Ailing Balarama passes away
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Ailing Balarama passes away

May 8, 2023

He had carried the Golden Howdah 13 times in Dasara procession

Mysuru/Hunsur: Balarama (67), the former Captain of the Dasara jumbo squad, who had successfully carried the 750 kg Golden Howdah during Dasara procession for 13 times passed away due to suspected Tuberculosis (TB) at Bheemanakatte Elephant Camp in Hunsur taluk yesterday.

Balarama was ailing since a month. Though the Forest Department Veterinarians tried their best to save Balarama, it collapsed yesterday morning and breathed his last in the evening.

A very gentle and calm elephant, Balarama was the most loved elephant among the Forest officials and also for the public. He had continuously carried the Golden Howdah during Jumboo Savari from Mysore Palace premises to Bannimantap for 13 times from 1999 to 2011. As he crossed 60 years of age, he retired in 2012 but still participated as ‘Nishane’ elephant in Dasara for five to six years. Due to age factor, he was stopped from participating in Dasara in 2020.

His journey: Captured in 1987 at Kattepura Forest in Kodagu, Balarama was housed in Mathigod Elephant Camp and since five years he was being taken care at Bheemanakatte Elephant Camp near Mathigod Elephant Camp in Hunsur taluk.

Balarama had participated in Dasara Mahotsav for 25 years and he was given the responsibility of carrying the Golden Howdah after the unfortunate death of Drona.

It is learnt that Balarama was also suffering from intestinal disorder. On Apr. 19, Balarama began to vomit whatever he was consuming and when the veterinarians checked him, they suspected something had stuck in his throat and since then he was being fed with porridge and treated. It was later found that a piece of wood in ‘Y’ shape had got stuck in his throat and while consuming food, that piece of wood had travelled to it stomach, which was removed through his anus.

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Balarama, while eating leaves had consumed a ‘Y’ shaped stick and the stick while travelling to his stomach had caused injuries causing bleeding. This was an added problem to his existing age-related illness, it is learnt.

He was a one-eyed jack: Before he was captured, Balarama had lost his left eye during a fight with another elephant. Despite having a single eye, he had successfully carried the Golden Howdah for 13 times. Since past five years, he had developed blur vision in his right eye, but still, he used to go to the forest for grazing and used to come back to his camp.

Before he was captured, Balarama was being spotted frequently at villages in Kattepura Forest limits and had not attacked nor injured anyone. After being captured, Balarama had become calm and in his lifetime, he had not caused any problems to anyone. He used to remain calm and gentle even when people used to click photos with him during Dasara and had become the most loved elephant to all.

He was also a trainer: During his stay in the camp, Balarama had turned into a trainer for young elephants. Young Bheema was his favourite and Balarama used to converse with him frequently. He used to look upon other young elephants lovingly.

Balarama was shot last year: Balarama was shot by a farmer when he was let out to the adjacent forest for grazing on the night of Dec. 15 last year. The Forest Department staff, who heard gun shots and elephant cries (trumpet), went in the direction from where they heard the sound only to find Balarama lying injured on the ground.

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The Forest staff then conducted a search and found farmer Suresh atop a tree holding a single barrel gun, close to the spot. Forest officials said that Suresh should have fired shots in the air to scare away the jumbo, instead of firing directly at Balarama, causing injuries to him and as such, Suresh was arrested under Wildlife (Protection) Act.

Veterinarian Dr. Ramesh, who had removed about 35 cartridges (Cycle Ball type) from Balarama’s  body and dressed the wounds, used a hand held metal detector to detect the metal balls lodged inside Balarama’s body.

After Balarama recovered, he  was brought back to its camp by Mahouts and Kavadis.

Last rites held with full State honours

Post-mortem was conducted this morning following which Priest S.V. Prahallad Rao performed puja to Balarama and the last rites were conducted with full State honours at Bheemanakatte Elephant Camp in the presence of senior Forest Department officials and staff.


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