Ignatius Pereira

KOLLAM: The month of Karkidakam-Chingam (Malayalam calendar) is considered most suited for elephants to undergo the annual rejuvenation therapy (‘sukha chikitsa’). Elephant owners prefer to ‘overhaul’ the animals during this period, as it comes after the festival season when they undergo stress and strain. The therapy helps to keep them fit for the next season.

Currently, over 200 of the estimated 800-odd captive elephants in the State are “fortunate enough” to be undergoing the therapy. The mahouts nurse the elephants during the period.

According to veterinary surgeon and elephant management expert B. Aravind, the therapy is both a psychological and physical relaxation period for the elephants. Dr. Aravind is currently supervising the ‘sukha chikitsa’ of 35 elephants in Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam and Pathanamthitta districts. The therapy will have the required effect only if it is done for a minimum of 21 days. Many elephant owners are, however, reluctant to do it owing to the heavy expenditure involved, he says.

The therapy focusses on revitalising the body through cleansing of the internal organs with both allopathic drugs and Ayurvedic preparations. The elephants are given a largely nutritive diet during the period and total rest.

Dr. Aravind says the therapy has a hidden advantage in that it advances the annual cyclic musth phenomenon. After the therapy, the tuskers put on weight and become healthier. At such a stage, they come into musth, which lasts for three months. During this period, the animal is highly aggressive. After the musth, the elephants return to their normal self. This ensures that the animal does not turn violent during the festival period, which generally begins during mid-December and lasts till the end of April.