The death of Arjun, 28 year old healthy and handsome elephant belonging to the Guruvayoor Temple is indeed a disgrace not only to the administrators but to the renowned Guruvayoor Temple also because the poor elephent died out of the sheer cruelty of its Mahouts. The Mahouts inflicted wounds on its legs with the traditional ‘Valiakol’ which is a ten feet long pole with a four inch long knife at one end. The poor animal suffered the pain from the wounds for months before it died. The case came to the public notice as Media gave wide publicity to it
Gone are the days when mahouts took care of elephants with love and care. Now they are employees more interested in getting or demanding pay, perks, and promotions and the ‘ love and care' of elephants are pushed back to 2nd place. Most of the Mahouts are school drop outs which make them a rough and unkind character.
A good percentage of mahouts are alcohol addicts or daily users of it. If an elephant found a little disobedient ( for its own reasons) they start torturing it probably under the influence of liquor and the Mahout himself would not be aware of what he is doing to the animal and the poor animal bears the brunt of all his senseless violence.
The Elephants, by nature like to roam freely in the forest with its family and friends so staying chained to a tree all day alone itself is a cruel punishment for that animal. If lack of sufficient food and torture is also added to it the plight of that poor animal can be imagined. We have to salute its immense patience.
When granting leave or transfer it is not seriously thought how a new face would affect the welfare of the elephant. The elephants cannot be dealt like office files, they have likes, dislikes, feelings and intelligence just like us. A new mahout or a mahout on working arrangement would affect the emotions and behavior of an elephant as it cannot easily accept a new person. The administrators should give more importance to the welfare of the elephants than for the welfare of Mahouts on the issues of transfer, leave etc; but the contrary happens at Guruvayoor and one of the main reason for the unnecessary torture is nothing other than the lack of chemistry between the mahouts and elephants.
The mahouts to 60 odd elephents will come to nearly 250 or more in number and they are members of various Unions affiliated to different political parties.The administrative employees too have political affiliations and in such a scenario mahouts get their transfers or leave with political clout. As the elephants have no Union they have to make do with any pitiless mahouts they are provided to, with or without protest. And if protested, it ultimately leads to torture and fatal wounds as happened to poor Arjun. The case is not isolated to Guruvayur alone; this is the case with all captive elephants in Kerala. Perhaps there will be no other place in the world where such cruelty against elephants is meted out collectively as in Kerala.
An elephant owner incurs a lot of money by way of food to the elephant, pay of mahouts, healthcare expenses etc and in order to get back the money he sends elephant to as much festivals as possible disregarding the health and comfort of the animal.
However, seeing the plight of captive elephants the Government of Kerala has banned capturing elephants from the forests and fortunately no new entrant will come in to the herd of captive elephants of Kerala. The elephants in forests can rest assured in that regard..
Coming back to Guruvayoor, it is one of the famous temples in India and 2nd only in revenue collection which amounts to about 20 Lakh or more Rupees per day under various Heads. In addition to temple administration the Deveswom also does some charity works like providing food two times a day to the devotees coming there and extending help to renovate dilapidated temples in Kerala.
The devotees come to Guruvayur from all over India and it is also to be noted that there are few temples in Kerala where temple rituals are as meticulously adhered to as mentioned in the texts as is practiced in Guruvayoor. All those are praiseworthy and are done to please the presiding deity, Lord Sri Krishna.
In order to please Sri Krishna, the Deveswom should also take care of elephants under its care and without it the Lord would not be pleased any more.