Kerala man wishes dignity for dead elephants

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Kottayam (Kerala), Sep.8 : Abraham Thomas of Kerala out of his deep affection for the pachyderms has prepared a huge cemetery, which enables the giant animals to be laid down in peace here.

Thomas has so far buried more than 55 elephants, from within the State as well as the neighbouring states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu at his Palakunnam Estate, which is spread over 150 acres at Manimala in Kottayam District of Kerala.

The cemetery has enabled the elephants to be buried and leave the world with dignity otherwise the unattended carcass lie around and get rotten.

Out of his love for jumbos and belief that the carcass of a dead elephant should not be let to rot in the open Thomas earmarked a portion of his estate as the burial ground for pachyderms.

This estate was initially a rubber estate, but Thomas converted it into an elephant burial ground.

Abraham Thomas is a radical humanist and rationalist although he hails from a family that boasts of several priests and even bishops. He also feels that burning of the elephants causes pollution. Even otherwise, the Government has banned burning of elephants.

"Many Hindus have a superstition about burning elephants. However, I do not believe in that. As far as burning is concerned, it is prohibited by the Government as it causes pollution. I have the utmost respect for elephants. Whenever anybody informs me about the death of an elephant, I allow them to be buried in my estate," said Abraham Thomas, owner of Palakunnam Rubber Estate and admirer of elephants.

Thomas, calls himself Ottayan or, a rouge elephant.

Thomas says: "People love elephants till they are alive. After death nobody wants even look at them. That is another parody of fate of the elephants. There are over 55 elephants buried here from all parts of Kerala even from Coimbatore."

Thomas has seven elephants in his stable and these include three tuskers and four cow elephants.

Visiting the cemetery, one can notice nicely inscribed tablets relating all the details of the departed jumbos.

There are the epitaphs of Ravi Chembukavu (died of a snake bite, 2004), Narayan Pattambi, Ammu (from Veegaland), Mankiandan (of Ottappalam , electrocuted), Bahadur (from Jumbo Circus, 2002), Ganeshan (of Uliyanoor hit by a lorry, 2000) and Gangaprasad (of Ottappalam) among others.

Initially, he used to allow people to bury the elephants free of cost. However, now he charges Rs. 15,000 for each burial, which is the cost of a cent of land (a local measure of land equal to 1/100 of an acre).

On an average, an elephant grave requires a cent of land.

It is a Herculean task to bury 3,000 kilograms of flesh and a carcass that often is as high as six feet.

An earth excavator is used to drag the dead mass, which is lowered in a 14 x 14 x 14 pit. The last rites are done as per elephant owners' wishes.

Removal of tusk costs another rupees 5,000. On this score, Thomas says that the tusks and all other parts extracted from a dead elephant would be the property of its erstwhile owner.

An advocate by profession, he has remained a bachelor. His first and last love happens to be the love and respect for elephants.

However, what has hurt Thomas the most is that till date, except for two owners, none else has ever cared to visit the grave and remember their good old jumbos. By Anil Pakkil

ANI

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