Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Temple Elephant



In case you are wondering about this picture, its of an elephant who is having  a nice scrub down.
Had been to this temple in Ernakulam this January and was lucky enough to witness a temple festival that was being held that day.
Had been there in the morning and saw this elephant being given a good bath. On enquiry I was told that they were getting him ready for the festival that was to be held in the evening.


I lingered around, had lunch at the Avenue Regent and was back in the temple premises to see the activity. I could see that the elephants were waiting in one corner of the courtyard of the temple as I entered.



Those rows that you see on the side of the temple are for lighting lamps. One can imagine how wonderful it would look at night from far if all the lamps were lit.

You get to see the kodimaram when you enter any temple in south India. The Kodimaram (flag post – also known as the Dwajasthambham)  is the flag pole which is placed between the Rajagopuram and the Sanctum Sanctorum. It is made of wood, covered with brass, and with or without gold coating. This is something that you will find outside the churches too in south India. The festivities start by the Kodiyettam (hoisting of the temple flag) on this Kodimaram.  



I could see how the elephant were getting adorned. The most important part being the Nettipattam. Legend has it that the Nettipattam was designed by Lord Brahma. Iravath, the white elephant of Lord Indra was the first elephant to wear it. The caparison, which is the part of Hindu astrological art, represents the entire pantheon of gods in Hinduism.  



I tried to take a close up of one of the elephants, and felt that he was looking directly at me. 



The elephant lowered its head to have the replica of the deity placed over its head.  It is an unusual stance for an elephant I must say.


One by one the elephants came and stood in their designated place.




The drummers get ready by wearing their special mundu (dhoti) 



This drummer is fine tuning his drum. This particular drum has got a name. Wonder if someone can enlighten me. 



There was a lamp that was lit and kept in front of the elephants.



The tempo and the rhythm of the people playing the chenda (drums) slowly increased along with the accompaniment of the  kombu (one of the wind instruments) 



You can see Peruvanam Kuttan Marar here, the leader of the Chenda group of the Paramekkavu temple (Last Sunday I saw him on the TV playing at the famous Trichur Pooram)



The Elathalam is made of bronze and has its distinct chime as it is thicker when compared to the normal cymbals. It is one of those instruments that provide the beat.



While the tempo built up, the elephants had lots to chew on (literally) They kept feeding themselves on the leaves of this palm. I was fascinated by the way they neatly pulled out the leaves with the curl of their trunks (marked in the picture below) 



The palms were all prearranged and placed at strategic places. 



These two pictures below shows the understanding between the elephant and its master, or rather I must say the trust level of the mahout.




Meanwhile there were arrangements for making offerings of your choice.  The offerings had their own fixed rates.




It was almost dusk and that helped me to get some good photographs of the drummers. The way the light falls on the subject makes the difference to the photographs. 




It was a wonderful experience and I think I should increase the frequency of my visit to Kerala, now that there are direct flights to Kochi. I did my round trip bookings using the coupons from CupoNation which turned out to be very cheap. One can find them here : https://www.cuponation.in/


35 comments:

GratefulPrayerThankfulHeart said...

So interesting to learn about this festival and see the preparation. Enjoyed reading about your experience to Kerala and of course, seeing the photos of the elephants!

Anonymous said...

I had not gone inside with you all and then realised I had missed out on something really nice .But now your detailed description and amazing pics have made it all come alive for me ..Thanks .Cindy

Beth said...

Awesome photos! The elephant is so majestic!

Ms Sparrow said...

Elephants are such magnificent animals. It's wonderful to see them getting the respect they are due. Thanks for a peek into the festival.

magiceye said...

Must have been a great experience!

Afshan said...

Such a great virtual tour of kerala- ernakulam which is in my hit list !!
THANKS for these great clicks

Destiny's child... said...

That looks like the Valanjambalam at Ernakulam, South. Is it? Great pics. :)

Cynthia Rodrigues Manchekar said...

I had heard about elephants participating in temple festivities and processions, but your pictures and the accompanying narrative actually took me there. Thank you.

Cynthia Rodrigues Manchekar from Cynthology

Cezar and Léia said...

It's a very interesting article!The elephants are beautiful!
Léia

CAntony said...

What a terrific virtual tour!
I especially like the history/stories behind the traditions.

Radha said...

Beautiful blog, nice work... keep Dharma spreading... Thanks for your comment on my blog

Ms Sparrow said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
radha said...

Nice pictures. Great description. Makes you feel you were there !

TexWisGirl said...

i bet the drumming was wonderful. the elephants are magnificent, and glad they were getting plenty of palm fronds.

chellsie said...

nice post! :)
that drum is called a 'thavil', and it's played mostly in accompaniment with the naathaswaram.

Alka Gurha said...

Simply awesome. As far as I know the pictures of an elephant being scrubbed originate either from Bandipur animal sanctuary or Sri Lanka. This was informative Joe. You are a travel enthusiast it seems.
Thanks for sharing.

Jemina said...

thnx for the virtual tour of the festival with the detailed description.. its fascinating to be learning about different traditions.. the pictures are beautiful..:)

Haddock said...

No this is not the Valangambalam. This is the Shiva Temple, the one opposite the Durbar Hall.

Beena Bharatam said...

Nice! :)

Dana said...

Thanks for this informative post. Your pictures are beautiful.

NRIGirl said...

That was a nice post; thank you!

Truly amazing how the trainer so completely trusts his trainee!

COTTON BALL said...

This is really very interesting to know. There is a difference charm to all this rites. Wish I could also participate. Keep me posted. Love to read such articles.

shooting star said...

wonderful post...the ceremony has been captured so well, kerala is truely fascinating :)

http://www.myunfinishedlife.com

Meera Sundararajan said...

Amazing pictures !!! How did you manage those close ups? The elephant is a very majestic animal and Kerala temples ofcourse are know for their wonderful elephants! Who can forget Guruvayur Kesavan?

KParthasarathi said...

I could get the feel of being there in person.I remember this temple close to MG road,isn't it?
That drum looks like the thavil(melam) of Tamilnadu.
Thank you for embellishing the post with many apt pictures

Rajesh said...

Great shots. I have witnessed similar scenes ayt another Kerala temple.

Chithira Menon said...

nice pics...i think its the temple opposite to durbar hall..

Lowell said...

What an interesting post - especially to someone who's never seen anything quite like it. I'm wondering, however, how the elephants feel about their participation. I've read they are very smart and sensitive animals. And every once in awhile they turn on their trainer in a rampage as if to get retribution for their servitude.

joseph pulitkotil said...

Glad to know that you were in Ernakulam. These photos were taken in Siva temple I suppose. Fantastic photos and wonderful write up,

We are waiting for rain here and it is quite hot.

Best wishes,
Joseph

Anita said...

As I read and enjoyed the pictures, I wondered about gatherings and celebrations in the United States that are on the same level. A rodeo comes to my mind for some reason. It's totally different and for different reasons, but I assume, exciting.

The only time I see an elephant is at a circus or a zoo. I'd love to go on Safari and see it in its natural habitat.

Thanks for a great display of your visit!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Great photos. I love the headdress on the elephant.

Rekha Seshadri said...

Those are perfect screenshots for someone who has never visited. The elephants look majestic but I feel bad when I see those chains around their feet. S

A Cuban In London said...

Many thanks for those beautiful images. I also found your explanation quite useful.

Greetings from London.

padmaja said...

You just took me to the celebration mood, the pictures tell stories, so concrete and conceptual, very beautiful!

harman singh said...

WOW!!!!!!
its an array of pictures and so much information ..love it..
wud love to see elephant in real like this so adorable!