Saturday, August 1, 2020

" Sengamalam " ~ the cutie of Raja Mannargudi

Kerala – Malai Nadu, once the Chera Kingdom is known for its elephants – the most pristine Thrissur Pooram festival attracts lakhs of people witnessing the parading of great elephants and in recent years - Thechikottukavu Ramachandran – caparisoned and leading the show is truly remarkable.   There would circumambulation (seeveli purappadu) of elephants carrying Thidambu (the God) and going around the temple.   15 elephants are caparisoned for the seevili at Thirupunithura  Poornathrayeesa temple vrishchikolsavam.  The pride of them  carrying Lord Poornathrayeesa will be decorated by swarna thalekkettu( nettippattam made of pure gold from the kings treasury. 



திருவல்லிக்கேணியில் சிறப்புற நடைபெறும்  ப்ரம்மோத்சவத்தில் ஆறாம் நாள்  இரவு  கம்பீரமான  யானை வாகனம். திருவல்லிக்கேணி யானை வாஹனம் அமர்ந்த நிலையில், தங்க பூச்சுடன் ஜொலிக்கும். வாகனத்தின் மீது வெண்பட்டுடுத்தி, பெருமாள் பின்பு பட்டர் அமர்ந்து சாமரம் வீசி வருவது தனி சிறப்பு. யானை வாயில் வாழை மரங்கள் வைத்து, நிஜமான களிறு ஓடி வருவதைப் போல் இருக்கும்.   யானை வாகன புறப்பாட்டில் 'ஏசல்", "ஒய்யாளி"  என்று அழைக்கப்படும் சிறப்பு உண்டு.

யானைக்கு பல பெயர்கள் உண்டு.  வேழம், களிறு நாம் அனைவரும் அறிந்ததே ! -   இப்பெயர் உட்பட, களிறு, புகர்முகம், கயவாய், பிடி, வேழம், கைம்மா, ஒருத்தல், கயமுனி, கோட்டுமா, கயந்தலை, கயமா, பொங்கடி, பிணிமுகம், மதமா, தோல், கறையடி, உம்பல், வாரணம், நாகம், பூட்கை, குஞ்சரம், கரி, களபம், மாதங்கம்,  அஞ்சனாவதி, அத்தி, அத்தினி, அரசுவா, அல்லியன், அறுபடை, ஆம்பல்,  இரதி, , தும்பு, வல் விலங்கு, , அஞ்சனம் - என பல பெயர்கள் யானையைக் குறிக்கின்றன.

I love elephants ! ~  four decades ago ! on  (14th Feb 1977)  passed away the most affable Azhwan,  the elephant of Sri Parthasarathi Swami temple.   Not sure whether anyone has photos of that gentle giant – on that sad day, almost thousand people gathered to pay homage and walked alongside for its burial.  It had indeed stolen the hearts of  Triplicanites.  If only we could re-live – some of us would have taken thousands of photos of Azhwan and for sure would have had a fan’s page for it on all social media.

African elephants are the largest land animals on Earth. They are slightly larger than their Asian cousins and can be identified by their larger ears that look somewhat like the continent of Africa. Asian elephants have smaller, rounded ears.  The old saying “elephant in the room” implies that there is an issue that is so obvious and serious that it is easier to pretend it does not exist than actually do something about it.  

                   Sometimes there would be orchestrated campaigns on elephants being chained and treated badly ! in India.  The Western Media which creates this and fabricates stories with some local help would conveniently ignore and bury their cruel ways of killing  1) for ivory 2) in game hunting 3) and in Zoos in conditions totally alien to the mammoth animals.  Westerners perhaps do not even understand that ‘Ivory’ is not an ornament – but it is a body part. .    

Ivory, the hard, white material derived from the tusks and teeth of animals, especially the elephant is very costly. It is used in art and manufacture.  It consists of dentine, a tissue that is similar to bone.  It only looks  good on an elephant and is its body part, not an ornamental piece meant for rich and famous people’s display…………..  Worst is what they call as game hunting ? – it is licensed !  - what is the valour in killing an animal, tracking it with technology support and shooting it with powerful machine gun .. .. will it die happily for the hunter to pose with it ? – the Westerners without correcting or even condemning their World would go globe-trotting to say, animals are treated cruelly.

In Kerala, exists an esoteric relation between the animals and the man. You can find mahouts happily sleeping in between the legs of the giant tuskers – such is the faith and bonding. 

Around 20 kms away from Thiruvarur, is Mannargudi -  founded as an agraharam village as Rajadhiraja Chaturvedimangalam by the Chola king Rajadhiraja Chola (1018–1054 CE).  At this place is the ancient temple Sri  Rajagopalaswami temple constructed by Kulothunga Chola I.  Successive kings of the Chola empire expanded the temple.  It has a big imposing Gopuram, hall of 1000 pillars, and  big compound wall.  While in Divyadesams, the brahmothsavam is a 10 day festival, at Rajamannargudi, the Panguni brahmothsavam is 18 day long. 

Not exactly a post on Mannargudi Sri Rajagopalaswami temple but on the elephant owned by the temple ‘Sengamalam’.



I have toured Kerala, had darshan at Malai Nadu Divyadesams, at Guruvayur, Thrissur, Thiruvambady, Ambalapuzha, Kaladi and more – and have been fascinated by the elephants.  There are legends about Elephants- movies, songs,   video albums, even statues, FB pages and more on - Guruvayur Kesavan,  Thiruvambadi Sivasundar, Thechikottukavu Ramachandran, Mangalamkunnu Karnan, Chirakkal Kalidasan, Puthupally kesavan, Pampadi Rajan , Thrikkadavoor SivaRaju, Mangalamkunnu Ayyappan. Cherupplassery Rajasekaran,  Cherupplassery Parthan, Paramekavu Sri Padmanabhan, Thiruvambady Chandrasekaran, Guruvayur Nandan, .. to name a few !  - yet this post is on ‘Sengamalam’.  While those elephants listed were all majestic tusker standing very tall and awesome – Mannargudi Sengamalam is a petite female with beautiful enrapturing looks.

Though may not be the rule – most Temple elephants in Tamilnadu are lonely ie., there would only one in the Temple and mostly they are females : Srirangam Andal, SriVilliputhur – Jayamalyatha; Sriperumpudur Kothai;  Thiruvanaikaval Akila, Madurai Meenakshi – Parvathi;  Thiruchendur Devayani;  Thiruvidaimaruthur Gomathi;  Nellaiyappar Ganthimathi;  Rameswaram Ramaletchumi;  Sivagangai Sornavalli; Thirukkurungudi Valli;   Azhwarthirunagari Adhinathar thirukovil – Adhi Nayaki; Thirukkolur – Kumudavalli; Irrattai Thiruppathi Lakshmi .. .. to name a few.

Sengamalam is quite a cute darling – the heart-throb of many.  The beautiful looking Temple elephant of Rajamannargudi Sri Rajagopalaswami temple sports a bob-cut.   Its grey-coloured and neatly cropped hair has earned the pachyderm the fond name of ‘bob-cutting’ Sengamalam among devotees.

Understand that its   mahout S Rajagopal, has taken personal care in maintaining its sporting hairdo and he has also set up a shower to help it beat the summer.  Sengamalam was bought from Puthenkulam in Kerala in 2003 for the temple. The person who sold the elephant had  bought it from Assam, said Rajagopal.  In a Press interview, he had told - “I wash Sengamalam's hair using anti-dandruff shampoo three times a day during summer and at least once a day in other seasons. It will completely remove dirt and lice from her head. If she feels itchy, she would scratch away all the hair by rubbing against a tree or pillar,” he said. The mahout said that he used a brush to clean the hair while bathing the animal. “Usually, we rub the hair using stone or scraper but if we use a stone, the hair would not grow,” he said.

Next time, you go to Mannargudi after the lockdown, observe SEngamalam closely, you for sure would be inclined to whip out your camera and take lot of photos of this beauty.

Here are some photos of Cutie Sengamalam  taken by me on 6th April 2019

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

19.7.2020.







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