A Kerala temple launched a life-size motorised model of an elephant on Sunday as part of performing rites including hauling processional idols at a time when calls to abandon the tradition of employing captive elephants for temple festivals are growing stronger.
People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India donated the 11-foot-tall “robotic elephant”, which has an iron frame and a rubber coating, to the Irinjadappilly Sree Krishna Temple in the Thrissur district. The robotic elephant costs INR500,000. Actor Parvathy Thiruvothu teamed up with PETA to donate it.
The “elephant” was given the name “Irinjadappilly Raman” in a ceremony known as “Nadayiruthal” — which involves presenting an elephant to a deity, local Indian media reported. Raman was also encased for the ritual, much like elephants are for celebrations.
The temple will be able to conduct ceremonies safely and without using any inhumane practices, thanks to the elephant model, according to PETA. This will promote the campaign for the rehabilitation of captive elephants.
The mahout (operator) can use a switch to manipulate the robotic elephant's trunk, which can carry five people at once. A group of craftsmen in Thrissur who have been providing elephant statues for the Dubai Shopping Festival created the mechanised animal.
The officials of the temple, according to temple priest Rajkumar Namboothiri, were pleased to receive the mechanical elephant. “We hope other temples will also think about replacing elephants with robotic elephants for their rituals,” he was quoted as saying by the Indian Express.
Namboothiri claimed that in the past, the family-run temple hired elephants for the celebrations.
The temple has discontinued this practice in recent years due to the expensive cost of purchasing the mammal and the rise in violent elephant occurrences during festivals.
Some domesticated elephants, like “Thechikkottukavu Ramachandran,” have a sizable following on social media.
Elephants play a significant role in Keralan temple festivities. Temple committees compete with one another during the festival season to rent elephants, which come with a high price tag, especially those in the Thrissur and Palakkad districts.
There are WhatsApp communities for people who love particular elephants. Animal advocates have repeatedly spoken out against the parades of tethered elephants down roadways for hours during religious ceremonies and other events.