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Kerala temple gets a life-sized mechanical elephant donated by PETA, to be used for festivals instead of real elephant

It is notable here that the procession of majestic elephants is the key attraction of the Thrissur Pooram festival and the deities from each temple are placed on the back of elephants.

The People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India along with actor Parvathy Thiruvothu donated a mechanical elephant worth Rs 5 lakhs to Irinjadappilly Sree Krishna Temple in Thrissur. The PETA indicated that deploying real animals for temple rituals was causing harm to the animals as they needed to stay away from their natural habitat and undergo trauma in captivity.

“JUMBO NEWS! Kerala’s Irinjadappilly Sree Krishna Temple will use a lifelike mechanical elephant to perform rituals, allowing real elephants to remain with their families in nature,” the official Twitter handle of PETA India wrote. The handle also shared a video in which it showed the real elephants being allegedly beaten by the animal trainers.

Irinjadappilly Sree Krishna Temple priest Rajkumar Namboothiri also welcomed the initiative and stated that real worship is to protect all forms of life created by God. “Allowing elephants to stay in nature should be the real way of revering the elephant God, Lord Ganesha,” he added.

Meanwhile, PETA also stated that elephants are highly social beings and that they need to live in forests with their families for their well-being. It also encouraged the local temples to use mechanical elephants and send real elephants to the forests.

The mechanised ‘animal’ named ‘Irinjadappilly Raman’ weighs 800 kg and is around 11-foot-tall. According to the reports, it underwent the traditional ceremony of offering animals to the temple gods, known as ‘Nadayiruthal’. At the occasion, the animal was dressed in decorative covering to resemble the installation of an actual elephant.

The robot’s trunk, which has five electric motors, can be controlled by the operator via a switch. The project of ‘cruelty-free festivals’, which promotes the rehabilitation of ‘captive’ elephants, was praised by the animal rights organization. The machine, which can hold five people at once, was made by Thrissur-based craftsmen who are also working on launching elephant statues for the Dubai Shopping Festival.

“Indian film actor Parvathy Thiruvothu sent her support to PETA India in presenting this innovative solution that will spare real elephants a life in which they are taken away from their families and forest homes, deprived of everything that is natural and important to them, and kept constantly chained, lame, and lonely,” PETA said in a statement.

It also included data from the Heritage Animal Task Force showing that elephants released from captivity killed roughly 526 people in Kerala over a 15-year period, and asked everyone to petition state chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan to outlaw the commercial usage of the animal.

According to a statement made by temple priest Rajkumar Namboothiri and cited by Indian Express, the temple decided against using captive elephants due to the animals’ high costs and an increase in violent animal occurrences. He urged other temples to do the same.

Notably, throughout the years, PETA India has come under fire for its hypocrisy and use of double standards in regard to its stance on animal abuse. It fails to uphold the same compassion for animals when it comes to festivals of other religions. It has been slammed by many for its own cruelty to animals it claims to ‘rescue’ and conspicuous silent on rampant cattle and goat slaughter during Bakra Eid.

On the contrary, PETA India has regularly indulged in shaming Hindu festivals and how they are celebrated. Earlier during Holi, it had appealed to Hindus to stop throwing colors at animals and opt for vegan thandai. It had also asked Hindus to stop bursting crackers during Diwali as it might ‘scare’ the animals.

The issue of Temple elephants has been a topic of controversy in recent years, especially due to animal rights organisations like PETA and activists who oppose the idea of elephants being kept in captivity. It is notable here that the procession of majestic elephants is the key attraction of the Thrissur Pooram festival and the deities from each temple are placed on the back of elephants. The elephants move among the devotees, offering Darshan and blessings. As elephants are a part of Hindu religious symbolism as representatives of wealth and power, many temples have their own pet elephants.

The temple elephants also have their own fandom and are loved by the locals immensely. Thrissur Raman, a 63-year-old male elephant from the Thechikottukavu temple, popularly known as the Thrissur Raman, is one of the largest living Asian elephants. He has a dedicated fandom and is the main attraction in the Thrissur festival. However, in recent years, Raman’s health has deteriorated and he is currently almost blind. Recently, he got aggressive during a festival in Palakkad and attacked his own mahout.

Incidents of temple elephants going aggressive fuel the discussion and controversies around keeping the majestic creatures in captivity, to be deployed in rituals and festivals under noise and massive crowd, triggering them into aggressive behaviour.

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staff
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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