People in Kerala's Alappuzha worship elephants (Photo/ANI)
People in Kerala's Alappuzha worship elephants (Photo/ANI)

Kerala: COVID-19 dampens 'Karkidakam' spirit, elephant owners, mahouts struggle to make ends meet

ANI | Updated: Jul 18, 2021 23:49 IST

Alappuzha (Kerala) [India], July 18 (ANI): The month of 'Karikadakam', as per the Malayalam calendar, has been considered as an ideal time for wellness treatment of elephants but with temple rituals getting cancelled due to COVID-19, the elephant owners and mahouts are now finding it difficult to provide them treatment and even struggling to make their ends meet.
Traditionally, it is 'Karkidakam' month where people in the state read the Ramayana at their homes, pay homage to their ancestors, go on a 'Nalambalam' temple pilgrimage. This month is also popular among locals and tourists who take Ayurvedic treatments.
The beginning of this Karkidam month, which usually falls on July 16-17 in the Gregorian calendar, also marks the beginning of special treatment for elephants. Traditional feasts 'Anayoot' is offered at temples and devotees and locals get a chance to feed tuskers with sugarcane, jaggery, rice, banana coconut, leaves etc.
There are also special poojas known as Gaja poojas that are conducted for elephants this month. During this period, several elephant owners take care of the elephants, provide them with adequate treatment and worship them. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the business of elephant mahouts has been deeply impacted.
"In this Karkidakam month like people, we provide Ayurvedic treatment for elephants too. But due to unprecedented COVID -19 crisis, elephant owners are finding it difficult to meet expenses of treatment as temple rituals are cancelled," said Krishnaprasad, state president of Elephant Owners Association to ANI at Alappuzha.

Elaborating on the cost of managing an elephant, he said that on a daily basis Rs 3,000-5,000 is spent on food which also includes the transportation cost.

"It is difficult to manage the daily expenses of elephants. Along with this, additional expenses can be incurred including treatment for elephants which includes feeding them with Chyawanprash to lentils mixed and given in rice. Last year, the government had allotted free ration kit for elephants that could last for 40 days," said Krishnaprasad.

Last year, the Kerala government had provided a free ration kit for each elephant that had rice (120 kg), wheat (160 kg), ragi (120 kg), green gram (20 kg), horse gram (20 kg), salt (2.2 kg), turmeric (400 grams) and jaggery (6 kg).
Not only the owners, but the mahouts are also worried and echo similar concerns.
Ajitkumar, a mahout told ANI that from 75 temple festival visits, this year, it has been reduced to less than 20 after the COVID situation, which has affected them badly.

"We do understand the crisis we are in. The elephant owner not only has to feed the elephant but also has to take care of us. We are provided with food as well. When temple festivals used to take place, we use to earn additional income, which is now not possible," he said.
Meanwhile, Kerala Agriculture Minister P Prasad said that he would take up the issue with Forest Department.
"Last year, owing to COVID crisis, assistance was provided to elephant owners. I know it is too little. Now, not only owners but also the livelihood of thousands of others who depend on elephants is affected. Their crisis needs a considerable solution," he said. (ANI)