Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Domesticated elephants of Punnathur Kotta in Kerala

A tusker at Punnathur Kotta
Watching the activities of an elephant or an ape is absolutely interesting to people of all age groups and of the entire world.

While the African continent provides great opportunities for us to watch, very often in natural surroundings, all the wonderful wild life with special reference to elephants, the Indian subcontinent, particularly Kerala, can boast of its expertise in domesticating and maintaining these immaculate pachyderms.




Guruvayur, the famous temple town in Kerala in Trichur District has the unique distinction of rearing and maintaining over 65 elephants- of which 58 are tuskers- in the yard at Punnathur Kotta. All these elephants belong to Lord Guruvayurappan-a synonym to Lord Krishna-the presiding deity of the ancient temple in Guruvayur. The temple authorities are responsible for the upkeep of these elephants.

This place , about 3 km away from Guruvayur, is called Punnathur Kotta which used to be the abode of an ancient ruling family. It is spread over 18 acres of land with a few heritage buildings, the maintenance of which need more attention.

No other place in the world offers such viewing of herds of domesticated elephants. We could see elephants of all ages, both tuskers and cows (A female elephant is called a cow) engaged in different activities. Some are seen taken by the mahouts for a walk, some others are getting bathed in a pond and a few could be seen transporting bunches of palm leaves, while some are standing still waving the ears and curiously watching you with its small eyes, probably mulling over those wonderful days in the forest before the captivity.




It is said that there are over 4500 domesticated elephants in India of which 750 are in Kerala.The caparisoned elephants seen at the temple festivals of Kerala are a treat for the eyes of all. Of late, there are reports of the mistreatment of these intelligent animals by the mahouts often leading to much commotion and catastrophe among the crowd assembled for festivities.Human casualties are also not uncommon and reportedly over 80 mahouts were killed by elephants in Kerala during the year 2007.
We certainly need to be more humane in our attitude towards these beautiful creations of nature.
Ivory burning site at Nairobi National Park, Kenya
I could see a fine example in Africa. In the Nairobi National Park, I saw a place where tonnes of ivory worth over 60 million Kenyan Shillings in the possession of the government was burnt in order to draw the attention of the world for the need to spare the elephant from the poachers.
Dubai, 23rd July 2008.