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From rogue elephant to Dasara show stopper: Arjuna knows how to throw his weight around


Bengaluru, Sep 11: Arjuna, the 59-year old Dasara elephant, is the cynosure of all eyes since 2012 during the Vijayadashmi procession. He was named after Arjuna, the third of the Pandava brothers from the Hindu epic Mahabharatha.

Known to throw his weight around for attention, he is not only the heaviest, but given the onerous task of carrying the 750-kg howdah, is justified in seeking special treatment due to him.


The gentle giant, who is participating in Dasara for the last 20 years, has carried the Golden Howdah eight times.

He is 2.95 m in height, 3.75 m in length and between 5,500 to 5,870 kg in weight.

Arjuna was captured in 1968 at Kakanakote forest is one of the longest-serving Dasara elephants is housed in Balle camp.

He has mellowed down over the years and replaced Balarama as the howdah carrier in 2012. His mahout is Vinu and the kavadi or the assistant is Sanappa.

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Arjuna is not limited to Dasara procession only. He is used in taming and capturing several rogue elephants besides being used in several tiger rescue operations.

From rogue elephant to Dasara show stopper: An incredible journey of Arjuna

Arjuna was captured in 1968 in the Khedda operations from the forests of Kakanakote in the Western Ghats of Karnataka. After he was tamed, he was made a regular at the camps that featured processions during the festival of Dasara in Mysore, in the 1990s.

After Drona, the then carrier, fell ill prior to the Dasara festivities, Arjuna was made the carrier of the 750-kg Howdah that houses an idol of a Hindu deity Chamundeshwari, for a year, when the former was made the Nishan.

That year, before the festivities began, he wavered and charged at the crowd, as the helicopter hovering above raining flower petals on the howdah came low. Eventually, he calmed down to complete the task. The following years, he was made the Nishan to follow Drona.

In 1996, when Arjuna and Bahadur, another Dasara elephant, were taken to Karanji Lake for bathing, Bahadur's mahout Annaiah fell and was trampled upon. It was reported as an accident, but Arjun was blamed upon, for already having been known for his bad temper. He was immediately taken "off-duty" and was confined to the village Balle, at the Nagarhole National Park, before being brought back to the Dasara camp and made the Nishan in 2001 to Balarama, which he remained till 2011.

On course of selection of the carrier for festivities in 2012, Arjuna became the leading contender after he beat Balarama in the rehearsals of carrying the howdah, for five kilometers between Mysore Palace and Bannimantap, by 45 minutes, despite going through periods of musth at the time.

He was tall and handsome, the two perfect qualities for a howdah elephant. And since then the magnificent elephant has been synonymous with Dasara.

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