TAMIL NADU

Neither carrot nor stick works with Vellaiyammal

Velliammal, elephant of the Thanjavur Big Temple, reluctant to board a truck for the Mudumalai journey on Thursday. - Photo: S. R. Raghunathan  

Velliammal, elephant of the Thanjavur Big Temple, reluctant to board a truck for the Mudumalai journey on Thursday. - Photo: S. R. Raghunathan

Thanjavur Nov. 13. Visitors to the Big Temple here heard an unusual sound. It was Vellaiyammal, temple elephant, crying, as three mahouts beat her up and lured her with jaggery and fruits to make her board a truck headed for the Mudumalai sanctuary for a month-long camp for elephants. All she did was take one step forward and two steps backward. Last night, Vellaiyammal was taken to a school ground to board the truck. But the two-hour struggle turned out to be an exercise in futility. She was brought back to the temple and allowed to rest till evening.

Her ordeal started at 5 p.m. The truck pulled up at a mandapam before the Murugan temple in the inner `prahara', where Vellaiyammal was kept waiting. The mahouts — one on the elephant, two on the sides — tried to push her into the truck. As Vellaiyammal resisted, the mahouts beat her up and she raised a deafening sound. Immediately, Vellaiyammal was offered jaggery, bananas and groundnut sweets. Her front legs were chained and pulled. A chained hind leg was also pulled to prevent her from lying down, which she did a few occasions. But still Vellaiyammal refused to yield. At one point, she put her leg on the truck, but suddenly lifted it and kept it hanging for an hour. Onlookers expressed concern at the treatment meted out to the pachyderm.