THRISSUR: Guruvayur Kannan, the 49-year-old tusker, emerged first in the ‘Anayottam’ (elephant race) on Monday which marked the opening of the annual 10-day festival at the Sree Krishna temple, Guruvayur.
This is the ninth time that Guruvayur Kannan has emerged victorious. Elephants Achuthan and Jr Madhavankutty finished second and third respectively. Though 28 elephants had lined up at the starting point of the race at Manjulal, only five actually participated in the race, which was conducted amid tight security.
Only the mahouts were allowed to run behind the racing elephants.
There was a huge crowd on the temple premises to watch the race. People occupied vantage positions to get a better glimpse of the race. The five elephants which participated in the race were received with ‘nirapara’ and blowing of conches in front of the temple. When the race reached the temple gate, only three tuskers were allowed to get inside. Among them, Kannan completed seven rounds around the sanctum sanctorum and touched the flagmast.
Legend has it that the origin of the elephant race in Guruvayur can be traced back to the ego clashes between the rulers of the erstwhile princely state of Cochin and the Zamorins of Kozhikode.
The Guruvayur temple belonged to the Zamorins but the elephants for the festival were brought from Cochin. On one occasion when the ties between the two rulers strained over some petty ego clashes, the King of Cochin banned the participation of any elephants from the region in the festival. Hence the Zamorin was forced to conduct the morning ‘Seeveli’ that year without elephants.
But by noon, the elephants trooped into the Guruvayur temple from the Thrikanamathilakam temple, near Kodungallur, that was part of Cochin. Legend has it that the elephants had snapped their chains and come to Guruvayur on their own. To mark this event the elephant race is conducted every year on the first day of the festival.
On this day the temple authorities conduct ‘anayilla seeveli’ (procession without caparisoned elephants).
Traditional physician Avanapparambu Maheswaran Namboodiripad and a team of veterinarians led by K C Panicker, examined the elephants before the race. Guruvayur Devaswom chairman T V Chandra Mohanan and administrator K Venugopal were present on the occasion and only those elephants certified by the veterinarians participated in the race.
Later, temple thantri Chennas Namboodiripad hoisted the festival flag.
The rituals for the first day ended with the Anayilla seeveli, ‘Athazhapuja’, ‘Sreebhoothabali’ and ‘kodippurathuvilakku’ (laying of traditional lamp at the flag).