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Home > News > Specials

The Rediff Special/George Iype

July 31, 2003






It is, quite literally, an elephantine problem -- and it costs the famous Sri Krishna temple in Guruvayoor, Kerala, apacket.

According toHindu belief,all obstacles in one's life can be cleared by propitiatingLord Ganesha. The temple is thus home to alargecaptive herd of elephants, thanks to generous offerings by grateful politicians, businessmen, film stars andotherdevotees.

But these donations now posea problem for the Guruvayoor temple administration.

Sixty-two elephants, some of them old and ailing, cost the temple around Rs 2.5 crores (Rs 25 million) eachyear for their upkeep.

Among the richest shrines in the country, the Guruvayoor temple administration is not happy about this. Itsauthorities have now issued guidelines on accepting pachyderms from devotees.

The Guruvayoor Devaswom Boardhasset up an Elephant Expert Committee which will physically examine eachanimal offered to ensure that the new entrants are no (pardon the phrase) white elephants.Only after the Committee issues a fitness certificate will the temple accept the gift.

Devaswom Administrator P S Mohan saysthe temple is notagainst looking after the elephants.

"[But] we do not want ourpopulation of elephants to go up," he says.

"We spendlot of money on maintaining the 62 elephants," he adds. "But we do not consider it a waste of money. We consider it the most essential part of the services rendered by the temple management because the devotees who donate the elephants do it with utmost religious fervour and spirituality."

The elephants are housed on a 12-acre plot, known as Ponnathur Kotta, two kilometres from the temple. Devaswom officials saythey spend around Rs 200,000 for the upkeep of each elephant annually. Rs 20 lakhs (Rs 2 million) every year goes as insurance cover. The temple administration hasemployed 165 people to look after the elephants; then there are food, medical and other expenses,which all tots up to Rs2.5 crores.

Butthe elephants also earn the Guruvayoor temple a hefty revenue. They are much sought after for religious rituals atother temples acrossthe state. Last year, the 62 elephants are estimated to have earnedRs 1 crore (Rs 10 million).

A senior templeofficialsaysthe elephants can "never be a great drain on the temple's resources. Our temple is one of the richest in the country and we do not havemonetary problems in maintaining the elephants."

"But," he adds, "we do not want to increase the livestock because it is not easy to look after a large herd of captive elephants."

New temple guidelines stipulate that any devotee wishing to donate an elephant should also pay Rs 400,000 towards its upkeep.Instead of donating an elephant, a devotee can also make a 'symbolic offer' by paying Rs 500,000 to the temple.

The latter provision, temple officials say, makes economic sense for the devotees because an elephant can cost anything between Rs 600,000 andRs 800,000.

"If a devotees offers an elephant to the temple, it could cost him more than Rs 10 lakhs (Rs 1 million) including the maintenance charge of Rs 400,000 we now ask for," a temple official points out.

But the new ruleshave not deterred devotees. Temple officials reveal thateight applications to donate elephantsare pending with the temple administration.

K P Krishnan, a frequent visitor to the Guruvayoor temple, saysits elephants are the best looked-after pachyderms in the country.

"The Guruvayoor temple," he declares, "takes care of its elephants much better than the Indian government orKerala government looks after its citizens."


The Rediff Specials


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Number of User Comments: 17




Sub: Rude Behaviour of Police / Security at Guruvayoor Temple

I fully agree with Prabeesh. I also had the same experience when I visited the temple last time. I saw that one of the securities ...


Posted by Radhakrishnan K S





Sub: guruvayoor temple

All peoples are same in front of the God, there is no discrimination at all. when i visited guruvayoor last time, we were standing in ...


Posted by prabeesh





Sub: non allowance of non hindus

Lord krishna has not said that non hindus should not be allowed to see him.This type of cruelty by guruvayoor devasom should be avoided.


Posted by arunshankar





Sub: Where is the money going from the Guruvayoor temple

Hai All Devotees of Lord Krishna, All of us know that Guruvayoor temple is gettin more Revenue by the offerings of the Devottees to the ...


Posted by Sreejith





Sub: The other side...

This article is all praise for the Guruvayur Devasom but what about the other side. I'm a resident who stays very close to punnathu kotta ...


Posted by Vinod




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