Flat belly a must for 'ramp'

Ambaari aane to carry 750-kg golden howdah during Jumboo Savari


These qualities may fetch women some coveted crowns, but when a male elephant has all these qualities, it is termed fit to become an ‘ambaari aane’ or in other words, the ‘howdah (carrying) elephant’.

And yes, the curves matter too, especially when it comes to the shape of its teeth or ivory. The elephant should possess ‘thottilu kombu’ as it is referred to, in Kannada.  

The role of howdah elephant is the most crucial one in the 10-day long Dasara festivities for the pachyderm turns into the centre of attraction by carrying the 750 kg golden howdah during Jumboo Savari.

The entire stretch it has to cover on the final day of Dasara is about eight kms in all and it is essential that the elephant does not lose control over itself during the walk, with lakhs of people on either side of the road cheering it. That is, indeed, some endurance test for the animal.

Balarama, the howdah elephant and the most handsome one among the 12 elephants which have come for Dasara from forests, stands 9’6”ft tall. He has been carrying the ‘ambaari’ with idol of Goddess Chamundeshwari placed inside for nearly over a decade now.

Animal behaviour

“Some essential factors such as the animal’s social behaviour, as in its reaction to people and children, its height, walk with gait and overall body shape are taken into consideration while making the selection. The male elephant should have well curved teeth which will be trimmed at regular intervals,” says Dr Nagaraj D N, Veterinary Officer, who is incharge of the well-being of the elephants and their diet.

‘Pattada aane’ is different from ‘ambaari aane’. While former is just selected from a group of elephants, ‘Pattada Hasu (cattle)’ gains the status with its birth.

Gruelling tests

‘Pattada Kudure (horse)’ is selected after some gruelling tests. Nanjundegowda, who is incharge of these sacred animals at the palace, says one of the most essential aspects is the occurrence of ‘Raaja Suli’ on the neck and chin of the horse.

“We check white horses for this quality. And when we find one, we continue with it for years,” he says. The female calf of the Pattada Hasu is considered the next in the line for the honour. “The cattle is cared for here at the palace all the time. Hence, when the female calf is born, it is good news for us,” says Nanjundegowda.

Lineage matters

On the day of Jumboo Savari, Pattada Hasu, Pattada Kudure and Pattada Aane are being offered pooja in the same order. A matter of lineage, Pattada hasu gets status from its mother. The current Pattada Hasu has been part of the festivities since last one decade.
Pattada Kudure, the white horse is often selected for the presence of ‘Raja Suli’ or a particular pattern formed by the body hair on chin and neck, and also its height and gait.

The current Pattada Kudure too, has been around for almost a decade. Ambaari Aane begins its journey flanked by one elephant, shorter than the former, on either side.

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