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Kerala's Most-Loved Elephant Allowed to Participate in Thrissur Pooram

A file photo of the Thrissur Pooram. (Reuters)

A file photo of the Thrissur Pooram. (Reuters)

Earlier this year, the district administration had imposed a ban on the animal's participation in festivals after it killed two persons during a house-warming celebration in Guruvayur.

Thrissur: Ending four days of uncertainty, Kerala's tallest elephant 'Thechikkottukavu Ramachandran' was given conditional nod on Saturday to participate in the famed Thrissur pooram after the animal cleared the fitness test.

The clearance to the government was given after a team of three veterinarians conducted the medical examination of the 54-year-old elephant.

The team had also submitted a report to the Thrissur collector TV Anupama stating that the elephant was fit to participate in the "vilambaram" ritual as part of 'pooram'.

The main event of the 'pooram' begins with the 10.5-foot tall elephant pushing open the southern entrance gate of the ancient Vadakkumnathan temple here, with the idol of 'neithilakkavilamma' atop it, symbolising the start of the festivities.

Among the restrictions imposed on the use of the elephant were: It can take part in the ritual only for an hour from 9.30 am; four mahouts should escort the animal and barricades should be constructed on a 10-metre radius to prevent people from getting closer to the jumbo.

Since 2014, the elephant has been been performing the ritual and has a big fan following in the state.

However, after two persons were killed by the animal during a house-warming celebration in Guruvayur in February this year, the district administration had imposed a ban on its participation in festivals.

As doubts were raised about the elephant being allowed to take part in the ritual, the elephant owners association had threatened not to provide any elephant for the 'pooram' festival.

The association has now withdrawn its threat and expressed willingness to provide elephants for the 'pooram'.

Animal welfare board member MN Jayachandran, who was part of the high-powered committee headed by district collector, said he was against the animal being allowed to participate in the ritual.

"I have given my note of dissent to the collector and this was not a unanimous decision," he told a television channel.

The jumbo, which is partially blind in the right eye, is said to have killed 13 persons, besides two elephants.

The annual 'pooram' festival, considered as the mother of all temple festivals in the state, is known for its colourful fireworks extravaganza and display of caparisoned elephants.

The festival falls on May 13 this year.

After the Kerala high court on Friday refused to intervene in the matter, the state government had sought legal opinion from Additional Advocate General Renjith Thampan on the matter.

He had advised the government that the tusker can be permitted for participating only in 'pooram' festival with certain restrictions.

The AAG told the government that people should be kept away from the jumbo during its parade and steps should be taken to avoid any sort of danger to the people.

If any untoward incident occurred, the elephant owners should take its responsibility.

Meanwhile, Thrissur, the state's cultural capital, is under a thick security cover with 3,500 policemen being deputed on duty till May 14.

Senior police officials said no carry bags would be allowed and bomb and dog squads would be deployed during the festival.

People staying in lodges and hotels would be under surveillance.