Thrissur Raman is a superstar. He is tall, dark and majestic. He has thousands of fans who flock to catch a glimpse of him when he comes out walking in his royal style in the Thrissur Puram festival. Raman, or ‘Thechikottukavu Ramachandran’ that is his official name is a 54-year-old elephant.
#WATCH Kerala: 54 year old elephant Thechikottukavu Ramachandran participates in the Thrissur Pooram festival after doctors cleared it following medical tests. A ban had been imposed on the elephant after it killed two people during an event in Guruvayur earlier this year pic.twitter.com/fk3eeQLvVk
— ANI (@ANI) May 12, 2019
Raman, the beloved Kerala elephant is a Bihari by birth. He was called Moti Prasad before coming to Kerala in 1984. At 54, Raman is the tallest elephant in India and the second tallest in Asia. He is the star attraction at the famous Thrissur Puram festival and has thousands of fans in and outside Kerala.
Raman is the resident elephant in the Thechikottukavu temple, a few miles away from the Thrissur town. Year after year, it is Raman who formally opens the Thrissur Puram festival when he walks out of the town’s Vadakkunnathan Temple with gold adornments.
Raman is old and was sick. He has reportedly lost vision in one eye and faces digestion issues. Earlier this year, there was a massive outrage when the Communist government in Kerala had tried to ‘ban’ Raman from the Thrissur festival. The government stated that Raman is violent and has caused the death of over a dozen people and 3 other elephants so far. The devotees were not amused.
The Kerala Elephant Owners’ Federation had threatened to even boycott the Thrissur festival if Raman was banned. “One Pulsar bike may get involved in an accident, so will we ban all Pulsar bikes?”, the federation’s president P Sasikumar was quoted as saying.
Raman’s ‘ban’ had called for widespread outrage and reactions in Kerala. The people, especially Hindus, who had witnessed and endured the communist government’s atrocities attempting to defile Sabarimala since last year’s SC verdict was certainly not amused.
Raman is old and will probably retire soon. But that does not lessen his stardom. As mentioned in the report by Livemint, the Thechikottukavu temple has seen immense growth in its stature and fame after Raman’s arrival. The temple, the village has prospered with Raman. And the locals are willing to do their bit for their beloved elephant.
The roughly 3500 families in the two Panchayats near the temple are reportedly trying to raise Rs 2 crores, to create a fund that will help with Raman’s healthcare and expenses after he retires. An elephant is very expensive to maintain, and the villagers are willing to contribute so that their superstar spends his last days in comfort.
Kerala’s love for temple elephants is nothing new. Elephants in temples are celebrated here. Last year, when Thiruvambadi Sivasunder, another ‘star’ elephant that belonged to the Thiruvambadi temple in Kerala breathed his last, thousands of devotees, with children had flocked to pay homage. There were tearful goodbyes, floral tributes and a grand farewell that had Sivasunder’s admirers weeping for their beloved elephant.
Guruvayur Kesavan, the famous, majestic temple elephant of Kerala’s Guruvayur temple was so loved and celebrated that after he breathed his last, on the auspicious day of Guruvayur Ekadasi in 1976, the temple had taken it to observe the days in his remembrance ever since. The temple board erected a life-size statue of Kesavan at the entrance, with his grand tusks placed to welcome the guests. Each year, on his death anniversary, the temple lines up its elephants to pay respects and the chief elephant garlands Kesavan’s statue.
The traditions of elephants in temples of Kerala is also being subject to continuous attacks and slandering by dubious NGOs and activists. As it happens with any major Hindu tradition and cultural celebration, there are attempts to attach the stigma of shame and guilt to the traditional festivals of the temples where the elephants are the main attraction.
In the Livemint article, the love for the villagers and the public emotion surrounding Raman is conspicuously linked with the ‘rise of saffron politics’ in the state. Titled ‘The Malayali develops a taste for saffron’ the article discusses the issue of Raman and the public sentiments attached with him in parallel with the surge if RSS and BJP in the state.
It attempts to draw parallels with West Bengal ‘Jai Shriram’ phenomenon. However, it ignores the fact that Kerala had loved and wept for its elephants much before BJP or the RSS became stakeholders in the state’s politics.
The idea behind the article stems from a narrative of ‘anti-Hindu anti-RSS ideology that is so common in most of India’s mainstream media. The beliefs of Kerala’s millions of Hindus were trampled upon mercilessly by the Communist government after the Sabarimala verdict. The LDF government went as far as ‘sneaking’ their female activists through the prohibited entrance in the wee hours of the night, just to assert their dominance and belittle the Hindu faith.
The ‘surge’ in Kerala’s Hindus was a reaction of the communist government’s apathy and atrocities, not the doing of RSS or BJP. The RSS did not ask Mamata Banerjee to behave like a woman possessed at the utterance of Jai Sriram. The RSS did not ask Pinarayi Vijayan’s government to kick, beat and drag defenceless devotees in Sabarimala to jail. The idea of painting the inherent love and respect of Hindus for their traditions as a result of ‘politicisation’ by BJP is as flawed as the leftist’s narrative that Hindu rituals and festivals are regressive and patriarchal.
The only thing that has changed in the last few years that with the advent of social media and awareness, it had become difficult for the leftists to peddle their propaganda. Hindus across India are beginning to question why they are being demonised despite living as quite adherents of their faith who have never asserted or enforced their beliefs upon others.
The political rise of BJP is the symptom of a larger awakened consciousness among Hindus, not the cause. Just like a Bihari Moti Prasad was celebrated in Kerala as Thechikottukavu Ramachandran for what he represented, the Hindu identity that the leftist media has tried desperately hard to confine to the ‘cow belt’ was never limited by imaginary regional barriers either.