Conditional clearance for tusker to take part in Pooram festival

File picture of the Pooram festival.

Thrissur: Ending four days of uncertainty, Kerala’s tallest elephant, Thechikkottukavu Ramachandran, was given conditional nod Saturday to participate in the famed Thrissur Pooram after the animal cleared the fitness test.

The clearance to the government was given after a team of three veterinarians conducted the medical examination of the 54-year-old elephant. The team had also submitted a report to the Thrissur collector T V Anupama stating that the elephant was fit to participate in the “vilambaram” ritual as part of ‘Pooram’. The main event of the ‘Pooram’ begins with the 10.5-foot tall elephant pushing open the southern entrance gate of the ancient Vadakkunathan temple here, with the idol of Neithilakkavilamma atop it.

Among the restrictions imposed on the use of the elephant were: It can take part in the ritual only for an hour from 9.30 am; four mahouts should escort the animal and barricades should be constructed on a 10-metre radius to prevent people from getting close to the jumbo.

Since 2014, the elephant has been been performing the ritual and has a big fan following in the State.

However, after two persons were killed by the animal during a house-warming celebration in Guruvayur in February this year, the district administration had imposed a ban on its participation in festivals.

As doubts were raised about the elephant being allowed to take part in the ritual, the elephant owners association had threatened not to provide any elephant for the ‘Pooram’ festival. The association has now withdrawn its threat and expressed willingness to provide elephants for the festival.

Animal Welfare Board member M N Jayachandran, who was part of the high-powered committee headed by the Collector, said he was against the animal being allowed to participate in the ritual.

“I have given my note of dissent to the Collector and this was not a unanimous decision,” he told a television channel.

The jumbo, which is partially blind in the right eye, is said to have killed 13 persons, besides two elephants. The annual Pooram festival, considered the mother of all temple festivals in Kerala, is known for its colourful fireworks extravaganza and display of caparisoned elephants.

The festival is celebrated 13 May this year. After the Kerala High Court Friday refused to intervene in the matter, the government had sought legal opinion from Additional Advocate General (AAG) Renjith Thampan on the matter.

He had advised the government that the tusker can be permitted for participating in the festival with certain restrictions.

The AAG told the government that people should be kept away from the jumbo during its parade and steps should be taken to avoid any sort of danger to the people. If any untoward incident occurred, the elephant owners should take responsibility.

Thrissur, the State’s cultural capital, is under thick security cover with 3,500 policemen being deputed till 14 May. Senior police officials said no carry bags would be allowed and bomb and dog squads would be deployed during the festival. People staying in lodges and hotels would be under surveillance.