The Thanjavur big temple lost one of its most celebrated character - Vellaiammal, the temple elephant - which died of old age on Saturday. Donated by actor Sivaji Ganesan in 1960, Vellaiammal was 63.
According to temple sources, for the past 10 years, Vellaiammal was mostly immobile and was unable to sleep lying down as it suffered from inflammation and joint pains on the right leg. However, Vellaiammal slept lying down on Saturday, a rather unusual act, after which it came to be known that Velliammal had breathed its last.
M Lourd Samy, Chief Veterinary Medical Officer, said that usually when elephants cross the age of 50, inflammation in joints are common. “Vellaiammal was suffering from arthritis and was unable to lie down for the past seven years, but slept in a standing position,” he said, adding that Vellaiammal was being well cared for by the temple.
The vets had sensed that something was amiss when Vellaiammal suddenly slowed down its walking speed about six months back but its appetite was fine till Friday, the veterinary doctor said. “Vellaiammal, who was lying down on Saturday, could not rise due to pressure on the lungs that led to its death”, Samy said.