With the advent of modern transportation, elephants were spared from doing this job. In some major temples they were used to carry river water everyday to the temple and participate in festivals. Otherwise they are simply tied and left in a room with restricted movement. Not all Temples conduct gajapuja every day. On the other hand, the mahouts make them beg and receive money from the devotees. Strictly speaking, there is no need for an elephant to be present in the temple except at those places where,according to the legend the animal is said to have worshipped the deity.
|Both front and hind legs chained|
In Kerala, the temple elephants are used to carry the idols in a procession after the pujas. The Mahouts take advantage of the situation and receive money from the devotees. The poor animal has to undergo loud noises of Chenda and fireworks, long parades, flames held nearby, transportation in vehicles , walk on tarred roads under the scorching sun ,cruelty and work load. The mahouts carry a stick with a hook to beat the animal to obey his orders. Any resistance will result into chaining both front and hind legs for a very long time. Lack of proper food,water and sleep make life miserable for the elephants. Pre matured deaths of captivated elephants in the age group of say 40- 50 are reported.
|Gone into the truck|
Encroachment of jungle areas by greedy farmers is also another reason why many elephant deaths are reported. They are killed mercilessly in electrical traps. Recently an elephant from the nearby forest was tranquillised and loaded into a truck with the help of a trained elephant as it "encroached" into agricultural fields. While doing so it died because of injuries. Railway tracks that pass through jungle areas and ghat sections become the death traps for elephants.
Elephant lovers of many countries try to rescue the elephants from captivity by bringing them to their care centres , treat them with the help of veterinary doctors, nourish them and provide them enough space for movement. Such an initiative has been made by Tree Foundation, an organisation who have set up their Elephant Care facility near Marakkanam on Chennai- Pondichery road. At the moment it houses three elephants brought from Sri Kamakshi Temple,Kanchipuram for better treatment . The chained legs were attended by doctors and they are reported to recover fast. Upon strengthening the base, the organisation plans to bring some more elephants from the temples for better care. But the question before us is: " Can the treated / healthy animals be released in wild sometime later to provide space for new arrivals?"