The first batch of Dasara elephants began their journey to the city from Nagapura village bordering Nagarahole National Park. The Gajapayana was flagged off by District In-Charge Minister V. Sreenivasa Prasad from the Girijana Residential School in the Veeranahosahalli village after traditional rituals and puja at 11 am today.

This ritual marks the beginning of Dasara 2013, with the nine day festivities (Navarathri) to be held from Oct. 5 to 14.

The first batch comprising Balarama, 55 years (mahout Thimma), Abhimanyu, 47 (mahout Vasanth), Arjuna, 53 (mahout Masthi) and Sarala, 71 (mahout Manju), were bathed in the river, massaged with neem oil and treated to a sumptuous meal of paddy wrapped in paddy straw, sugarcane stalks, jaggery and coconuts by the Mahouts, Kavadis and their family members.

The five elephants were then bedecked with their traditional embellishments along with flowers and lined up for the occasion by 10.45 am, when the Minister arrived. He was accorded a warm welcome with purnakumbha by the womenfolk.

The Minister performed pushparchana (showering flowers) on the elephants, puja was performed by Palace Archak Prahlad and as a ritual, the elephants were fed with sugarcane stalks, jaggery and coconuts.

This was followed by stage programmes during which the District Minister made a speech. Citing the reason of poll code of conduct in force till tomorrow, the Minister said that though the elected representatives are not supposed to make any assurances, he assured of providing all facilities to the Mahouts and Kavadis, apart from pursuing the matter of title-deeds for the land in their possession.

Children of the tribal settlement, along with men and women, presented cultural programmes, apart from the folk art troupes taking part in the Gajapayana ceremony.

After lunch, the elephants were loaded onto a truck each which was flagged off by the Minister. It was an emotionally charged event for the Mahouts and their family members who bade farewell with heavy hearts to the elephants that are as good as members of the families.

Sarala and Varalakshmi will be the ‘kumki’ elephants (chaperones) for Arjuna, the howdah-bearer. Though Arjuna was considered a bit moody and arrogant, the organisers had risked in making him the howdah-bearer last year since Balarama, who had been doing the honours for the past 14 years, was rested last time because of its slow movements during rehearsals.

A total of 14 elephants, including four females, will be participating in the Dasara procession rehearsals this year. But only 12 will be part of Jamboo Savari as two will be kept as stand-bys.

Sarala and Varalakshmi did not take part in last two processions as they had given birth to calves. The young jumbos have been weaned away from their mothers, making the two elephants available this year.

Mahouts, kavadis and their family members will accompany the elephants and camp here till the conclusion of the festivities.

Courtesy : Star Of Mysore