COIMBATORE: The 48-day- long annual rejuvenation camp for temple elephants at Thekampatti near Mettupalayam is proving to be a ground for blossoming elephant friendships and reunions of sorts, but one elephant is stealing the show effortlessly.
Fifteen-year-old elephant, Lakshmi, and two others, Valli and Rukku, from across the state, who have been together at the last four annual rejuvenation camps, are expressing happiness to meet each other this year.
“Elephants are expressive, they hug each other by tapping the another animal with their trunks. They also make distinct noises to express their happiness,” said R Balan, mahout of Lakshmi.
“Lakshmi obeys my instructions in both Hindi and Malayalam. When I am not available at the temple, she is not happy. She only calms down when I personally convey the information to her by calling my son’s phone and talking to Lakshmi on loudspeaker,” added Balan.
According to HR&CE officials, the other two elephants of the trio are 13-year-old Valli, which belongs to Ilanchikumarar Temple, Ilanchi, and 26-year-old Rukku, which belongs to Arulmigu Arunachaleswarar Temple, Tiruvannamalai.
From observation, Lakshmi is the most playful elephant of the lot. She grabbed the attention of the media by playing the mouth organ. A Lankan two-wheeler group gifted her to the temple, sources said.
“Lakshmi was shipped through Chennai, where I was training the elephant since she was one-year-old. She has been playing the mouth organ for the last two years,” said Balan.
The camp at the sprawling five-acre site at Thekampatti along the banks of River Bhavani near Mettupalayam was inaugurated by Minister for Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) R Kamaraj, Minister for Forests M S M Anandan and Minister for Municipal Administration S P Velumani. Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa has allotted `1.4 crore for this year’s camp, which will be on till February 23.
Of the 43 temple elephants in the State, 30 are participating in the camp.
Two temple elephants from Puducherry are expected to join the camp in a couple of days. Two temple elephants from Rameswaram and Srivilliputhur would be joining the camp after the completion of the ‘Kumbabishekam’ in their temples.
Sundaravalli from Kallalagar temple and Deivanai from Arulmigu Subramaniyasamy temple at Tiruparakundram are the youngest of the herd, both eight years old, while Abhayambika from Mayiladuthurai and Kasthuri from Palani are the oldest, both at 48.
“The elephant rejuvenation camps were started by the AIADMK government in 2003. It was stopped by the DMK government and was resumed from 2011 after the AIADMK resumed power,” Kamaraj told reporters.
The first four camps were held at Theppakadu in Mudumalai. The camp, which is a pet project of the Chief Minister, was shifted to Thekampatti near Mettupalayam from 2013.
Meanwhile, wild elephants tried to enter the camp site early on Thursday. Eyewitnesses said a herd of four wild elephants, including a male, a female and two calves, were spotted near the camp and the mahouts who saw it raised an alarm. Soon, forest officials bursted firecrackers and scared them away.