Trapped and tamed for game

Trapped and tamed for game


Trapped and tamed for game

Turning wild elephants into gentle giants was not only a popular form of entertainment for the Maharajas of Mysore, but also a means to generate state income, narrates S Narendra Prasad

In the 1880s, Princely Mysore had 32 state  and 22 district forests. The total area was 643 square miles. In 1895 Colonel J. Walker was appointed as the Conservator of Forests. With him began a new period in the development of Forests, which gradually developed into an important revenue generating establishment.

Hunting animals was a favourite sport during the 19th century. Shooting animals was a necessity and a popular form of entertainment. Though the forests were under the control of a separate department, game-hunting, khedda and tiger preserves were the domain of the palace or the maharaja. Shooting camps were arranged from time to time by the Maharajas of Mysore. These camps were organised in places like Kakanakote,
Karapura and Budipadaga.

The peasants resorted to killing wild beasts, which either destroyed their standing crop or carried away livestock. 

Big Game, Small Game

In 1901, the Government of Mysore passed ‘The Mysore Game and Fish Preservation Regulation 1901’ to prevent indiscriminate destruction of wild animals, birds, and
fish. Hence emerged the terms ‘Big Game’ and ‘Small Game’. Big Game comprised elephants, tigers, bisons, sambars, antelopes, whereas Small Game
comprised hares, jungle-fowl, partridge, quail, wood-cock, bustard, florican, duck and teal.

Rules framed under this act came into effect from February 1902 in all of Mysore State. The state forests which came to be constituted as game preserves were Kakanakote, Begur, Berambadi, and Chamarajanagar in Mysuru District; Herikalgudda in Hassan district; Lakwalli, Tegurgudda in Kadur district and Sakrebyle in Shivamogga district.
During 1939-40, the State had about 500 sq. miles of game preserves and
126 sq. miles of tiger preserves.

‘Khedda’, a gala affair

Khedda drives were conducted with the sole objective of capturing elephants that caused trouble to the standing crops. The history behind this can be traced back to the times of Hyder Ali. In the beginning, the pit method was used. Later, the method of cornering the elephants inside bamboo crawls and the Bengal method (tracking elephant herds and surrounding them wherever found) were practised.

Khedda operations were usually held in Boodipadaga, a place in Chamarajanagara district. Later, it was shifted to Kakanakote region. Many khedda operations were
conducted when G P Sanderson was the superintendent of this activity. Many a time, khedda operations were a source of entertainment for the royal guests,
including Viceroy Generals, Governors and other dignitaries.

In July 1889, 51 elephants were caught in the operation. Twelve captive, trained elephants were brought from Dacca (present day ‘Dhaka’ in Bangaldesh), at a cost of Rs.30,000 to catch them. Twentyseven elephants were later sold at Palghat for Rs.35,000.

In November 1889, another operation was conducted in the honour of Prince
Albert Victor who visited Boodipadaga. He and his travelling companions stayed for three days here and witnessed the elephant drive and the tying-up operations, where 37 elephants were caught.

This operation was attended by a large number of guests. In fact, local people
set up shops to sell rice and other provisions. A temporary post office was also opened.

New venue

Geographical challenges and the resultant increasing infrastucture costs led to
the shift of location to Kakanakote in Heggadadevana Kote taluk. During the operations conducted in November 1891 and January 1892 at Kakanakote, 75
elephants were captured. Some of them were sold for Rs.49,369 at Palghat,
Tellicherry, Hyderabad and Paschima-vahini. Sanderson, who had supervised all these operations, died in May 1892. After his death, K Shamaiengar, who was an Amaldar, took over the responsibility.

In November 1892, elephants were again driven and caught when Viceroy Lansdowne was on a state visit to Mysore. The guests stayed at special camps erected at Kakanakote.

In November, 1895, when Lord Elgin, the then Viceroy and Governor General of India visited the state, he was entertained at Kakanakote Khedda camp for six days. Lord Wenlock, the Governor of Madras also witnessed khedda operation. 32 elephants were captured in the two operations.

Kakanakote proved to be a successful place for khedda operations.Money earned was spent on the maintenance and repair of infrastructure, including
purchase of fresh ropes and bamboo poles for tents, and the localites received better remuneration for helping drive the elephants by beating drums.

Making bucks   

In 1896,  the Government decided to introduce a new system to capture the herd in order to increase the revenue. The Bengal method was employed to
successfully catch 161 elephants: 52 of them died, while the remaining 75 were sold. The method did not last long.

In November, 1900, Lord Curzon, the then Viceroy of India, and his wife visited Mysore. They were taken to Kakanakote and were entertained with the khedda
operations, which had become  customary by then. However, with the advent of the 20th
century, the sale of elephants had decreased. The Forest Regulation was amended by Regulation IX of 1901. In 1906, in connection with the visit of Prince Wales, khedda was organised at a total expenditure of Rs.1,05,000, in which 87 elephants were captured, of which 58 were sold for Rs.79,815.

In 1909, khedda was organised to coincide with the visit of Lord Minto, the then Viceroy of India. Three drives were conducted, in which 92 elephants were captured. Of these, 13 died, one escaped, three were presented to muths and temples, 14 were reserved for departmental and palatial purposes. The remaining 61 were sold for Rs.1,08,255. The total expenditure was Rs.81,155, and the net profit Rs.27,100.

Statistics available in the Government records provide the following information: 1,191 elephants were captured in khedda operations from 1890 to 1940, and about 60 per cent of them sold. Between 1948 and 1971 – that’s right, khedda flourished (though on a smaller scale) even post-independence – 298 elephants were captured. In the khedda operation held in January 1971, 74 elephants were captured.

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