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Tamil Nadu: 48-day retreat for temple elephants kicks off near Mettupalayam

According to officials, Rs 1.67 crore was allocated for the camp, to set up facilities such as shelters, bathing platforms, walking tracks and kitchens.

Written by Janardhan Koushik | Chennai |
Updated: February 9, 2021 9:13:02 am
Tamil Nadu temple elephants, Tamil Nadu temple elephants retreat camp, Thekkampatti elephant camp, tamil nadu elephant camp, tamil nadu news, indian expressThe event has now become an annual affair, where elephants are provided everything from ample food and showers to long walks in a forest-like environment. (Express photo: Nithya Pandian)

The 48-day annual retreat for captive elephants in Tamil Nadu commenced Monday at the Thekkampatti village, near Mettupalayam in Coimbatore district.

Organised by the Hindu Religious and Charitable Trust (HR &CE), the camp was inaugurated by Forest Minister Dindigul Srinivasan, Municipal administration minister SP Velumani, and HR & CE Minister Sevur S Ramachandran by feeding fruits and sugarcane to the elephants.

The state government, which began preparations for the events a few months ago, had asked attending mahouts and their assistants to provide Covid-19 negative certificates before entering the camp. According to officials, Rs 1.67 crore was allocated for the camp, to set up shelters, bathing platforms, walking tracks, kitchen, food court, mobile toilets, etc., and ensure a supply of necessary medicines for the elephants and the people accompanying them.

The entire site has been solar-fenced and watchtowers have been set up to prevent wild elephants from straying into the premises.

This year, 26 female elephants from various temples and maths in Tamil Nadu are taking part in the camp. (Express photo: Nithya Pandian)

The camp for temple elephants, usually chained and lodged in small spaces, is a pet project of late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, to provide them the must-needed rest and nutritious food that some fail to get at temples. The event has now become an annual affair, where elephants are provided everything from ample food and showers to long walks in a forest-like environment.

Some elephants have been known to strike up friendships with other pachyderms at the camp. For example, an elephant named Ramalakshmi has befriended another elephant, Kalyani, from Perur Patteshwarar temple.  Every year at the camp, they stand next to each other.

This year, 26 female elephants from various temples and mutts in Tamil Nadu are taking part in the camp. Among those who serve as special tourist attractions is the internet sensation ‘Sengamalam’, popularly known as ‘Bob-cut Sengamalam’ for her unique hairstyle. The elephant from the Rajagopalaswamy temple in Mannargudi has a dedicated fan base. Her mahout Rajagopalan said the government has made good facilities for all the elephants.

Special poojas were done at the temples for the elephants before giving them a send-off.  The officials at the camp said there will be restrictions on the number of visitors this year due to the pandemic guidelines.

(With inputs from Nithya Pandian)

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