People throng the temple to pay homage to the 63-year-old elephant; the animal was presented by the late Sivaji Ganesan in 1960

A pall of gloom descended on this temple town on Saturday morning following the death of 63-year-old ‘Vellaiyammal’, the Big Temple’s elephant.

Donated by veteran actor Sivaji Ganesan in 1960, the elephant was suffering from knee pain for seven years. Because of the pain it used to sleep leaning on the wall.

But, this morning, it was seen lying down on the floor. Immediately, mahouts Baskaran and Saravanan informed veterinary doctors who tried to revive the animal. The end came at 9 a.m.

Standing at the entrance of the temple, the elephant used to enthral children and bless people every day.

On hearing the news, people turned up in large numbers to pay homage to the elephant, which was adorned with silk sari from the Punnainallur Mariamman Temple, garlands and wreaths.

Before the elephant was buried in the evening behind the shed, ‘abhishekam’ and ‘aarthi’ were performed. The pachyderm was presented to the Mariamman temple when it was 10. It was named after a character in the Tamil feature film, Veera Pandiya Kattabomman, starring Sivaji Ganesan.

In 1980, it was brought to Big Temple and since then, it had been part of the temple festivals. Initially, it attended the rejuvenation camp, but later it could not go to Mettupalayam in Coimbatore district, the venue of the camp, as doctors had advised against taking the animal for a long distance.

Those who paid homage include K.Baskaran, District Collector; Babaji Rajah Bhonsle, Senior Prince and hereditary trustee of Palace Devasthanam; Savithiri Gopal, Chairperson of Thanjavur Municipality and Alamelu Ammal, sister-in-law of Sivaji Ganesan. Ms. Alvamelu Ammal said late Sivaji Ganesan had presented elephants to various temples, including Tirupati and Thiruvanaikaval temples.

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