Puducherry on November 30, 2022 bid farwell to its most famous and beloved animal, Lakshmi, the elephant who had stood at the entrance of Sri Manakula Vinayagar Temple for years, ‘blessing’ devotees. Said to have been donated to the temple as a 10-year-old when R.V. Janakiraman was the Chief Minister of Puducherry, a visit to see Lakshmi featured on the to-do list for tourists visiting Puducherry. The elephant’s mass popularity spawned paintings, handwork, blog posts, YouTube videos and even a fictionalised French book.
However, concerns were also raised regarding Lakshmi’s health. While initially her hours at the temple’s entrance were reduced, later reports demanded that the elephant be relocated. In June 2015, a report by the Animal Welfare Board of India recommended that Lakshmi be rehabilitated to a forested sanctuary owing to concerns about its health, and also alleging ‘illegal ownership. It said that the elephant was bought by the temple trust from a person in Kerala in 1997.
Five years later, in June 2020 Lakshmi was briefly translocated from its enclosure to the Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) campus on the outskirts of the city, following a complaint by BJP Lok Sabha MP Maneka Gandhi to then Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi alleging repeated abuse and violations of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. However, only a month later, following an intervention by then Chief Minister V. Narayanasamy, Lakshmi was placed again in the possession of the temple authorities to bless the devotees. He also directed temple management to provide a new place for Lakshmi to stay during non-darshan time and night hours.
The Madras High Court, in August 2020, passing an interim order on a case filed by PETA, also directed the Puducherry government to make sure that Lakshmi, was provided proper nutrition, allowed to move about freely and subjected to periodical medical check-up.
On November 30, 2022, while out on her daily morning walk, accompanied by her two mahouts Lakshmi suddenly collapsed and died of a suspected cardiac arrest. Throngs of people came out to pay their last respects and joined the funeral procession. Those who paid homage to the elephant included Ministers K. Lakshminarayanan, C. Djeacoumar, MLAs G. Nehru alias Kuppusamy and Richard John Kumar.
Puducherry on November 30, 2022 bid farwell to Lakshmi, the elephant who had blessed devotees at the Sri Manakula Vinayagar Temple's entrance for years.
Arguably Puducherry' most famous animal, Lakshmi, collapsed and died of a suspected cardiac arrest while out on her daily morning walk.
Standing at the entrance of Sri Manakula Vinayagar Temple to bless devotees, Lakshmi had developed a mass following, which has included past governors and actors.
Lakshmi's popularity accorded her a celebrity status that was supported by paintings and handiwork dedicated to her. She even left a mark on the digital sphere with numerous blogposts, YouTube videos and social media mentions. In 2016, French author Ari Gautier made Lakshmi the protagonist in a fictional retelling of her life, titled ‘Carnet secret de Lakshmi’
Lakshmi’s status had also attracted concerns regarding her health, leading to temple authorities reducing her hours at the temple's entrance.
In 2015 the Animal Welfare Board of India recommended Lakshmi's relocation to a forest sanctuary citing her ill-treatment and alleging illegal possession.
Later in June 2020, Lakshmi, was shifted from its enclosure in the temple to the the Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) on the outskirts of the city after a complaint by BJP MP Maneka Gandhi to then Lt. Governor Kiran Bedi alleging abuse and improper maintenance.
Lakshmi, seen here taking a bath at its new enclosure in the Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) after it was forced to walk on hot tar roads covering a distance of over 8 km.
Much to the public's joy, at then Chief Minister V. Narayanasamy' s intervention, Lakshmi was again placed in the temple's care, a month later to bless devotees.
The Madras High Court also passed an interim order directing the Puducherry government to make sure that Lakshmi was provided proper care and nutrition, apart from being allowed to move about freely and subjected to periodical medical check-up
Seen here, the mahout of Lakshmi in tears following her death during her morning walk.
Lt. Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan, pays last respect to the temple elephant Lakshmi, following the death of the elephant.
The body of temple elephant Lakshmi kept in front of Sri Manakula Vinayagar temple for public homage in Puducherry.
Devotees in tears while paying her last respect to the temple elephant Lakshmi.
Lakshmi, the elephant of Sri Manakula Vinayagar temple, who collapsed and died on Wednesday, was taken in a funeral procession and later buried at a site belonging to Sri Kalatheeswarar temple in Puducherry.