Aana Pooram – Some elephant sights of the fortnight of Thrissur Pooram
Just one day before Thrissur Pooram, mostly the hours of fortnight of Pooram, Thekkinkadu Maidan is indeed a ‘Kadu’, which literally means forest, which is filled with elephants. Almost all elite elephants of Kerala gather together at Thekkinkadu Maidan to participate in the biggest temple festival of Kerala – Thrissur Pooram. Elephant lovers too reach the place as folk to see a glimpse of their favourite elephants. Perhaps, Kerala is the only place in India where, special fan clubs are reserved for leading male elephants, and elephant love of Thrissur people is indeed famous. Many of the elephants are indeed are popular.
Elephants without decorations – they definitely own a wild beauty, particularly in the dim lights of evenings. They are silent spectators and admirers among the group, while a few others express it through words, body language and facial expressions. Some of the elephant lovers measure the behaviour of elephants, their size, trunk and height using eyes, while a few others utter words praising their wild charm. Some of the admirers are interested in taking snaps of their favourite fans as well.
Elephant stories hold the same fragrance of grandma tales, and they fascinate both young ones and adults equally. And elephant stories are never going to die. When someone starts to tell an elephant tale, many ears start listening to it. If story is stopped in middle with suspense, it’s enough to increase blood pressure. That’s the charm of elephant tales and fondness of people to the biggest animal on land. Deep bonds, competitions for elephants and sorrows – elephant stories are filled with love, suspense and all elements of an ordinary tale. Also read: Elephant tales of Pooram yesterdays.
The return of elephant to the master from deep forest describes the deep links between this wild animal and human being, and it touches human heart with very bit of emotion. There are many similar stories, told in reverse direction too. Elephant’s desire to see the greenery of forests or visit the place once – stories not end here. Elephants also carry a child mind inside his big body. That’s why he loves to be cared and pampered by all, particularly by those who he loves most.
Elephants are of different characteristics similar to humans
All fingers are not the same and not all humans too. This concept exactly matches with the behaviour and characteristics of elephants as well. Years earlier an elephant turned violent, when a ball hit his leg. A few kids were playing football nearby. Literally, a football can never hurt him physically. But this time, it hurt him, though in his heart, and he cried like a kid. None of the kids were willing to approach the elephant and comfort him. No one was courageous enough to go near him, as he was not sure enough how the elephant will respond back.
There are many elephants which lift both their arms and jump, not to get into muddy places on their way. Some elephants never compromise with hygiene. A few others only drink pure water, while an interesting group never eats the left food. Some elephants want to chew something always. Some love tapioca than sweet payasams, while a few others may try to reach kitchens to get a little payasam. There are interesting tales about elephant who pretend to be deaf, so that they can neglect orders given by mahouts or master.
Like kids, most elephants forget themselves when they see water. Some elephants throw food items, if they catch the ‘Ayurvedic medicine’ smell. In this case it is not easy to give him medicines. After all he is not at all a small kid! There are a few elephants which start sleeping even before 9 pm. Some of them even expect their masters to return, so that they get some sweets or snacks. Most of the elephants own a special trait to attract their masters using distinct voices.
An elephant – he needs breakfast from his master’s home if it is dosa or idli. Also, it’s interesting that his owner’s wife should feed him with her own hands. Till he gets it, he makes some interesting noises like a kid. There are also tales of elephants who scare their masters even after they reach 300 cm height or more. Some bonds are born between elephant and his owner in his childhood days, and that’s why even after he reaches adult stage, he respects his master and gets hurt easily with his harsh words.
While diagnosing elephants before Pooram event
A group of 40 people from District Animal Husbandry is assigned to check the fitness of elephants of pooram. This squad spends restless hours before the pooram checking the elephants, and ensures that every elephant is tested ‘OK’. Elephants are checked multiple times and their behaviour is closely watched. Does elephant obey his mahout? Is he tired? Such things are given priority most. Musth (Must) conditions are also given much importance. To resist hot summer, elephants are given water melon, drinking water etc.
Some characteristics and traits owned by elephants
Forest elephants learn to respect elders since young – According to experts’ opinion, intelligence of elephants is quite similar to that a human kid who falls in 5-10 age group. In forests, they live as groups. A female elephant will be the leader of the group. Elephants brought up in such groups own some good characters of discipline and obeying others. Since young, elephants learn to respect their elders; that’s the reason why. But elephants brought up among humans since young don’t get similar lessons, and hence they are most prone to disobedience. The intelligence and emotional depth of elephants are legendary, and that’s why they easily connect with humans.
It’s not easy to beat an elephant in running – Even Olympics champions cannot beat them in a running race. They run at a speed of 25-40 km/hr. They walk at a normal speed of 4 km/hr. For the same reason, it’s not wise to run in front of a violent/mad elephant.
Good hearing power – Elephants can identify many voices not heard in human ears. They also own a great power to recognize things or persons through smell. It is believed that an elephant’s sense of smell is four times better than a bloodhound. They can remember smells for many years. But their eye sight is comparatively feeble. Their heads are of light weight, and no sweat glands in their body except above the nails. They wave their ears to control their body temperature. A female elephant weights 2.5 – 3.5 tonnes, and a male, 3.5 – 5 tonnes. Elephant trunk has the capacity of 10 litre water.
Ear folds and age – Closely observing the folds of ears, it’s possible to calculate the age of an elephant. When he turns 10 the inner portion of his ear folds inwards. When he turns 20, this fold reaches 1-inch width. Elephant spends a lot of time in water, and they communicate with one another using special sound waves.
Beauty of elephants
Elephant is a black beauty which hides a special charm to himself, and only an elephant lover can recognize it. Black in colour; Lengthy nose and ears resembling sieves; molars which can’t be hidden inside mouth, mountain shaped belly, but only a little tail hair easily countable – that’s the story of an elephant. But when all these distinct facts join together, the whole script is changed. That’s the wild beauty of this ‘blacky’. If you want to see people enjoying the beauty of elephants standing for long, you should visit temple maidans of some Kerala temple during festival seasons. During Thrissur Pooram, more than a hundred elephants reach the main city, and the whole locality is fully dominated by them. It includes some of the most famous elephants of the state, which own fan clubs and countless fans too. Indeed elephant is the real star of Pooram.
Needless to say, elephants hold a distinct beauty, either it is caparisoned or without any ornaments. When they carry Thidamb of Hindu idols, they achieve divinity for a short time. In fact, Kerala elephants associated with temples have been assigned a divine power by locals, either during temple celebrations or not. Read here to learn more. Through eyes, elephant fans touch and pamper them from distance, and they forget everything in the beauty it holds.
When you are at Thekkumkadu Maidan just one day before Pooram, Pooram has so much to give you, and a long wait for one more year to see your favourite elephants near. You are not just a single person who enjoys the beauty of an elephant, hundreds of elephant lovers reach the place to see such ‘Pooram sights’ near.
On Thrissur Pooram day in the busy streets, when caparisoned elephants walk with slow steps, paths are made for them. For ‘Thekkottirakkam’ – the procession from the southern side of Vadakkumnatha temple holds a special beauty, beyond all decorations and words. In true means, elephant is the centre of attraction of Kerala temple festivals, beyond rhythms, melams, kudamattam and other hundreds of colours of Pooram.
Decoration of elephants for the final celebrations
Elephants are decorated in a royal way for Poorams, and the preparations can be compared with the makeup of a bride just before the wedding ceremony. It takes long hours of bath, followed by cleaning nails, minute makeups like wearing sandalwood, vermilion etc all over the body. Preparations start days before the Pooram event. When elephants are caparisoned at the final stage, they look similar to a Kerala bride decorated with golden ornaments all over her body.
Aanakuli (bath of elephants) as a part of Pooram can take up to 4 hours. Such preparations are started days earlier, to clean the whole body from mud and restore the black beauty of elephants. Special stones (used for preparing bharani vessel) are rubbed on their body parts and cleaned well. Special ponds (reserved areas) will be allocated for elephant bathing. Mahouts climb on his tusk and hold his trunk also to clean him properly. After bath, decoration process starts off. His body hair will be trimmed as a part of it. If his tail is lengthy, the hairs will be cut. The inner side of feet is also cleaned. Their tusks will be cleaned.
They will be given Thilak (resembling spot on woman’s forehead), but kohl is not drawn in their eyes. Using sandalwood paste and vermilion, decorative spots are given on ears, tails and back legs. During early days, rice flour was used for this purpose. Now vermilion is used for this purpose. Bells, chains and Nettippattam add extra beauty to elephants.
Measurements to know ‘elephant beauty’
Some of the elephant lovers closely observe the elephants to observe the ‘elephant beauty’. Like humans, elephants too have certain measurements to calculate the beauty. The middle portion of the head in a curved shape, lengthy truck, broad forehead, clean and broad ears which rub together while waving, lengthy tusks grown forward, small neck, lengthy tail with plenty of hair, 18 or 20 nails, lengthy legs – some of the measurements of elephant beauty.
Don’t kill them in love!
It’s pleasant to admire and enjoy the beauty of elephants from distance. But what if, their fans try to harm them? Many elephants have similar sad stories to tell you. Some are mischievous, and they harm poor creatures lifting their trunk, tusk and tail or plucking hairs from tail. Some even throw stones at them. Travelling long distance in trucks, standing for long hours during Poorams and tireless walking during processions are some more. They are exposed to hot summer during Pooram seasons, and travelling can disrupt their sleep as well.
Now many restrictions have been put forward by government and animal lovers to ensure their safety and wellbeing, and some animal lovers even urge to stop elephant poorams. Yet for Keralities, Poorams are incomplete with caparisoned elephants. As an elephant lover, it’s the duty of every one of us to strictly obey the rules and not to do anything harmful to them, the animal which has been tagged as the cultural symbol of God’s own country. Then only such cultural events will exist in the state, and we people can enjoy the beauty of elephants in many pooram seasons to come. Isn’t it?
You can read a few more articles related to Thrissur Pooram celebrations commenced in the month of Medam, the biggest temple festival of Kerala. Click on the images in the gallery to read