Mighty tuskers get ready for mega Dasara march

Mighty tuskers get ready for mega Dasara march

Dasara elephants during the Dasara Gajapayana begins from Nagapura for Nadahabba Mysuru Dasara-2017 on Saturday. DH photo

The gajapayana, which sets off the festive fervour of Dasara ahead of the formal inauguration, will begin from Veeranahosahalli in Hassan on August 22 with 12 elephants marching to Mysuru.

The Forest Department has decided that 12 jumbos will take part in the Dasara procession. Officials have already selected 11 of them based on their health, physique, carrying capacity and temperament. Three new elephants — Jayaprakash, Rohit and Lakshmi — from the Rampura Elephant camp are vying for the twelfth slot.

Deputy Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), Mysuru, M G Alexander said Balarama, a veteran of 23 Dasara processions, will be the ‘nishane’ elephant, leading the procession and bearing the flag with the emblem of the Royal House of Mysore. He will be followed by Abhimanyu, the ‘naushad’. Eeshwara, a first-timer, will fill in for Drona which died recently. Arjuna, considered to be the strongest with magnificent tusks and a flat back, will carry the 750-kg howdah along with 250-kg finery. 

Other elephants in the procession are Dhananjaya, Varalakshmi, Kaveri, Vijaya, Durgaparameshwari, Vikrama, the royal elephant, and Gopi. The jumbos will be welcomed at Amba Vilas Palace on August 26, where they will be housed in waterproof sheds to come up next to the dwellings of mahouts.

During their training period of 42 days, the pachyderms will follow the procession route every day to accustom themselves to the noise and crowds that will multiply by a thousandfold during the procession.

“They are wild animals trained to be calm in urban environments. We take great precaution while exposing them to large crowds and noise,” says Dr Nagaraj, a veterinarian for elephants. “Their training follows the same route as the procession because the elephants have a keen sense of smell which guides them. If they are trained in another route, they will follow that during the procession,” he explains.

Every morning, they will be marched till Bannimantap while the evening trips are shorter. After their bath, they are covered with a mixture of castor and neem oil that repels flies and acts as a disinfectant. The department has already invited bids to supply tonnes of food and fodder. Each elephant consumes 250 kg food every day. Along with paddy, groundnut cakes, jaggery and coconut, they are on a special diet of cooked black gram, green gram, wheat, boiled rice, vegetables and butter. This gives them extra energy and keeps them psychologically in control and more obedient to their mahouts, Dr Nagaraj says. “Due to rains, there has been a delay of 15 days for the training. Instead of the preferred 60-65 days, we have about 42 days,” he says.