Kerala

When Asian Games paved the way for Anayoottu

Elephants being taken in a train for the opening ceremony of the Asian Games held in Delhi in 1982. (File photo)

Elephants being taken in a train for the opening ceremony of the Asian Games held in Delhi in 1982. (File photo) | Photo Credit: TH

Anayoottu, an annual ritual at Sree Vadakkunnathan Temple, Thrissur, in which more than 50 elephants are fed special food, is done to propitiate Lord Ganesha, who, according to Hindu belief, removes obstacles in one’s life.

But there is a history behind this annual ritual at the temple, say temple sources.

According to them, Kerala’s elephant pooram was selected, along with other cultural forms of the country, for display at the opening ceremony of the Asian Games held in Delhi in 1982. It was a herculean task to transport the elephants all the way to Delhi. K.C. Panicker, veterinary surgeon and elephant treatment specialist, took the responsibility with the support of authorities, devaswoms and elephant owners.

A trial run of the train carrying the elephants was conducted from Thrissur to Ernakulam before the trip. Thirty-four majestic elephants from across the State were selected and readied for the journey. Many of them belonged to the Guruvayur temple from Punnathur Kotta.

Asiad Appu

The elephants included Kuttinarayanan of Guruvayur Devaswom, later came to be known as Asiad Appu, the mascot of the Asian Games, three-year-old Pushpa, four-year-old Nisha, five-year-old Sunitha and seven-year-old Rashmi.

A 264-member team, including 112 mahouts, 80 helpers, six veterinary experts and 21 police personnel, accompanied the elephants to Delhi. In the train with 28 bogies, 13 were open ones for adult elephants and eight boxed ones were for calves. Four elephants were tranquilised before being taken to the bogies. Water was taken in four bogies and palm leaves in three.

Despite protests from various quarters, the train carrying the elephants was flagged off by the then Chief Minister K. Karunakaran on Kerala Piravi Day on November 1, 1982. Railways, which extended total support for the mission, provided help at various stations. Considering the safety of elephants, the average speed of the train was 18 km/hour and a comparatively short route with less risk was chosen for the journey. Covering 3,011 km in around 165 hours, the train reached Tughlakabad station on November 8.

After participating successfully in the parade at the opening ceremony of the Asian Games, the elephants returned. But the long journey made many of them sick and weak. To help them regain health, Anayoottu was started at the Sree Vadakkunnathan temple, where special nutritious food was fed to the pachyderms.

Later the ritual was conducted every Karkkidakam 1. Later many other temples in the State replicated Anayootu and Mahaganapathy homam.


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Printable version | Sep 2, 2022 7:18:41 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/when-asian-games-paved-the-way-for-anayoottu/article65650413.ece