A very happy belated Ganesh Chaturthi to my friends….
Visitors to Kerala must have witnessed the sight of elephants being used by the temples to carry the idol, lead a procession, and for various other ceremonial services and ornamental ceremonies. The cruelty that these mute creatures are put to is not debatable, it is simply barbaric.
It’s a pity to see these pachyderms weighing almost 5,200 kgs. and standing tall at 9 feet weighed down by the caparison- the ornamental covering bedecked with the umbrella, bells etc. and the 2-3 puny men who control it. It is surrounded by the crowds who sway to the music of the panchavadyam (the traditional high-decibel music) comprising the 5 instruments), yelling with every blast of the fire crackers whilst the poor animal stands shifting its weight from one foot to the other. As a child I could never understand why this animal, who could fell a couple of trees with one sweep of his trunk, not do something to get away.
Actually the elephant is a very intelligent animal (at times more than human beings) but it is controlled from its very infancy. It is tied with a metal chain to a tree so that it does not have the capacity to break free. The mahout assigned to it will master it by using a 3 feet cane, training it to sit down, get up, and respond to other elementary commands by using the cane on the trunk, which is a very sensitive part of the animal. Once the supremacy of the mahout is established, the trainee reveres its master with the fear of the cane paramount. Even after reaching adulthood the chain on one foot is enough to make it sit as it is mentally chained to this fact. At times even if the other end of the chain is not tied to the tree, the animal is unable to turn its trunk backwards as it believes it is tied. There are cases of mahouts placing the cane in front of the elephant ordering it to sit. With its eyes fixed on the cane the elephant will not budge an inch till the mahout returns.
These creatures, that has a family life, moving in herds, caring for one another, walking almost 50- 60 kilometres a day, and eating almost 200 kilograms of food along with consuming almost 200 litres of water, are removed from their natural surroundings to stand alone in the blazing tropical heat just to satisfy a whim of humans in the name of faith. All around the year they move from one temple to another without getting proper rest, sleep, food and water for earning the proverbial twenty pieces of silver for the owner/ owners to participate in the ‘Ullsavams’ of every big temple.
While the Thrishoor Pooram is a one day event, the Irinjalakuda temple Ullsavan goes on almost for a fortnight. It is a matter of pride for a Kalpatthi resident to state “At our Ullsavam we had 65 elephants more than Thrishoor”! And likewise it goes on. It’s galling to see these poor animals made to stand in the same stance, copiously urinating on their legs because of their frayed nerves. They are in a sense made to stand on their own excreta making their soles infectious in the long run. The soles and the trunk are the two sensitive organs of the elephant making up for its poor eye sight. The trunk can pick up scents and smells from the breeze and the soles can pick up the early warnings of an earthquake for shepherding the herd to safety.
For the love of God, why can’t this cruelty be stopped by using wooden elephants on wheels with the joy-stick to control the trunk, neck, eyes and tail! Ganesha, you are unique in the pantheon and the first amongst equals. Vigneshwara it’s time to free these benign animals whose facial features endear you to the old and child alike. Wake up Siddhi Vinayaka this Ganesh Chaturthi for the sake of these helpless animals tortured to pray to you!
This is the very first post of Zest Connect by MS Neelakantan Iyer. You can can read more about him in the Authors section. His posts will go every Sunday starting now.
Tags: compassion, cruelty mute elephants, cruelty to elephants, elephant mahout, elephants ganesh, ganesh chaturthi, ganesh chaturthi celebrations, ganesha, god ganesha, siddhi vinayak, temples kerala