Vaikom: Elephants touch a chord with Keralites and increasing scrutiny on owners of captive ones has become a touchy subject with political and religious overtones.
An elephant which was being taken from the Mahadeva Temple at Vaikom to the Subramanya Swami Temple at Udayanapuram for a religious ritual was intercepted by forest officials on Thursday noon. Both these temples are about 9 km apart in Kottayam district.
As per the Kerala Captive Elephants (Management and Maintenance) Rules there is a ban on parading the elephant between 11 am and 3 pm. The forest officials intercepted the elephant at around 12 noon apparently for violation of rules.
The elephant was taken to the Mahadeva temple in a procession for the Kodiyettariyuppu ritual related to the heralding of the Vaikkathashtami -- an important festival at the Mahadeva Temple. (The ritual is about the passing of customary information to local temples about the flag hoisting for the Vaikkathashtami.)
The procession for the ritual started from the Mahadeva Temple on Thursday after 9.30 am. On the way, the procession reached Perumbullazhath Mana and Unduthuruthi Temple as part of the ritual. It reached the Subramanya Swamy temple after 12 noon.
After the ritual when the elephant was about to leave for the return trip, the forest officials arrived at the Subramanya Swamy Temple and informed that the prescribed time had passed and hence the return journey is not permitted.
The elephant owner Kizhkedathu Sankaran Mustha avoided the trip and returned to Vaikom temple in a vehicle.
Mustha said that the return trip is not part of the Kodiyettariyuppu ritual and that he had returned only after performing the ritual. The Devaswom office-bearers also informed the forest department that the elephant’s return trip to Vaikom temple was not part of the customary ritual.
Subsequently, the elephant was kept near the Udayanapuram temple. It was allowed to go back to Vaikom temple only after 3 pm.
In previous years elephants used to leave for the ritual at 7 am and the procession used to reach Vaikom temple before 11 am.