Wednesday, 15 May 2019

The case of rogue temple elephant Thechikkottukavu Ramachandran, Kerala

 Celebrity Elephant 'Ramachandran' at Thrissur Pooram Google News - Overview
In the state of Kerala, elephants are closely associated with the Hindu temples and the seasonal temple festivals. In Puja rituals, the elephants are used to carry the procession idol (Utchavar) around the temple. Even the other religious faiths take interest in the elephants for their participation in their religious activities. Considered as divine, the pachyderms form an integral part of the temple and this cultural tradition has been in vogue for centuries in Kerala. As for the temples, maintaining them and keeping them in good health is a tough task because  not only does it require money and space but also trained Mahouts and Vets to take care of them periodically. The case of elephant Thechikkottukavu Ramachandran, a temple elephant  is an interesting one.
  
Captive elephant Thechikkottukavu Ramachandran (born 1964),  as he is called, has a unique distinction. He is the tallest captive elephant in India, and the second tallest in Asia, behind Nadungamuwe Raja, a tusker in Sri Lanka(?). Equally disturbing is the fact  that  he is one of the captive violent elephants in India. The paradox is  in spite of his notoriety and ill-repute, a large number of Keralites enjoy his presence in the famous temple festivals.  Owned and managed  by Thechikottukavu devasom, a temple in Kerala, he has  a huge gathering of fans  across Kerala much to the envy of some Malayalam matinee idols and is affectionately called ''Raman''. 
During his life time  never had  Raman proved that he was a good tusker, calm and composed.  On several occasions, he went amok and had killed a record number of 14 people and injured hundreds and caused the death of three other elephants. He is equally  well-known across Kerala for his rage and unprovoked rampage that would result in civil damages and human lives. Consequently, he got a bad name and was branded as the most dangerous captive elephant in the state. During  annual Thrissur Pooram festivals Raman, who is partly blind, pays a key role in the Villambaram event. On account of his unexpected violent and erratic behavior, the government authorities, taking the safety of public into account, put a ban on his participation in fests on many occasions. This year, for the Pooram festival, he was finally allowed to take part in the 11th hour. 

iCLIPART.com
Brought to Kerala from Bihar in 1982  it was the  Thechikottukavu Devaswom, which, in 1984, purchased Ramachandran to use him for divine services to God.  Unfortunately, during a short span of  6 
years between 1984 and  1989, Ramachandran  was never a subdued pachyderm, rather he proved his male superiority and aggressive nature by way of killing  five mahouts hired by the Devaswom  board to care for him. In the year 2009, while on temple duty at  Kattakampal Bhagavathy temple  fest in Thrissur, he, all of a sudden, ran beserk (may be due to musth?) and caused havoc, causing the people running helter shelter. His aggression was in full bloom,  resulting in the death of  a 12-year-old boy and injuries to  hundreds of people. 
CartoonStock
It is not undestood  why the government officials allowed the rogue elephant to do the duty at temple fest as he had never shown any sign of  improvement in his behavior before the public and the risk to public safety. The same year, a woman  fell a victim  to his sudden violent outburst during the fest at Eranakulathappan Temple in Ernakulam. Elephant Raman's killing spree did not stop here, rather, it continued without any permanent break.  In 2013 the tusker  caused the death of  three women during the Thaipooyam at Perumbavoor. In 2019 also, the inherent violent nature in him came tothe fore. This time he trampled two people to death during a house-warming ceremony  near Thrissur.
Thechikottukavu Ramachandran Indiatimes.com
Despite his dangerous and violent behavior and the lurking infamy he earned, elephant Ramachandran has lots of fans. When the news was conveyed about  his doubtful participation in the 2019 Pooram festival, disappointment was  largely writ on scores of people who expected  Ramachandran would be on his best behavior this time and make the Pooram festival a memorable one. Citing erratic and violent behaviour, the district authorities, in February this year, had imposed a stringent ban on the elephant, Thechikottukavu Ramachandran, after  he trampled upon two people during a recent event.  That the tusker has reportedly killed 14 people in the last thirty years is a sad commentary on his unpredictable temperament. The  veterinarians, who  conducted a series of medical tests  which Ramachandran  cleared, were quite satisfied and gave him a clean chit for his participation in the temple festival, 2019.  The team cleared him as "fit for all activities". Upon through scrutiny, the District Collector allowed Raman to participate in the festival.  The condition was that four people must escort the animal and barricades should be constructed on a 10-metre radius to prevent people from getting closer to the jumbo.
Villambaram event. elephant Ramachandran at this ritual since 2014..ndtv.com
The 54 -year old tusker, Thechikottukavu Ramachandran, was brought to the Vadakkumnathan temple here  for this year's poorum festival in a lorry  at around 10.30 a.m. He symbolically pushed open the southern entrance of the temple, signalling the start of the festivities as part of Villambaram eventThe most  keenly-watched  event during the festival is the parading of more than 50 elephants. (Aanaottam) Ramachandran was not a participant in that event. 

Countless  devotees were happy when  Kerala's  famed, but violent one-eyed elephant waded through the corridor of the famed Vadakkumnathan temple in Thrissur on Sunday. Though  the officials allowed the elephant's participation just for an hour, Raman stayed on for up to two hours, causing no trouble to the people. As he is ageing, perhaps, he might have thought it is time for him  to take it easy and  be on his best behavior till the rest of his life!! Thrissur Pooram is an annual Hindu temple festival held in Kerala. This year, it was held on May 13 and 14. The festival that dates back to the 18th century, was started by none other than Sakthan Thampuran himself, the Maharajah of the erstwhile Kochi state.
Tit-bits:
The fans of Ramachandran are of the opinion  that the temperament of the partially blind old  tusker, has become aggressive and violent due to the torture and cruelty caused by  humans during training and later on duty. And Ramachandran is not the only one to endure torture. According to information available with animal rights activists, the number of elephants in the state has come down  from 3000 to around 300 in the last five years. Up to 17 elephants have died this year alone, and 57 had died last year. The average life expectancy of an elephant is 80 years. Those died in 2018 were less than 50 years old. Reason: mostly due to torture by trainers and some may be due to diseases.  According to Sreedevi S Kartha, an animal rights activist with People for Animals (PFA). “For instance, one elephant died after he was constipated for 61 days. One elephant named Karnan was paraded forty times in sixty days in the just-concluded festival season.” Temple elephants should be given long rest between festivals. Since they do a divine job for us, besides giving us  the needed entertainment, it is the responsibility of the owners (temple boards) to keep them in pink and cheereful.