Mysore/Mysuru: Marking the official commencement of grand Dasara-2023, ‘Gajapayana’, a procession of nine caparisoned elephants, led by Abhimanyu that will carry the Golden Howdah (Ambari), began from the elephant camp today.
Gajapayana was set in motion at Veeranahosahalli Gate on the outskirts of Nagarahole National Park in Hunsur Taluk by District Minister Dr. H.C. Mahadevappa, who performed puja to Abhimanyu and team in the presence of Forest Minister Eshwar Khandre, Hunsur MLA G.D. Harish Gowda, MLC C.N. Manjegowda, Mayor Shivakumar and a large number of officers.
The event commenced in the auspicious Tula Lagna between 9.45 am and 10.15 am. Priest S.V. Prahallad Rao, entrusted with performing pujas for the Dasara elephants for several years, conducted the rituals.
The ceremonies began with Padapuja, where ‘Arishina Kumkuma’ was sprinkled at the feet of the elephants. Subsequently, the elephants were treated to ‘Modaka’ and ‘Pancha Phala’ (five fruits). The elephants are scheduled to reach the Forest Department’s Aranya Bhavan at Ashokapuram in city this afternoon as they are transported on trucks. They will receive a traditional welcome at Mysore Palace on Sept. 4. Leading the procession was Abhimanyu from the Mathigodu Elephant Camp, captured in the Hebballa Forest in Kodagu in 1970. Abhimanyu has been an integral part of Dasara since 2012 and served as the lead elephant for the music band carriage until 2015.
Accompanying Abhimanyu were eight other elephants: Dhananjaya, Gopi, Kanjan, Vijaya, Arjuna, Bhima, Varalakshmi and Mahendra. Kanjan was chosen at the last moment as the previously scheduled Parthasarathi is in musth and the Department had to replace him.
Forest Minister Khandre released the list of all the 14 elephants that are participating in this year’s Dasara. Male elephants – Abhimanyu, Arjuna, Bhima, Mahendra, Dhananjaya, Gopi, Prashanth, Sugreeva, Kanjan and Rohith. Female elephants – Vijaya, Varalakshmi, Hiranya and Lakshmi. Today’s batch comprised seven males and two females. The rest of the elephants will form the second batch that will arrive at a later date.
The elephants walked from the Veeranahosahalli Gate till the Nagapura Ashrama School accompanied by folk troupes, Dollu Kunitha, Veeragase, Gombe Kunitha, Patada Kunitha, Mangala Vadya and a team of saxophone players. Women and children accorded a ‘poornakumbha’ welcome. Over 15 dance troupes welcomed the elephants as they walked majestically.
About 4,000 people, primarily tribals from Nagapura Tribal Hamlets 1, 2, 3 and 4, tribals and relatives from Pakshirajapura, Hunsur and Hanagodu attended the event and a festive atmosphere prevailed. Several tourists from Mysuru and Bengaluru also attended today’s ceremony.
The Forest Department had arranged lunch at the Nagapura Ashrama School for over 4,000 people and an elaborate parking system was devised, unlike in the earlier years, people who have clout could bring their vehicles till Veeranahosahalli Gate. Today, all were required to walk over 2 kilometres and those who could not walk were taken in Police vans through the route.
Gajapayana, once an elaborate event where elephants, mahouts, kavadis (caretakers) and their families covered a distance of over 80 to 100 kms on foot from the forests to Mysuru, has now become a symbolic event. In contemporary times, the elephants and their entourage march symbolically for a short distance before being transported in trucks.
Deputy Commissioner Dr. K.V. Rajendra, SP Seema Latkar, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) and Head of Forest Force Rajiv Ranjan, PCCF of Project Tiger Mysuru G.V. Rangarao, Additional PCCF, Project Elephant Shashwati Mishra, Mysuru Circle Conservator of Forests Dr. Malathi Priya, DCF Mysuru (wildlife) Saurabh Kumar, APCCF A.K. Singh, DCF Mysuru (territorial) Basavaraju, Nagarahole Tiger Reserve Director Harshakumar Chikkanaragund and Mysuru Zoo Executive Director D. Mahesh Kumar were present.