By S . Poorvaja
“She came to the temple as a two-year-old from Kerala.”
“Parvathy’s” day begins as early as 4 a.m. when she readies herself for a bath. At 5.30 a.m., she goes on a brisk walk in the crisp morning air on the Chithirai streets around the temple and is often greeted by vendors around the temple who have gotten used to seeing her every day.
This 16-year-old temple elephant of the Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple is a star attraction with the tourists and devotees who frequent the temple.
“She came to the temple as a two-year-old from Kerala and has been here ever since. I’ve seen her grow from a boisterous young calf to the calm pachyderm she is today,” says her mahout P. Bose Rajan. Mr Bose has been taking care of the temple elephants from the time he was a young boy with his father, who took care of the temple elephants at the Meenakshi temple for 30-plus years. The city at present has only three temple elephants. The 7-year-old Sundaravalli is looked after and stays at the Kallazhagar Temple at Alagarkoil and the 46-year-old Maduravalli at the Koodal Azhagar Perumal Temple.
“There needs to be a lot of open space and a dedicated number of people who look after the elephant in a temple” said P. Jayaraman, Joint Commissioner of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department and the Executive Officer of the Meenakshi Temple.
“The Meenakshi temple has a large enclosure which has housed the elephants which have been in the temple for many years. We recently converted a part of the enclosure into a garden so that there is some foliage and it gives the elephant a sense of being with nature,” he explained.
Apart from an incident in 2004 where elephant Parvathy ran amok on Khazimar street which was later attributed to her young age, there have not been incidents reported of the temple elephants injuring people or causing damage to property.