The 750-kg golden howdah called ‘Chinnada Ambari’ being carried by the lead elephant during the Jamboo Savari, the grand finale of Mysore Dasara, has been the main attraction for tourists every year. The elephant carrying the howdah covers 5.5 km stretch from the palace to Bannimantapon the Vijayadashami.
Now, if the recommendation of the Karnataka Elephant Task Force is considered, then the howdah might be replaced by a replica of the same which is lighter than the original one. Sources in the Forest Department here told The Hindu that a High Court-appointed Karnataka Elephant Task Force has recommended the use of a lighter replica of the golden howdah on the elephant during the Dasara festival in Mysore instead of the 750-kg golden howdah. In the alternative, the task force suggested carrying of the golden howdah in a chariot drawn by the elephant.
The Maharajas of Mysore used to occupy the golden howdah during the princely era which has since been replaced by the idol of Goddess Chamundeshwari.
The High Court had constituted a task force in January 2010 to find a solution to the man-elephant conflict in the vulnerable areas of the State. In the year 2007, a committee of experts on elephants and non-governmental organisations working for animal welfare had recommended a complete ban on use of pachyderms during festivities.
A task force formed by the Centre in 2010 had recommended ban on use of elephants in processions and tourism activities. However, doing away with elephants during festivities could go against the sentiments attached to the Mysore Dasara festivities, which has a history of over 400 years. But, there is no doubt that the issue of reducing the burden on the lead elephant would have to be looked into in all earnestness, says a veterinary doctor, who is involved in looking after the welfare of the Mysore Dasara elephants here.
“It is a welcome step”, said Praveen Bhargav, Managing Trustee of the Wildlife First. Speaking to The Hindu , Mr. Bhargav stated that reducing the weight of the golden howdah by at least 50 per cent could go a long way in reducing the burden on the elephant carrying it. During last year’s Jamboo Savari, the howdah had leaned to one side and it must have caused a lot of stress to Balarama. It was traumatic for the elephant to carry the golden howdah in in a crowded place. Preserving culture and tradition was alright but reducing stress on the elephant would also have to be kept in mind.
Mr. Bhargav, referring to the movements of the elephants amidst a tumultuous Dasara crowd, said elephants could become cranky at times though they looked docile. It is always advisable to have a clear elephant path by keeping the surging crowd at bay.