29 May 2015

E is for Elephants

Elephants are the first thing I thought of for E because they are such a part of Kerala life.  In the early years of my life in Kerala, elephants were much more visible.  There seemed to have been a lot more working elephants at that time.  So it wasn't uncommon to see an elephant walking along the road every other day, with it's trunk holding a big bunch of palm fronds for it's snack.  Here is a recent picture which a friend took, of just such a site :-)

 Till last year, there was an elephant at a sawmill very close to where I stay.  He used to be working at the saw mill and he was almost always there at the mill.  It was a common sight to see him pulling out big logs.  But at the end of 2013, the saw mill started using a crane, mainly because the road was being widened and the elephant needed more space to pull and push than the crane did.  For a while after the crane came , the elephant continued to stay at the mill, but in a retired position and we took my grandkids to see him last year.  Now I think he has gone away.
But elephants are still used for temple festivals, temples considering it very prestigious, to have and elephant to carry the resident temple idol during the temple festival and the more elephants the better. It takes a heavy toll on the elephants because the festivals are usually during summer and they are outside, just standing in the heat.  There are guidelines now though, from the government veterinary departments on the treatment of elephants and often Vets are often posted during big temple festivals.
Here is a picture of the ceremonial 'nettipattam' which adorns the elephant's forehead during a festival--

Around 9 years ago, an elephant was brought to our house.  It was quite a small elephant and was brought in a truck.  His job was to haul onto a truck, some young teak trees that we had sold.  The person who bought the trees had brought the elephant.  It was hard work and once I saw the elephant protesting when he had to haul a big log.  We brought him buckets of water, some of which he drank and some of which the mahout poured on him.  The video here (sorry not too clear--phonophoto) is of that elephant working spliced with the video of another elephant working that we saw at an elephant camp.

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