Mysuru: When you’re as big as an elephant, you have to spend a good deal of your time eating. Due to their enormous size, these gentle giants consume 200-250 kg of food on a daily basis. This is enough to produce a whopping 50 kg of dung. And during Dasara, the eating capacity increases, thanks to strenuous routine.
There are 12 Dasara elephants inside the Mysore Palace premises and on an average, they poo around 600 kg every day, spreading out in Palace and the Jumboo Savari route where they are taken out for rehearsals. The dung is considered holy by believers and there are people who collect the dung for pujas as for them, elephants mean Lord Ganesha.
If some people collect the poop and take it home, some remove their footwear and stand on it as according to them, elephant dung reduces body temperature. Among the elephants, the poop discarded by Howdah elephant Arjuna is in great demand. People queue-up to collect his dung on the Vijayadashami day as he walks majestically carrying the Golden Howdah from the Mysore Palace to the Torchlight Parade Grounds at Bannimantap.
Speaking to Star of Mysore, Jayanth, who was collecting dung on the Jumboo Savari route, said that his elders told him that there will be prosperity and peace in a family if the dung is brought home and worshipped. “Every year, I make it a point to collect dung and perform pujas. These pujas have special significance on Ganesh Chaturthi Day as it is the Day of Lord Ganesha and he will remove all obstacles in your life,” he said.
After the puja rituals, the dung is put either at the base of a coconut tree or flown in running water, Jayanth added. Elephant poop is also considered to have medicinal properties and its contact with human skin is believed to cure heat boils and certain skin infections. It also cools the temperature of the body and that is the reason why people stand on the dung with bare legs.
Forest Dept. veterinarian Dr. D.N. Nagaraj said that elephants eat a host of leaves and are provided with nutritious food. Some of the leaves have medicinal properties and this is the reason behind people standing on dungs so that it can cure heat boils.
In Botswana, where the highest population of African elephants reside, people light up a piece of poop to keep mosquitoes away. Despite the vast quantities of food they eat, an elephant digests only about 45 percent of what it consumes. As elephants are herbivores with highly fibrous diets, much of the undigested material passes straight through them as intact fibres. And this is why their excrement can easily be made into paper products, Nagaraj said.
Dung test: Elephant dung also tells experts about their health. Twice a day, Forest Department Assistant Rangaraju, famous as “nail man”, tests poop of elephants to testify the health condition of the pachyderm.
“Elephant dung tells us a lot about its health. We can see if the food is digested well or if there are any worms or insects in its stomach or if the elephant is suffering from a stomach ailment. Dungs of all the 12 Dasara elephants are examined closely both in the morning and evening. Medicines are fed accordingly,” Rangaraju said.