The Travancore Devaswom Board decision not to permit use of elephants beyond its sanctioned strength for various temple rituals was taken in the larger interests of ensuring the smooth conduct of various temple festivals, according to board president M. Rajagopalan Nair.

Talking toThe Hindu, the TDB president said there was no ambiguity in the decision as the board had never said ‘no' to the use of domesticated elephants for temple festivals and other ritualistic ceremonies. He said the decision was to permit the use of elephants only as per the custom and practice followed by the temples. This was with a view to avoiding overcrowding of people that often found to have been leading to law and problems in many places, and for the wellbeing of the elephants.

Mr. Nair said the TDB was for strict compliance with the prevailing laws of the land such as the Indian Forest Act, Elephant Preservation Act, etc., and it wanted to avoid mishaps caused by elephants when they turn violent during festivals.

“Use of elephants in more than their prescribed strength has become common during the annual festivals at various temples. Using maximum number of elephants to add pomp and glory to the ceremonial processions as part of temple festivals has become a negative trend in recent times. Overcrowding of people to witness such ceremonial events often found to have been leading to mishaps and lose of lives. The TDB decision to strictly enforce the rules and guidelines for use of elephants in various temple festivals and ceremonies should be viewed in this context,'' he said.

TDB owns 34 elephants

Mr. Nair said the TDB owned 34 elephants. While the board had spent Rs.1.4 crore for taking care of them last fiscal, the revenue earned by way of renting them out was just Rs.7.5 lakh during the period. He said two TDB mahouts had been killed by violent pachyderms in the ongoing festival season.

He said the board had decided not to permit hiring or sponsoring of elephants for temple ceremonies and to discontinue with events like ‘Anayottom' at Thiruvarpu temple and ‘Anavaal-piduthom' at Umayanalloor temple in the larger interests of ensuring the safety of the people as well as the elephants.

Similarly, instead of elephants, the board was exploring the possibility of using ‘jeevitha', a specially prepared palanquin-type carriage, for the annual ‘parayeduppu' ceremony at the temples attached to it, he said. Though the TDB decision taken on May 17 may not be palatable to some elephant owners, it would be implemented in letter and spirit, he said.