PUDUCHERRRY: The elephant Lakshmi of the Manakula Vinayagar Temple was given a grand welcome on Saturday after returning from the Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) premises where it was taken by the forest department for rejuvenation.
Chief Minister V Narayanasamy, Parliamentary Secretary to Chief Minister K Lakshminarayanan and AIADMK MLA A Anbazhagan were among those who welcomed the elephant back and participated in the special Gajapuja performed for it.
The Devasthanam authorities would take care of the elephant and provide medical care and a healthy environment for it, Chief Minister Narayanasamy said.
The elephant will be at the Manakula Vinayagar temple to offer blessings to devotees and will be housed in its original place at the premises of the Eswaran Temple temporarily. Arrangements are being made to keep the elephant in the open playground at Gingee Salai (adjoining the Grand Canal) and a shed would also be made there as per the advice of the forest department to keep the elephant in a larger area, said Narayanasamy.
Lakshmi was shifted to the KVK premises at Kurumambet, 12 kilometres from the temple, on June 8 on orders issued by the Directorate of Forests and Wildlife on June 4, following concerns over its health.
The Directorate had acted on complaints from BJP Lok Sabha member Maneka Gandhi to Lt Governor Kiran Bedi alleging repeated abuse and violations of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. There have been other complaints too of improper maintenance of the elephant, stated the order.
However, the shifting left devotees visiting the temple disappointed. Lakshminarayanan said that despite the shifting, no special medical care was given to Lakshmi at the KVK. He charged that the forest department had given much trouble to Lakshmi by shifting her and claimed that she was not safe and comfortable there because of snakes and other insects.
Lakshmi was having a safe shelter in the premises of the Eswaran Temple where as per the guidelines of captive animal care, a specially designed shed, pond and facility for shower bath have been made.
Lakshmi has been with the temple for more than 20 years after she was donated by former Chief Minister R V Janakiraman.