Elephants, Elephants, Everywhere…

Imagine 70 elephants, some as young as 4 years and some as old as 80, living on a campus… where you can visit them and watch them in their day-to-day life… chewing on palm leaves or having a bath in the nearby pond. This magical place is Anakkotta, in Kerala, the south western state of India. The elephants are housed in a huge coconut grove and fed and taken care of by mahouts.

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The elephants at Anakkotta belong to Guruvayur temple, dedicated to Lord Krishna of the Hindu pantheon. Among all the offerings made to the temple, devotees who can afford them, offer elephants too. The price tag for a medium sized young elephant would be around $ 40K, which I found out after some research… not that I have been shopping around for an elephant! 🙂

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The elephants are extremely intelligent animals with legendary memory powers and have individual personalities. The elephants at Anakkotta – meaning elephant fort – are all named and answer to their names. What is more, many of them have their own fan base!

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Elephants to participate in the daily rituals of the temple are picked from those living at Anakkotta. Also, temples that do not have their own elephants rent elephants from Anakkotta for their festivals. The caparisoned elephants at a temple festival are a truly wonderful sight.

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Elephants have featured prominently in Indian cultures from ancient times, being irrevocably linked to their religion, myths, and history. Studies based on rock paintings have shown that domestication of elephants in India extend back to 6000 BC. Seals from the Indus Valley civilization, dated between 2500 and 1500 BC, indicate the existence of domesticated elephants at that time. Ancient literary works like the Rig Veda and the Upanishads also contain references to domesticated elephants. And elephant ivory was one of the items of trade between Indian and other civilizations around the world, since ancient times.

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A baby elephant at Anakkotta

Elephants formed one of the four branches of pre-modern Indian military (elephants, chariots archers, and infantry,) and the practice spread across south-east Asia and westwards into the Mediterranean. The world’s first book on veterinary medicine, written in ancient India, deals mostly with elephants and horses, which were most important for the military capability of any kingdom.

India is home to 50% of the wild and 20% of the captive elephant populations in Asia.

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Anakkotta is one of the largest elephant sanctuaries in the world. As the elephants belong to the temple, the temple management takes care of their day-to-day care. Though their food mainly consists of palm leaves, cooked rice and bananas are part of the diet as well. One of their favorites is jaggery, the unrefined cane sugar.

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Elephants are very fond of the water. They get their daily baths at the pond at Anakkotta. The mahouts scrub them with coconut fiber brushes and thoroughly wash them.

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During his bath, this guy has kept his trunk (his nostrils) away from the water…

However, the moment it is out of the water, the elephant with throw trunkfuls of dirt on its back. Apparently, it is to repel the insects that might be buzzing around. Whatever works for you, right? 🙂

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~Ria

Note: My bro says there are three things that you never tire of watching… Elephants, Trains, and the Ocean! And I’m a huge fan of all three!

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