Thiruvananthapuram: A temple in Kerala says no to customary parading of elephants during festivals and gets an unexpected letter of appreciation.
Hailing the temple's move, Union Minister Maneka Gandhi has sent a letter of appreciation to the authorities who say, "This letter is not a joke. Not everyone gets it. We have framed it and kept it."
In Kerala, no temple festival is complete without these decorated jumbos but in Thiruvananthapuram, Koikal Palliyara Bhagavati Temple isn't scared to start a new tradition.
The temple has been using elephants for their annual processions since 1980. This year though, their idols will be carried on ornate palanquins and not elephants, for which the devotees pooled in nearly 1.5 lakh rupees.
Ramachandran Pillai the head Temple Renovation Committee says: "Elephants brought to us used to be so tired and cruelly treated by their mahouts. Government rules were not followed and many NGOs kept inspiring us to bring in the change."
"We were also concerned about the safety of devotees," says Mr Pillai.
Earlier this year, an elephant went on a rampage during a temple festival in Palakkad. Around 70 people were injured while trying to escape causing a damage of lakhs.
An industry on its own, an elephant is hired at a minimum cost of Rs 25,000 for 12 hours.
In Trivandrum, these temple authorities recollect how an elephant hired by them for 12 hours was handed over to them straight after being put in service at another temple for 10 hours, completely in violation of government regulations.
Saying the big temples will find it harder to do away with the custom, temple priest Kesavan Namboodhiri says, "Small temples should not have a problem in doing away with the tradition... They don't have elaborate kind of customs it's also financially draining. But to do away with elephants in the grander temples may be difficult because of their scale of customs."