Ivory touch

Brothers Manoj and Vinod have been sculpting life-like elephants for fellow jumbo enthusiasts, known as ‘aana premi’. They have made 300 sculptures so far
Ivory touch

KOCHI: Over millennia in Kerala, no animal has been adored, captured, gloriously caparisoned and tamed like the elephant. Such is the idolisation of the pachyderm, that it is has served as fodder for film and literature. The majestic creature is also, unquestionably, the ‘poster boy’ for tourism in the state. Ironically, it is also one of the most tortured animals in the state; they’re chained, primarily used for temple rituals and festivals and can be mercilessly treated.

Regardless, elephant enthusiasts, known as ‘aana premi’, in local parlance, are devout to the animal, akin to God. Capitalising on this and their sheer penchant for the animal, two brothers from Palakkad, Manoj and Vinod have been sculpting renowned, life-like elephants for other enthusiasts. Started four years ago, the duo has sculpted 300 elephants hitherto, adorning the houses of those who can’t afford to have a live elephant at their beck and call.

An electrician and fabricator by profession, Manoj and Vinod began sculpting models from an early age. A one-time mammoth attempt on an elephant led them to realise their ‘way’ with the animal.“Our first model was posted on a Facebook group for elephant fanatics. After receiving much acknowledgement and encouragement from them, we decided to solely focus on elephants and improve our techniques on the same. Presently, two such creators in the state, primarily work with wood to sculpt elephants. As we’re unfamiliar with the finesse, we started making models with concrete. Eventually, we shifted to fibre as the latter was rather heavy,” says Manoj. 

Manoj and Vinod sculpt elephants ranging from 32 inches to 5.5 feet. Though made of fibre, a 2.5-feet tusker, weighing 10kgs, can handle a load of 100kgs. The duo make no run-of-the-mill elephants. “Unknown to some, elephants are quite like  humans. Their mien including the length of the trunk, curves of tusks, complexion and the display of emotion in their eyes, differ. Having worked in the field for the past four years, we can distinguish one tusker from the other.

We’ve received the most number of orders for the legendary Thiruvambadi Sivasundar, renowned for carrying the idol on behalf of the temple during Thrissur Pooram. He died two years ago. We’ve also received requests aplenty for Guruvayoor Keshavan, Guruvayoor Padmanabhan and Thechikottukavu Ramachandran,” explains Manoj. 

Though they receive requests from across the state, Kottayam and Kollam have the most buyers. If the buyer is clueless about the elephant they require, the brothers have a variety of pictures to choose from. 
Currently, the brothers are on a mammoth task. “The largest elephant sculpture recorded in the Asia Book of Records stands at 9.5 feet. We’re building another one -- a concrete pachyderm at 11.5 feet -- to topple the previous record,” he adds. 

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The New Indian Express