By Shankar Bennur
Cannons were fired outside the Mysore palace to accustom them to the noise
The Dasara elephants have been rehearsing daily since their arrival here from their respective jungle camps to get accustomed to the noise and crowds.
With the second batch of elephants arriving, the second leg of the run through began on Saturday.
The elephants were familiarised with the booming sound of the cannons which were fired during a practice session outside the palace, near the parking lot, on Saturday.
A 22-member team of police personnel from the City Armed Reserve (CAR), with the backing of a team of forest personnel, conducted the drill, as hundreds of tourists watched the proceeding with wonder. Several rounds of cannon gun fires took place to get the elephants, including the lead tusker Arjuna, who carries the 750-kg golden howdah, accustomed to the deafening sound.
On the day of Vijayadashami, cannons are fired for 21 times outside the palace fort to signal the beginning of Jamboo Savari, which marks the Dasara finale. To prevent the jumbos from getting nervous, the rehearsal of cannon gunfires is conducted three to four times in the run-up to the Dasara finale every year.
Police Commissioner M.A. Saleem and Deputy Conservator of Forest V. Karikalan supervised the proceedings. Forest veterinarian Nagaraj and mahouts and kavadis were present. The cannons, some of them century old, were recently refurbished by the CAR personnel for the festivities. Seven cannons will be in the custody of the palace.
According to police sources, 1,800 grams of gun powder (stored in a small cotton bag) is placed inside the cannon and fired. Earlier, two kg of gun powder was used for firing but the quantity was reduced last year. Each cannon needs about five persons to operate.
Kumar, who is attached to the CAR, said each round of fire needs cleaning to remove leftovers inside the cannon for another round of firing. “It’s a meticulous job and we need to be careful,” said Kumar, who has been doing this job for the last 18 years.
Mahadevappa, a CAR policeman, said the cannons are fired at the palace and also at Bannimantap where the procession concludes. There are seven cannons and three rounds are fired from each cannon to complete a 21-gun salute.
The police had a tough time controlling crowds as tourists arrived in large numbers for the weekend. Parking of tourists’ vehicles was shifted temporarily in view of the rehearsal. The gunfires resulted in thick smoke in the vicinity.
All necessary precautionary measures were taken in view of the rehearsal.