Elephants have been granted an esteemed status in the lives of the Keralites. They are accorded with a position of immense religious importance. They hold a prominent position within the society at Kerala. In fact, it is the only state wherein elephants are of substantial importance in timber trade and temple festivals.
An Intimate connection between the Elephants and the Human Beings
The Malayalis share an intimate connection with the elephants. This inexplicable bond is based upon the idea of the elephants being anthromorphic i.e they are considered as people. This makes them an inseparable part of the malyalam literature. A lot of interesting stories pertaining to this unique relationship was documented in Aithihyamala.
The glimpses of wild elephants are easily available across some of the most popular wildlife sanctuaries of Kerala. The best places to spot the elephants are Periyar wildlife sanctuary, Anamudi peak and Wayanad wildlife sanctuary.
Heartfelt Admiration for the tuskers
In some parts of Kerala, elephants are also worshipped. Mahagaja puja is performed at the Vadakkumnathan temple of Thrissur. At this temple, elephants symbolise elephant God or Vigneshwara- the one who eliminates all troubles from the life of his devotees. Another ritual practiced at this temple is Aanayoottu. It basically involves feeding the elephants with multiple delicacies including large balls of freshly cooked rice combined with jaggery, ghee and the most relished bananas. The regional population over there seek blessings from the elephants and believe in the fortune brought by them.
Another popular festival organized at Kerala is Anayadi Gajamela. This ceremony is the largest elephant pageantry in Asia. It is a major tourist attraction for the visitors.
The Glorious Past
The contribution of the elephants in the cultural heritage of Kerala is engraved in the historical accounts. During the construction of certain temples, they helped in carrying the heaviest stones which were used in building the gopuras of those temples.
The tuskers have been granted a sacred status across all the religious rituals conducted at Kerala. Some malayali families invite the temple elephants to their homes on some of auspicious occasions. This practice is termed as paraidukkal ritual.
Compassion towards the Elephants
A traditional practice called Sukha Chikista by Keralites ensures an exclusive care for them before the Musth period. Under the musth period, the elephants exhibit a quite aggressive behaviour and they also experience an inflated production of reproductive hormones for a considerable period of three to four months. Sukha Chikista is basically a form of ayurvedic treatment for the elephants.
Daily Ritual within the Temples
A famous religious practice called Seeveli is undertaken by some of the temples of Kerala. This practice mandates the fact that the deity has to be carried on a carrier which may be human, animal or a vehicle. Moreover, elephants are the most preferred carriers for conducting Seeveli because their height ensures the clear visibility of the temple’s deity. This has gradually transformed into a traditional ritual wherein the deity is carried upon the forehead of the elephants thrice a day.
The significance of the elephants is not just restricted to the traditional practice of Seeveli. They also play a prominent role in various festive celebrations of Kerala. Elephant Parade is a key feature of all the festivals celebrated by the Keralites. Thrissur Pooram parade is the most enthralling experience ever.
The Divine darbar and the dazzling display of commercial fireworks are some of the major events of Thrissur Pooram Parade. The Divine Durbar is organized at the Vadakkumnathan temple. The elephants participating in this parade are adorned in a visually aesthetic manner. Thirty beautifully decorated elephants from Thirivambady Sree Krishna Temple and Paramekkavu Bhagavathy Temple are present at this parade.
After familiarizing yourselves with these unique festivals and customs of Kerala, you must be quite proud about the way in which a particular region can value an animal. Such sincere commitment towards the cultural values depicts how commited the keralites are towards their age old customs and rituals. So, the next time, you come across terms like animal welfare or humanism, remember these unique practices of Kerala.