Balarama's master to bid adieu to Dasara

Mahout Sannappas service comes to an end this year

Balarama's master to bid adieu to Dasara

 
Bond: Sannappa, the mahout nurturing the howdah elephant Balarama at the palace premises . dh photoHe is associated with Balarama for the last seven years and has been actively associated with Dasara all these years. Now, time has come for him to hang his boots and lead a happy retired life-of course, without the company of his pet jumbo-Balarama.

Whenever he talks of his retirement, his eyes moisten with tears. Bidding adieu to Balarama who has been part of his life at Tithimathi elephant camp in Hunsur division is not an easy task. Thanks to Balarama, Sannappa has hogged limelight in all Dasara festivities held in the last seven years. The posters, banners, stickers and other publicity materials of his along with Balarama are displayed in the entire State. “I and Balarama have enjoyed great moments all these years and it is really an unforgettable experience. It is very difficult to get an elephant like Balarama who is so pious, calm and loving”.

Sannappa told Deccan Herald that he joined the department in 1972 as kavadi. Since then he had been associated with a number of elephants at Tithimathi Elephant Camp. He came in contact with Balarama when its mahout retired from the service in 2003. Being Kavadi of Balarama automatically he got ‘promotion’ as a mahout and also more importantly to participate in the world-famous Dasara festival. Since then he has been a part and parcel of Dasara celebrations and always likes to be in the company of Balarama at least during his nearly a month stay in the premises of sprawling palace premises. “I have had the experience of working as Kavadi for two female elephants-Bhavani and Kalpana at Tithimathi camp. I feel sad to be away from Balarama, after retirement. But what to do”, he says with a pause.

“In Tithimathi, Balarama is freed every morning to go inside forests for grazing. Like a responsible master, I go in the evening following its footsteps or the marks of the iron chain tied to its leg and escort him back to the camp. One of the reasons why Balarama is entrusted with the responsibility of carrying the golden howdah is his behaviour. He never loses temper if visitors stand by his side for photographs. Even Balarama may retire after two to three years because of his eye problems. He needs to be nurtured well by giving good food even at the camp and he should not be pressed into doing difficult tasks”.

Sannappa says that even after his retirement, he likes to visit Tithimathi camp at least once or twice in a week to see Balarama. “I know it is very difficult to be without him but nothing could be done as it is part of life. If time permits, I will come during next Dasara to see ‘My Balarama’ walking majestically in front of lakhs of people with the golden howdah on his back”.

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