The elephants, which undergo rigorous training on a daily basis, are fed four times a day. They are given protein rich food between 6 am and 6.30 am; again at 10.30 am after the rehearsals; at 4 pm and once again at 6 pm.
There is a separate kitchen to prepare food for the elephants which is supervised by ‘Nail Man’ Rangaraju. Firstly, the vegetables are chopped and mixed with boiled green gram, black gram, chopped onions, wheat and boiled rice. To this is added butter to be fed for the male elephants and the female elephants are fed without butter.
This apart, the elephants are fed a mixture of coconut, sugarcane, jaggery, paddy, fodder (coarse food) and salt rolled in hay to provide them extra energy.
The elephants also drink 250 to 300 litres of water on a daily basis. They are given water once after early morning food, once in the afternoon and before them going for evening rehearsals.
Just a day before the grand procession, the Forest Department keeps the stock of food (a mixture of coconut, sugarcane, jaggery, paddy, fodder and salt rolled in green grass) at five different points along the procession route.
“The food is fed along the procession route as they must not walk with empty stomach,” said Dr. Nagaraj. They are fed at K.R. Circle, near Bata Show Room, Government Ayurveda College Circle, RMC Circle and at Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Circle. They are also fed once again when they reach Bannimantap Grounds.
This apart, the mahouts and kavadis are given additional stock of food, which they carry in sacks and feed the elephants throughout. The food pattern differs a bit for the Howdah elephant and the two female (Kumki) elephants accompanying him. The officials procure around 300 bunches of small grass (garike hullu) and mix it with glucose, beaten rice (avalakki), coconut and jaggery and store it in the jeep that follows the howdah elephants. The officials also keep emergency medicines, tranquillising guns and other required materials in case of emergencies.
The special food is constantly fed to all three elephants just to make sure they don’t get tired. Sometimes they stop eating after reaching a certain distance. Then the officials make sure to feed the elephants only with glucose to keep the energy flowing.
After the culmination of over 3-hour laborious Jumboo Savari at Bannimantap, the caparisoned elephants are disrobed for a stress-free return journey to the Palace.
On the day of their return to their respective forest camps, the elephants are offered special puja at the Palace before they are transported in lorries with their mahouts and kavadis.