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Dasara elephants go through the grind before the festivities

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PREPARING FOR THE BIG EVENT: Dasara elephants participating in the acclimatisation drill on the premises of the Mysore Palace. PHOTO: M.A. SRIRAM
PREPARING FOR THE BIG EVENT: Dasara elephants participating in the acclimatisation drill on the premises of the Mysore Palace. PHOTO: M.A. SRIRAM

Sharath S. Srivatsa

Pachyderms being familiarised with sound of cannon fire, Jamboo Savari route and palace premises

  • The elephants have been brought from various camps located around Mysore
  • Balarama has participated in 12 Dasara processions, of which it has carried the howdah six times

    MYSORE: Far away from the familiar terrain in their forest abode, these gentle giants are familiarising the thoroughfares of the concrete jungle in the City of Palaces.

    For, in less than a month's time, they would be the cynosure of all eyes carrying out an important assignment that befalls on them year after year. And which they have been executing diligently.

    Brought from various elephant camps located in the jungles around Mysore, 12 Dasara elephants will be slogging over the next three weeks, practicing all that is needed to participate in the Jumboo Savari, an event that marks the end of Dasara festivities.

    From the routine jungle patrol taking anti-poaching personnel on their back in forests of Bandipur and Nagarahole, the task given to these elephants changes once they arrive in Mysore following the Gaja Payana, the commencement of their journey from forests to Mysore Palace. They are put through a grind that enables the success of the Jumboo Savari.

    According to Nagaraj, veterinarian, the elephants are assigned the task of patrolling along with the personnel of anti-poaching camps. They help the personnel in swift movement within the forest.

    There are around 70 tamed elephants in exclusive camps at Dubare, Hebballa, Moorkal, Kallalla, Nagarahole, Veeranahosahalli, Metikuppe, Sunkadakatte, Bandipur, Moolehole, K. Gudi and Bheemeshwari. About 240 mahouts and kavadis take care of the needs of these elephants and develop a bond with them.

    The Dasara elephants Balarama, Bharatha, Srirama, Abhimanyu and Gajendra have come from Moorkal, while Prashantha, Vikram, Vijay and Harsha have been brought from Dubare. Kanti has come from K. Gudi, while Revati and Mary have been brought from Sunkdakatte.

    In the Mysore Palace courtyard, the elephants go through various regimens that have been designed to ensure that they do not get scared of the new environs. Dr. Nagaraj said: "These elephants are exposed to the sound of cannon fire that reverberate in the courtyard during the main procession. In phases, they are taken on the Sayyaji Rao Road, the route of the procession. The mahouts also take the elephants to big and small monuments on the palace premises and familiarise them."

    The 48-years-old Balarama standing at 2.70 metres, which will carry the Howdah, gets to rehearse with sand bags weighing about 800 kg, equivalent of the golden howdah. It has participated in 12 Dasara processions, of which it has carried the howdah six times.

    Walking in the footsteps and learning the tricks is 39-year-old Bharatha, who is tipped to succeed Balarama. Sources say this 2.9-meter tall elephant captured from Kattepura forests of Kodagu, has all the traits to become the howdah elephant.

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