In a first, Kerala temple inducts mechanical elephant for ritual duties

Thiruvananthapuram, Feb 26 ; ¬†Following up on its pledge to never keep or hire live elephants or any other animals, the Irinjadappilly Sree Krishna Temple in Kerala’s Thrissur district has become the first in the country to use a mechanical, lifelike elephant for temple rituals.

On Sunday, the temple priests performed ‘Nadayiruthal’ or ceremonial offering to the deity, of Irinjadappilly Raman, a magnificent, lifelike mechanical or “robotic” elephant.

Irinjadappilly Raman has been gifted to the temple by animal rights organisation People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India with the support of award-winning Indian film actor Parvathy Thiruvothu.

‘Irinjadappilly Raman’ will help conduct ceremonies at the temple in a safe and cruelty-free manner and thereby support real elephants’ rehabilitation and life in forests, ending the horror of captivity for them, PETA India stated.

The inaugural ceremony held on Sunday was followed by a performance by the percussion ensemble led by Peruvanam Satheesan Marar. Subjecting live elephants to the extreme loudness of the timpani is cruel, as it is damaging and distressing for live elephants.

“In this day and age, we have access to understanding what animals are forced to endure when humans use them for entertainment. It’s high time we made stronger and more impactful strides towards stopping such abuse and letting animals have respectful and dignified lives,” said Parvathy. “I’m delighted to support PETA India in helping Sree Krishna Temple worshippers experience the joy and sanctity of religious functions in an ahimsak, exciting, modern, and conscientious manner.”

Head priest of the temple Rajkumar Namboothiri said: “We are extremely happy and grateful to receive this mechanical elephant which will help us to conduct our rituals and festivals in a cruelty-free way, and we hope that other temples will also think about replacing live elephants for rituals.”

Most elephants in captivity in the country, including in Kerala, are being held illegally or have been transported to a different state without permission. Because elephants are wild animals who would not willingly obey human commands, when used for rides, ceremonies, tricks, and other purposes, they are trained and controlled through severe punishments, beatings, and the use of weapons with a metal-tipped hook. Many have extremely painful foot ailments and leg wounds from being chained to concrete for hours on end, and most do not get adequate food, water, or veterinary care, let alone any semblance of a natural life.

The frustration of captivity leads elephants to develop and display abnormal behaviour. At their wit’s end, frustrated elephants often snap and try to break free, running amok and so harming humans, other animals, and property.

According to figures compiled by the Heritage Animal Task Force, captive elephants killed 526 people in Kerala in a 15-year-long period.

Thechikkattukavu Ramachandran, who has been in captivity for about 40 years and is one of the most often used elephants in Kerala’s festival circuit, has reportedly killed 13 beings – six mahouts, four women, and three elephants.