Cuddalore: Where elephant has a field day

After the Pongal festival, it has extended its sojourn for two days

CUDDALORE: A pachyderm in transit that had come to stay in Cuddalore for the Pongal festival has extended its sojourn for two more days, till Tuesday, to regale the participants of the River Festival held on the banks of the Pennaiyar here.

Festive spirit: An elephant blessing people of all age groups, at the Pennaiyar in Cuddalore on Monday. — Photo: C. Venkatachalapathy

The privately owned female elephant named Shyamala Devi, aged 35 years, has become a favourite of children here who trail its majestic steps .

Parents, who want their wards to grow up brave, allow them to have an elephant-ride, of course, for a fee and with palpitating hearts.

In the past few days, mahout Sudhagaran (28) has made a handful collection by taking around the animal. It has been so trained to “bless” the people with its uplifted trunk in a gentle manner – from infants to adults – and collect a few coins or currency notes to be faithfully handed over to the mahout.

On Sunday, the animal had a fruitful stroll on the sands of the Silver Beach and on Monday it made a pretty pie on the banks of the Pennaiyar. En route, it attracted the households and passersby who generously provided it with bananas, sugarcane and bucketful of water.

Mr. Sudhagaran and two of his assistants are on their way from Kumbakonam to Vikkiravandi “to felicitate” a wedding.

He told TheHindu that up to Chidambaram the elephant travelled in a truck and from there it languorously walked its way to Cuddalore, a distance of 50 km, for a week.

Because of the age factor, it can cover only five-seven km a day and more over it had to make many sorties on the way or in other words making trips with children on its back. At home, it cherished rice cakes but while on tour it has to be content with coconut fronds, foliage of the roadside trees and scoops of beaten rice or aval.

For the night, it makes itself comfortable under any greenwood trees. It is mostly sought after during temple festivals and weddings of affluent sections and on such occasions it is fed sumptuously and rewarded handsomely.

Mr. Sudhagar says that the elephant obeys his commands dutifully because he has been growing with it since its birth. But he cannot be sure whether he can handle another tusker the same way as he does Shyamala Devi.

From THE HINDU

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