Thechikottu Ramachandran to grace Thrissur Pooram, collector gives conditional nod

Kerala govt bans famed tusker in temple festivals
Fans cheer as Thechikottukavu Ramachandran being paraded as part of the Thrissur Pooram festival.

Thrissur: Ending four days of uncertainty, Kerala's tallest elephant 'Thechikkottukavu Ramachandran' was given conditional nod on Saturday to participate in the famed 'Thrissur pooram' after the animal cleared the fitness test.

The clearance was given after a team of three veterinarians conducted the medical examination of the 54-year-old elephant.

The team had also submitted a report to the Thrissur collector T V Anupama stating that the elephant was fit to participate in the "vilambaram" ritual as part of 'pooram'.

The main event of the 'pooram' begins with the 10.5-foot tall elephant pushing open the southern entrance gate of the ancient Vadakkumnathan temple here, with the idol of 'neithilakkavilamma' atop it, symbolising the start of the festivities.

Among the restrictions imposed on the use of the elephant were: it can take part in the ritual only for an hour from 9.30am on the day of the festival, May 13; four mahouts should escort the animal and barricades should be constructed on a 10-metre radius to prevent people from getting closer to the jumbo.

The decision was made by Thrissur District Collector, T V Anupama on Saturday.

There are no injuries on the elephant's body and there are no signs of musth, according to the doctors.

Anupama, heading the monitoring committee of experts, held a meeting with various stakeholders on Friday, after which it was decided that the administration was prepared to field the elephant for the ritual, provided it clears the fitness test.

If the elephant does not have any health issues, it would take part in a ritual of the 'pooram' festival Sunday, Anupama had told reporters after the meeting.

What led to the ban?

The district administration had banned the parading of the elephant after it killed two persons during a house-warming celebration in Guruvayur in February this year. The partially blind animal, which ran amok several times, had killed at least 13 people so far and two elephants.

Since 2014, the elephant has been been performing the ritual and has a big fan following in the state.

The Kerala high court had earlier in the day refused to interfere in the matter and had stated that the concerned authorities should take a decision on whether or not to use the elephant for the festival.

Following the court decision, the Kerala government had sought the legal opinion from Additional Advocate General Renjith Thampan on the matter, who in turn advised the government that the tusker can be permitted for participating only in Pooram festival with certain restrictions. The Additional Advocate General told the government that people should be kept away from the jumbo during its parade and steps should be taken to prevent any danger to the people.

The authorities concerned should also ensure that the elephant was not provoked, he said. If any untoward incident occurred, the elephant owners should take responsibility, he added.

As doubts were raised about the elephant being allowed to take part in the ritual, the elephant owners association had threatened not to provide any elephant for the 'pooram' festival.

The association has now withdrawn its threat and expressed willingness to provide elephants for the 'pooram'.

Animal welfare board member M N Jayachandran, who was part of the high-powered committee headed by district collector, said he was against the animal being allowed to participate in the ritual.

"I have given my note of dissent to the collector and this was not a unanimous decision," he told a television channel.

The annual 'pooram' festival, considered as the mother of all temple festivals in the state, is known for its colourful fireworks extravaganza and display of caparisoned elephants.

The festival falls on May 13 this year.

Meanwhile, Thrissur, the state's cultural capital, is under a thick security cover with 3,500 policemen being deputed on duty till May 14.

Senior police officials said no carry bags would be allowed and bomb and dog squads would be deployed during the festival.

People staying in lodges and hotels would be under surveillance.