THRISSUR/T’PURAM: Thrissur Pooram, Kerala’s famed annual temple festival marked by colours, crowd and rhythm, was suddenly thrown into a crisis on Wednesday with the elephant owners announcing they would not lease out jumbos for Pooram or any festivities for that matter. Their decision comes as a protest against the authorities’ decision to ban Thechikottukavu Ramachandran, the 54-year-old majestic but mischievous pachyderm from the event.
At a meeting in Thrissur, the Kerala Elephant Owners Federation decided not to lease jumbos from Saturday, two days before the Pooram starts, sending the government into a tizzy to find a solution before the issue snowballs into a big controversy. Kudamattam (change of colourful umbrellas), performed atop elephants, is one main attraction at the festival.
“There’s a concerted move to phase out parades of elephants at temple festivals, churches and mosques in the name of enforcing registration for them,” said federation’s president P Sasikumar.“We also demand lifting of ban on Thechikottukavu Ramachandran and to desist from making any move to curtail the freedom of vets who give fitness certificates to elephants after mandatory inspection.
Usually, Thechikottukavu Ramachandran pushes open Vadakkumnathan Temple’s south gate, which is famously known as Thekkottirakkam, which is followed by Kudamattom. Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran, meanwhile, said he has called a meeting of elephant owners on Thursday to resolve the matter.
The issue regarding Thechikottukavu Ramachandran’s ban came up when a forest officer sent a letter to the Thrissur Collector saying allowing the jumbo, which has killed 12 people in separate incidents, at the festival was ‘undesirable’. However, Forest and Wildlife Minister K Raju, while talking to reporters in Thiruvananthapuram, clarified “it was a letter and not an order”.
Minister on final decision
Forest and Wildlife Minister K Raju said a committee comprising Thrissur Collector, Social Forestry DFO, police officers and mahouts can take a final decision on Thechikottukavu Ramachandran’s participation.