Trichur: Famed temple elephant Guruvayur Padmanabhan is no more. The 80-year-old tusker had carried the idol of Lord Guruvayurappan, the presiding deity, during the Guruvayur temple festival for 66 years and had also been honoured with the title Gajaratnam (a gem among elephants).
Offered to the Lord Krishna Temple at Guruvayur by an Ottappalam native in 1954, Padmanabham was referred to as the successor of the legendary tusker Guruvayur Kesavan after the latter's death in 1976.
Padmanabhan was known for its calm demeanour and found thrill while amidst a crowd. Many devotees believed that Padmanabhan had divine blessing as a Brahminy kite would circle above it when it made an appearance in public. As a result, devotees flocked to touch Padmanabhan and pray before it.
Padmanabhan holds the record for daily appearance rent known locally as (ekkam). The record fee of Rs 2,22,022 was paid for taking part in the Vallangi Pooram festival in 2004.
The golden idol was carried on Padmanabhan's back during the festival procession at Guruvayur temple and its presence was ensured during the araattu ritual also. However, Padmanabhan had been keeping away from festival processions for some time owing to age-related issues.
A regular participant at elephant races, Padmanabhan had gone out of control only once in his lifetime. He was always obedient at festival grounds and flapped his ears on seeing crowds. According to elephant lovers, the poise of Padmanabhan - standing erect with a sandal mark on its forehead - would remain etched in their memories forever.
After the news of Padmanabhan's death spread, hundreds of elephant lovers rushed to the elephant shelter of Guruvayur Temple, where the tusker's body was kept, to offer their last respects. In fact, the passing away of each temple elephant is an occasion of grief for Thrissur residents. Each desom (village) in the district has its own elephant 'superstar' and tales highlighting the virtues of the tuskers are exchanged by the local people.