Elephant owners upset over festivals sans festivity

Elephant owners upset over TDB's decision to restrict temple festivals only to rituals

According to the elephant owners, it would require Rs. 2,500 to Rs. 5,000 daily to take care of elephants

Representative image. Credit: iStock photo.

Elephant owners of Kerala are upset over a decision of the Travancore Devaswom Board that manages around 1,250 temples in the state to restrict temple festivals only to rituals this season due to Covid-19.

The elephant owners would be urging the state government to allow parading of elephants at temple festivals by following Covid-19 protocols. Kerala Elephant Owners Federation would be meeting on December 28 to decide the future course of action.

Kerala Elephant Owners Federation secretary K Sasikumar told DH that while relaxations are being given in almost all sectors, there was no logic for not lifting the restrictions on festivals.

According to the elephant owners, it would require Rs. 2,500 to Rs. 5,000 daily to take care of elephants and this was compensated during the annual temple festival, which is from January to May. 

Most of the festivals of the previous season were not held owing to the Covid-19 lockdown. Hence many are finding it difficult to make both ends meet. The forest authorities are also maintaining a vigil to ensure that elephants are taken proper care of.

"Kerala has around 500 captive elephants of which around 300 used to be paraded for festivals. On average, each elephant used to participate in around 80 festivals during the December to May season. The charges for parading one elephant for the festival would range from Rs. 50,000 to several lakhs based on the popularity of the elephants," said a person associated with festival bookings.

Sasikumar said that already the monitoring committee for captive elephants in Thrissur district has taken a stand that elephants could be paraded by following the restrictions. "Hence the elephant owners are highly hopeful that state government would allow parading of elephants by maintaining strict Covid-19 norms," he said.

Meanwhile, the TDB president N Vasu said that the board wants to ensure that the temples or temple festivals should not turn out to be grounds of Covid-19 outbreak. Hence it was decided to restrict the festivals to rituals only.