Golden Howdah: Experts offer different takes
Experts were divided in their opinion, joining the league of concerned citizens, especially animal activists on whether an elephant should carry 750-kg Golden Howdah or not during the Jamboo Savari, a major attraction of Dasara.
Participating in an interaction on ‘Dasara shrushti; Dooradrushti’ (Dasara and farsightedness) organised by the Mysore District Journalists Association (MDJA) here on Friday, senior journalist Krishna Vattam emphasised on reducing the weight of ambari (golden howdah) in the interest of the pachyderm.
Substantiating his demand, Vattam recalled Dasara of princely era when the howdah carrier elephant was brought to the center stage only in the end, taking equal care of its welfare. A similar system has to be replicated. When it is impossible to imagine Dasara without elephants that have become synonymous with the biggest festival of the State, it’s time at least animal welfare is taken into account, he added.
Historian Prof P V Nanjaraj Urs decried the opinion of Vattam saying that elephants in the wild were acclimatised to harsh environs, and that carrying a howdah for several hours would not increase its burden. Elaborating, Urs said, earlier the same elephants were used for arduous tasks in the forest like transporting timber, which weighed more than the howdah, not on the back, but by its trunk.
Also, during the princely era, the elephant was carrying the Maharaja seated inside the howdah during the Jamboo Savari. Unlike these years, it was a two-way procession with the maharaja returning to the Palace on the same route from Bannimantap, the culmination point of the procession.
Moreover, during every Dasara elephants gained more weight (up to 6,800 kg) making it further gigantic and fit for the job. Even if the golden howdah was replaced by a gold plated model, it would remain, unoriginal defeating the real purpose of showcasing the forgotten tradition, said Urs.
Former secretary of forest department, A C Lakshman also spoke in favour of the jumbo welfare. He flayed the growing clamour for media attraction, with people not concerned with the celebration getting closer to the animals, making it irritable or angry in the process.
Lakshman opined that central security forces guard the elephants, without giving room for any outsiders to reach the elephants.
Hotelier P V Giri bemoaned that like every year, the government had failed to promote Dasara as an event. All it required was a permanent policy and planning in advance.