By M.T. Yogesh Kumar
Mysore/Mysuru: This Dasara the responsibility of carrying the 750-kg Golden Howdah (Ambari) with the idol of Goddess Chamundeshwari placed inside it, is on elephant Abhimanyu, who has just got promoted from the post of Vice-Captain to Captain. So far, the mighty Arjuna successfully donned the role of a Captain and had carried the Golden Howdah for eight consecutive times and once, years ago, he successfully carried it when the Howdah was mounted on him from Bannimantap to Mysore Palace after elephant Drona carried it during the Vijayadashami procession from the Palace to Torchlight Parade Grounds.
Arjuna has turned 60 and as per the Supreme Court directions and Union Government’s guidelines, no elephant aged above 60 years is supposed to be tasked with heavy and stressful duty. So the Captain’s mantle has now fallen on Abhimanyu, who is 54 years old.
Abhimanyu has proved that he is a trouble-shooter and has participated in more than 125 wild and rogue elephant capturing operations and in over 12 tiger trapping tasks in the last 30 years.
He is the Mr. Reliable of the Forest Department and officials say that Abhimanyu will successfully carry the Golden Howdah this year and will do it till he turns 60. “Abhimanyu will carry out all the tasks entrusted to him and he has been obedient and faithful all these years,” says his Mahout Vasantha who has compared Howdah-carrying as a divine task.
Abhimanyu, the combing operation hero, is courageous to the core and has gone to places including Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra to capture rouge elephants. He has been summoned to all places wherever other trained elephants fail to mellow down wild elephants that create havoc in human habitats.
“He has always lived up to our expectations and he is a dare-devil. No matter how rouge the elephants are, he takes charge and executes the task successfully. Wild elephants surrender meekly to Abhimanyu’s mighty prowess and hitting techniques where he simultaneously uses his tusks and trunk,” revealed Vasantha who has been with the pachyderm since his childhood.
“Abhimanyu and I share a special bond and I have been with him since my childhood. I can proudly say that because of the bond between us, we have been successful in many elephant and tiger capturing operations,” Vasantha said.
Captured in 1977
The pachyderm was captured in Hebballa forest range in Kodagu district in 1977 in a Khedda operation. “My father Sannappa was a Kavadi to Arjuna and he took over as the Mahout of Abhimanyu in 1977. After his retirement I was appointed as the Mahout in 2009. My father used to treat him like his child and I continue the same relationship and he is more than a family member for me,” he explained.
In 2002, a tiger was injured by a snare kept by hunters at Sunkadakatte inside the Nagarahole Tiger Reserve. “The tiger was holed up inside a bear cave at Mastigudi in D.B. Kuppe Range and it had created fear psychosis among the tribals as it was unable to hunt and might attack human beings as they are soft targets. The Forest Department launched an operation to capture the tiger and Abhimanyu joined the operation along with Arjuna, Bharata and two female elephants,” Vasantha said.
“As we neared the bear cave, the tiger, alerted by its keen sense of smell, roared. All the elephants except Abhimanyu fled the scene. Abhimanyu stood ground and finally, doctors were able to fire tranquilliser darts at the feline and it was rescued,” he revealed.
Saviour of staff
According to Vasantha, Abhimanyu has a do or die attitude and protects its mahout and other people in case their lives are in danger. “Many times, during wild elephant capture operations, the wild pachyderms try to attack us. But Abhimanyu comes in between and prevents the attack. There are many instances where Abhimanyu attacked the wild elephants that were charging at us,” he said.
Abhimanyu has participated in Dasara since 21 years and has enough experience in the festivities. This time he will carry the Golden Howdah. He is 2.68 metres in height and has a length of 3.51 metres. Abhimanyu weighs 5,290 kgs.
He used to draw ‘Aane Gaadi’ wherein a band of musicians attached to KARP Mounted Company perform during Jumboo Savari. But as Abhimanyu got bigger and fatter, the ‘Aane Gaadi’ became too small for his size and he was relieved of this duty. Abhimanyu usually carries the wooden replica of the Howdah during the Srirangapatna Dasara procession. Since the last five years during Mysuru Dasara, he has been given training to carry more weight of sandbags.