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Meet Balarama, the celebrity elephant of Mysuru Dasara


Bengaluru, Sep 19: Balarama, a celebrity elephant during Mysuru Dasara celebrations is known for the latter's royal profile but more due to his human-like journey.

He was one of the star attraction when he carried on his back the sacred idol of goddess in the 800 kilograms (1,800 lb) golden ambari on the auspicious 10th day of Dasara celebrations. Balarama was always known for his demeanour and calmness at all times.


He is 2.70 meters tall and 3.77 meters long. What also sets him apart is his nature: he is gentle, mild-tempered and an introvert, unlike other rogue elephants. Balarama has an active fan following in Mysore, a Wikipedia entry and even a book on him, titled Balarama: A Royal Elephant, which is written and illustrated by Ted and Betsy Lewin.

Balarama's journey

The gentle giant was captured in 1987 in the Kattepura forest near Somwarpet in the Kodagu region of Karnataka State, India.

Balarama joined Dasara jumbos in the late 1990s. He had no problem when he had to practice vigorously for over a month and carry the golden howdah. Given his temperament and agility, the mantle fell on him, which he performed elegantly year after year.

After the legendary Drona, the howdah elephant, who carried the howdah 19 times and died due to electrocution in the forest, Balarama was asked to lead the jamboree.

Balarama has now been rested from the duty of carrying the Golden Howdah due to his age and reducing weight and has been succeeded by Arjuna. Balarama now leads the procession as the 'nishane aane' or the lead elephant.

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Balarama is now looked after at the Morkal Elephant camp at Nagarahole national park and his previous mahout Sannappa has retired and his new master Thimma has taken over.

Balarama's bond with Sannappa

Sannappa was the lead mahout assigned with the job of training the captured Balarama. For over 30 years, the partnership and relations between Balarama and Sannappa is nothing short of a folktale and one that has stood endearing of relationships between man and animal.

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The bonding between Balarama and Sannappa was remarkable and a personification for human-animal relations in the era of increasing conflicts.

At times, Balarama used to refuse to take food from anybody else except Sannappa. New mahout Thimma was earlier serving as kavadi (assistant to mahout) well-groomed and can easily fill into the shoes of Sannappa. Later, Thimma also has got nine years association with Balarama and he understands the jumbo every well.

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