Sannappa will pilot Balarama for the last time

Happy for the fact that he will retire next month and sad at the thought of a life away from tending to pachyderms.

After serving for more than three decades as kavadi, Sannappa, mahout of the howdah elephant Balarama opines that it is time for him to relax and be with his family. “It has been a long stint of taking care of elephants in the forests. We have to accept the reality of ageing. I am happy and content with my service. I need a break now,” he shares his thoughts on making a last appearance as mahout for Balarama this year.

Speaking to Deccan Herald, he said youngsters should now take over the tasks seniors managed all these years.

Along with Sannappa, elephant Abhimanyu’s mahout Sanna would also retire after this Dasara. Sanna, who is also known as Sannappa is ready to handover the baton to his son Vasanth, who is presently his assistant (kavadi). Age factor has kept both of them away from doing strenuous work. Sannappa’s association with Balarama began in 2005 after his elephants Bhavani and Shobha were sent to Orissa. Since last six years he led the howdah elephant during Dasara.

Both the mahouts have completed half their life caring for Dasara elephants and taking part in taming notorious elephants in the forest, with the help of Balarama and Abhimanyu. 

During Dasara, whether it is in the forest camp or at the Palace premises, their day begins and ends with elephants. In Palace, the mahouts and kavadis engage in cleaning up the space where the elephants are stay put till early morning. The elephants are then served with raw food comprising grass and leaves. They are taken for a long walk along the Dasara procession route, after a bath.

And, till the elephants are back in the camp, sumptuous food consisting of different pulses, jaggery, rice, coconut and ‘hindi’ awaits the elephants at around 9 am. Then it is time to relax. If it is a sunny day with mercury levels soaring, either the mahout or kavadi gives a second bath in the afternoon and gives some water for the jumbos to drink.

The mahouts again feed the elephants after 3 pm with raw food before taking them on a second walk on the procession route in the evening. When they return around 7 pm, hot pulses and jaggery is again kept ready.

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