Could this be the last Dasara for Arjuna?
Bengaluru, Sep 13: Dasara elephant 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.
Arjuna was captured in 1968 during the khedda operation from the Kakanakote in Western ghats. After he was tamed, he is a regular member of Dasara celebrations. Arjuna has donned the lead role of carrying the howdah since 2012.
He also shouldered the responsibility in 1999 after the death of Drona, the then howdah elephant.
In 1996, when Arjuna was taken to Karanji lake for bathing Mahout Annaiah was trampled upon and the blame was trampled upon Arjuna, as he was known for bad temper. However, he was brought back to Dasara camp in 2001 and later took the responsibility of the howdah in 2012.
The stories of Dasara elephants itself is a matter of great fascination for the local population. The participant elephants over the years, and especially the maitre-d-procession (or the lead elephant, last ones named Biligiriranga, Rajendra, Drona, and Balarama) have become part of history and folk legends.
Arjuna, who is participating in Dasara for the last 20 years, has carried the Golden Howdah eight times.
Dasara elephants suffer stress
Scientists at the CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) in Hyderabad have found that the elephants in captivity and used in religious and other activities like tourism and as workforce have high-stress levels.
"Elephants involved in public procession in Mysuru Dasara festival had significantly elevated stress hormones compared to their counterparts at Mysuru Zoo," the research group said.
Elephants born in the wild and females had significantly higher stress-level when exposed to various physical activities.