The festival of Thrissur Pooram in Kerala featuring elephants is in the midst of "jumbo" controversy. The large cultural festival, held annually at Vadakkunnathan Temple, has a celebrity elephant at the centre of the festivities. But the local administration has banned Ramachandran this year from being paraded at the event, a move that has angered the elephant owners who have threatened to boycott the event.
The elephant, also called 'Thechikottukavu Ramachandran', is supposed to symbolically push open the southern entrance of the temple, in Thrissur, 270 km north of Thiruvananthapuram, on May 12, signaling the start of the Pooram festivities.
Thrissur Collector banned Ramachandran from the Pooram after a recommendation by the chief wildlife warden and Thrissur city police. The city police said that the elephant is easily provoked and has, in the past, attacked people.
Ramachandran, the tallest captive elephant in India, has run amok in ten instances during the recent festive season, killing at least five people. The elephant is blind in the right eye, according to animal activists. He has killed 13 people and three elephants.
The elephant owners association, however, alleges that by banning Ramachandran, the government is disturbing temple rituals. The association said it will pull out its elephants from the festivities.
In response, the government backed Devaswom Boards have offered their captive elephants for rituals if needed, which in total may be over 80 elephants.
Thrissur Pooram is known for its elaborate festive rituals including a colourful competition among two rival teams atop beautifully decorated elephants.