There is perhaps hardly any other place in India where elephants are more loved and revered than in Kerala. Elephants are quintessential to the cultural life of Kerala and are thus accorded the status of state animal of Kerala. Elephant pageantry is a crucial aspect of all famous religous festivals in Kerala. Many temples rear pet elephants and also use them as part of daily rituals.
From February to April, various temple festivals are held across Kerala and elephant pageants are all a part of it. The biggest and most colorful festival takes place at Vadakkumnathan temple in Thrissur and is called Thrissur Pooram. It happens during the Malayalam month of Medam (April/May). Arattupuzha Pooram is another festival which has around 60 elephants in attendance. It is believed that gods of neighbouring temples visit on elephant back to pay their respects to the presiding god of the temple. Most of the Hindu temples in Kerala own elephants, many of them being donated by devotees. The famous Guruvayur temple is said to have more than 60 captive elephants. Kerala also boasts of the world’s only Elephant Palace in Punnattur Kotta, 3 km from the Guruvayur temple. It houses the temple’s elephants. The temple elephants are quite a sight as they are richly decorated during annual festival processions. People atop the elephants hold silk parasols and the elephants are gaily decorated with gold plated caparisons and have golden head gear. In the Pancari Melam of the Kudalmanikyam temple, seventeen elephants are engaged for the daily ceremonial rounds. The headgear of seven of these elephants is made of pure gold and the rest of pure silver, which is unique to this temple.
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