks ago. The violent pachyderm had partially pulled down the devaswom office building at the temple premises before it was tranquilised by the Elephant squad, later.
According to Dr Gopakumar, most elephants are immobilised by chains creating wounds on its legs. Torture of animals by mahouts, lack of rest and proper food, denial of treatment and making them stand for long hours as part of the temple ceremonies were identified as the immediate causes for many captive elephants turning violent.
The SPCA district co-ordinator alleged gross violation of the prevailing laws and rules at the hands of the elephant owners, mahouts, contractors having vested interests in the over-exploitation of these innocent pachyderms.
Ms Sandhya called upon the district authorities to ensure safety of these poor giants. The State houses as many as 600 captive elephants and a majority of them attached to various temples across the State.
It is high time to stop parading of elephants in temple festivals and other ceremonial functions in the larger interests of saving the animals, she adds.