Arjuna to carry howdah this Dasara

52-year-old elephant will replace Balarama in the jumboo savari

Arjuna, the 52-year-old Dasara elephant, will carry the howdah during the ‘jamboo savari’ this year. He will take over the task from Balarama, a 12-year Dasara veteran.

A committee was constituted to select the elephant which will carry the 750-kg golden howdah during the jumboo savari.

The panel comprised Dr Shettiyappa, Assistant Director of Bannerghatta National Park; Dr Umashankar, a veterinarian at Hunsur; Dr Nagaraj, veterinarian of Dasara elephants; K B Markandaiah, Chief Conservator of Forests; D B Gaonkar, Conservator of Forests, and Devaraj, Deputy Conservator of Forests.

Arjuna was in the lead right from the first day of the selection process. He weighed 5,520 kg against 5,055 kg last year. He is the heaviest of all the six elephants in the first batch which arrived at the Palace for the Dasara festivities.

On the other hand, Balarama weighed 4,535 kg compared to last year’s 4,750 kg. The selection committee found that Balarama was weak on arrival and decided to conduct an intense test for the final selection.

The test

On October 12, both Arjuna and Balarama were tasked with carrying a wooden howdah (filled with sand bags weighing as much as the golden howdah) for a distance of four kilometres from Ambavilas Palace to Bannimantapa, the culminating point of the Dasara procession.

Arjuna clocked one hour and 30 minutes while Balarama took two hours and 15 minutes to cover the distance.

“All these factors went against Balarama and paved the way for Arjuna,” Dr Nagaraj said.
Deputy Commissioner P S Vastrad, who is also the Dasara special officer, confirmed the selection of Arjuna.

Track record

Carrying a howdah is not new for Arjuna. He successfully shouldered the responsibility in 1999 after the death of Drona. Arjuna was caught in a ‘khedda’ operation in Kakanakote forest area in 1968. He has been taking in the Dasara festivities for the past 16 years. Balarama will be the ‘nishane’ elephant this time.

The second exercise of recording the weight of all the 14 elephants that have arrived for Dasara, is on October 23 (Ayudha puja), the eve of jamboo savari.

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