The Elephants of Dasara, a sight to behold!
Arjuna, the 56 years old incredibly eye-catching elephant, who lives much of the year in a forest camp is all set to carry the golden-howdah during the Jamboo Savari, the grand Dasara finale in Mysuru.
Female elephants 39-year-old Kaveri and 60-year-old Vijaya will accompany Arjuna. While Balarama, who carried the howdah 13 times, wil perform the role of 'Nishane' elephant, Abhimanyu will be the 'Noupath' elephant.
Arjuna- the captain
The cynosure of all eyes since 2012 is Arjuna who, during the Vijayadashmi procession, will carry the idol of goddess Chamundeshwari that will be placed on a golden howdah weighing around 750 kg. Arjuna is around 58 years old and is 2.95 m in height, 3.75 m in length and between 5,500 to 5,870 kg in weight.
He was caught in the Khedda operations of 1968 in Kakanakote forests and has participated in 18 editions of Mysuru Dasara. Said to have been temperamental initially, Arjuna 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.
Balarama- the gentle giant
He participated in the world-famous Mysore Dasara processions for over 20 years. In this period, he carried the idol of goddess Chamundeshwari on the fabled Golden Howdah as part of Jumboo Savari, 13 times, before he retired from the ranks. That makes him the longest-serving 'Dasara Elephant'. What also sets him apart is his nature: he is gentle, mild-tempered and an introvert, unlike other rogue elephants.
Abhimanyu- the trouble shooter
Abhimanyu will be the Nauphat elephant with its mahout Vasantha carrying a decorated Umbrella. The 52-year-old 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.
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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. For forest department officials Abhimanyu is 'king of forest, a trouble-shooter and a sort of assault rifle all rolled into one.
Vikrama- 'Pattada Aane'
Vikrama is 45 years old and was captured from Doddabetta forests in 1990. At 2.6 m in height and weighing 3,820 kg, he has participated in 14 editions of Dasara and since 2015 has been roped in as 'Pattada Aane' for religious ceremonies of the palace.
Gopi from Dubare elephant camp is around 36 years old and was captured in 1993 from Karekoppe forests. He has participated in eight editions of Mysuru Dasara so far. He is 2.62 m in height and weighs 3,710 kg.
Dhananjaya -the debutant
Making his Dasara debut is Dhananjaya, 35 years old from Dubare. 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.
Dhananjaya, now 38 years old, is slated to replace Arjuna as the next elephant to carry the 'chinnada ambari' (a howdah of gold) which weighs over 750 kg.
Varalakshmi, at 62, is the senior-most in the first batch of six elephants. She is 2.4 m in height and weighs 3,325 kg. Captured from Kakanakote forests in 1977, she has participated in nine editions of Dasara. She is from Mathigodu elephant camp and is described as passive in temperament.
Chaitra is 47 years old and from Bandipur. She weighs 3,600 kg and is 2.52 m in height. The daughter of the elephant Gange, Chaitra was born in the camp and has been described as calm and gentle in her temperament. She has already participated in Mysuru Dasara four times.
Mathigodu Elephant Camp: Balarama (60), Abhimanyu (52), Drona (37), Varalakshmi (61).
Dubare Elephant Camp: Kaveri (40), Vijaya (61), Prashantha (62), Dhananjaya- (37),
Gopi (35), Vikrama (44).
Bandipur Elephant Camp: Chaitra (46).
Balle Elephant Camp: Arjuna (58).