After about a 45 minute drive, we reach the Guruvayoor Aanakotta, the elephant sanctuary where temple elephants are housed, including the ones that will be used during Thrissur Pooram.
There are anywhere from 60-80 elephants at any one time, so we see elephants pretty much as soon as we begin walking down the path.
One is being bathed, another fed. All are chained to nearby trees or to stakes in the ground. They are very well-cared for, and live a comfortable life at the sanctuary. Still, I can’t help but feel pity for these gentle beasts, once mighty in their own habitat, now chained by man.
The paths wind close up enough to the elephants so as to see them clearly and to take their photos, but not so close that you can touch them.
Touching the elephants is discouraged, and some of them are actually in musth. This means they are in a volatile hormonal state and can become violent at any time. These particular elephants are kept far back from the walking path and chained and housed separately, until the phase passes, usually for a month or so. I can see one in a shed-like structure, next to a warning sign explaining its musth condition.
Everywhere we look, there are elephants. In a way, it’s kind of like a zoo with only one kind of animal! Paapans (elephant caretakers) come and go, walking with the elephants, or carrying food to them.
Despite the smothering humidity here in Guruvayoor, we and the kids have a memorable day on our first time at the Aanakotta!