Mysuru Dasara: Who will replace Arjuna as Howdah elephant?
Bengaluru, Sep 20: With Arjuna, the howdah-carrying Dasara elephant soon to lead a retired life, the forest officials now have a new task this year, to find a replacement to the majestic elephant.
Authorities are facing an elephantine task to train the second-in-line elephants to keep the state's Naada Habba (state's festival) alive.
The more seasoned among the elephants Abhimanyu from the Muthigodu Elephant camp, who has been part of the Dasara celebrations for 18 years is the front runner to replace him.
Abhimanyu is the 'king of forest, trouble-shooter and AK-47' all rolled into one.
The 52-year-old Abhimanyu is from Titimathi elephant camp and was captured in 1977 in Hebballa forest. A veteran of 15 Dasaras, Abhimanyu is vested with the responsibility of drawing the carriage carrying the palace musicians during the Vijayadashmi procession. He pulls the 30-foot-long cart with the police band artistes on board, during Jamboo Savari. Know for his no-nonsense approach.
But Dasara apart, Abhimanyu is an alpha male who brooks no nonsense in the jungles while subduing the rampaging wild elephants.
Always Abhimanyu has acted as a trouble shooter for forest officials whenever they faced problems on wild front. Abhimanyu is in the forefront to mend these wild pachyderms.
He has no temperament issues and performed
Dasara duties for 17 years. He has the looks and gait to be the howdah elephant. His USP is stamina which is key to be the howdah elephant. Besides, his relationship with mahout Vasantha is incredible. The only drawback is that he doesn't have a tusk like Arjuna or Balarama.
Dhananjay, youngest among all is being considered by the forest officials for his appearance and temper.
But he need to hone skills that would come over a period of time after being part of the elite team.
He was captured from Yasaluru region in Hassan in 2013 and has been deployed in operations to drive away or capture other 'rogue' elephants that habitually frequent human landscape and inflict damage. He measures around 2.78 m and weighs nearly 4,050 kg and is among the more powerful of the new generation tuskers with the Forest Department.
They cannot replace the seasoned ones at one go since they need rigorous training to ready for major tasks as being executed by tuskers like Arjuna, which has been carrying howdah since over six years and Balarama which carried howdah for 12 years in a row with great precision.
Though Abhimanyu is being touted as a suitable replacement for Arjun, Dhananjay is the next who falls in line.
Selecting Dasara elephants
The Dasara Elephants are usually caught by the elephant trainers via the Khedda operation. During the Wodeyar rule, the elephants thus caught were inspected in an open field for strength, personality, and character.
The walking styles, weaknesses to seduction, the facial charisma were some of the factors considered for selection. The tusker should have no injuries or marks on his body. Then the chosen elephants were trained for the festival.
Arjuna to retire next year
Arjuna, who carried the Golden Howdah for eight long years, is likely to be unavailable for next Dasara as the majestic elephant nears the retirement age.
As per the Supreme Court order no elephant aged above 60 years be made to carry weight and give stressful duty, this would be Arjuna's last year of carrying the 750-kg weighing Golden Howdah as he is 59 years now and turns 60 next year.
However, the final call will be taken by the doctors who are tasked the selection of elephants for the Dasara festivities.