Tusker Gopikannan wins Guruvayur elephant race

published on March 7, 2009

Cheered and applauded
by a large turnout of devotees and elephant fans, 33-year-old
tusker Gopikannan won the annual elephant race held
ahead of the 10-day-festival of the famous Guruvayur
Sreekrishna temple yesterday.

The winner raced past four other pachyderms who came
close behind it, entered the eastern portals and took
a round of the the shrine before touching the golden

In all 34 elephants lined up at the ‘Manjulal’ area
about half-a-kilometre from the shrine, from which 10
were selected for the race. On either side of the eastern
street of the temple, people thronged in large numbers
to watch the race.

According to temple lore, there was a time when the
Guruvayur temple did not even have a single elephant
of its own and it used to bring tuskers from other places
for festivals. Once, the temple authorities failed to
get an elephant in time. To the surprise of everyone,
a tusker came running from somewhere when the festival
rituals were about to begin. The elephant race, ‘anayottam’
in Malayalam, commemorates that event.

Now the temple has in its possession 65 elephants,
lodged in the elephant park at Punnathur Kotta, some
three km from the shrine.

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