Social Forestry allows procession; refuses nod for Gaja Puja, Aanayoottu, Thalapokka Malsaram.
With an eye on public safety and prevention of cruelty to elephants, the Social Forestry Division has disallowed the use of the animals for non-ritualistic practices in the district.
An application by the Mukkolakkal Sree Mahaganapathy Temple in Mannanthala to parade 12 elephants at its annual festival in May was turned down a few days ago.
The decision was taken after a team conducted a spot inspection, during which it was found that the arrangements were inadequate for parading elephants for ceremonies such as Gaja Puja and Aanayoottu.
However, the temple was allowed to conduct a procession featuring an elephant on the concluding day of the festival.
A notice issued by the Social Forestry Division stated that the decision was made in adherence to a ruling by the Supreme Court on April 18 last year, which had directed temple committees to ensure that the Kerala Captive Elephants (Management and Maintenance) Rules, 2012, were strictly complied with.
The forest officials had also refused a request by the Sree Mailappalli Devi Temple in Keraladithyapuram, Powdikonam, to organise certain competitions including Thalapokka Malsaram (head lifting competition), during which elephants are forced to maintain their heads in an elevated position for long periods.
The decision appears to have put the office-bearers of the Mannanthala Mukkolakkal Sree Mahaganapathy temple in a tight spot.
S. Sugathan, president of the temple trust, said the elephants for the ceremonies were sponsored by devotees as offerings to the temple. “We have been following this custom for nearly 30 years. The unexpected decision has forced us to make alternative arrangements. We will not defy the directions of the Forest Department,” he said.
The temple would discontinue such ceremonies from next year and also refrain from using firecrackers, he added.
P.K. Jayakumar Sharma, Deputy Conservator of Forests (Social Forestry), said the restrictions were not meant to hinder temple rituals. A stringent stance had to be taken against the use of elephants for such programmes in view of the recent killings of mahouts by elephants.
The rising temperature is one of the factors that prompted the decision. The local police have been asked to ensure that temple authorities adhere to the directive.
Decision after spot inspection, as per a Supreme Court order to temple committees