Fifteen-year old Rukku, the elephant of the famous Arunachaleswarar Temple at Tiruvanamalai district, seemed to have understood that it was bound for a long picnic and boarded the truck enthusiastically. This is the fourth outing for Rukku.
However, Rama Lakshmi from Ramanathaswamy temple at Rameswaram, which attended the relaxation camp last year with Bhavani (52), had to make the journey alone this year as Bhavani died last year.
But Akilandeswari from Jambukeswarar temple in Tiruvanaikovil and Lakshmy from Rockfort Sri Thayumanaswamy temple in Trichy district, however, were a bit hesitant to board the vehicle and gave a hard task to their caretakers.
Though devotees will miss the regular blessings of these temple elephants, they too were excited seeing these animals getting on to the trucks that would take them on a long journey to the scenic hill retreat on the banks of the river Bhavani in Thekkampatti village near Mettupalayam at Coimbatore.
The annual rejuvenation camp for temple pachyderms in Tamil Nadu began on Thursday and for the first time, elephants belonging to the forest department will be attending the camp as well.
The 48-day camp will see about 100 elephants, including those in temples and kumkis taking the much-needed rest after a hectic schedule.
Special food including green fodder and rich supplements are what the 100 elephants from different temples of the state can look forward to in the next and one and a half month.
Till 2011, the rejuvenation camp was organised in Mudumalai at Theppakadu.
However, from 2012, the camp is being held in the plains at the foothills of the Nilgiris, considered as conducive environment for the animals to undergo health training.
The pachyderms will also go for a 4-km walk in the mornings and evenings. Sources from Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) Department told Deccan Herald that the location was preferred due to the availability of plenty of fodder and water from upper Bhavani. The special rejuvenation camp for elephants was introduced when the previous AIADMK government was in power in 2003, 2004 and 2005.
However, the camp was not conducted between 2006 to 2011 in the DMK’s time. It was restored and organised on December 14, 2011, soon after AIADMK came to power in May 2011.
“So far, as many as 218 elephants participated and were benefited in the special camp since 2003,” the official said.