Kerala along with its Spices, Dark green forests, expensive tea leaves, Backwaters, Temples and Dosa is also famous for its massage. There are many Spas in Kerala which give extremely relaxing and rejuvenating Ayurvedic massages. But one peculiar spa in Guruvayur attracts people to just watch the massage and get relaxed.
The Punnathur Kotta Elephant yard in Gurvayur is a spa for elephants. At about 3kms away from famous Guruvayur temple is this old fortress converted into an elephant spa. Elephants who have worked hard throughout the year get nice relaxing massages twice a day. Our driver, Nisar was giving us information till we waited for the entry ticket, “Sir the animal activists find this place as hell for elephant but I never get this, as elephants of Punnathur are said to live longer than normal.”
This alerted us as we thought there might be something very disturbing about the place and the driver trying to cover it up for his state. The scenario inside was exactly as Nisar said extremely pleasing, 2-3 people were scrubbing an elephant with coconut coir.
The elephant seemed to be extremely relaxed in sleeping position with its trunk oscillating above its head. Even we tried scratching the elephant’s back but the playful elephant kept moving its ear, splashing water on us.
The Punnatur Kotta Fortress is spread across 11acres and houses about 59 elephants at a time. We had witnessed only two of them. To see more, we strolled passed the Shiva temple into the woods where some elephants were seen gulping huge piles of green grass, while some were scratching their backs against a tree.
As we walked through these elephants, we heard multiple voices chanting same word, “Nikkuka.” A group of 7-8 people walked past us with what seemed to be heavy buckets. We asked Nisar what were they offering the elephants? and was it a daily ritual to chant before offering food to these god-like creatures?
Nisar laughed hard at this question. Not knowing how to react, we laughed too. But the joke was on us “Neenguka” in Malalyam means “move”. The people were just telling us to move and not chanting. The elephants also seemed to understand our joke, as all were flapping their ears and some were trumpeting.
But even elephants did not give me that importance. Nisar immediately said, “Look how happy they are when they get their favourite food; Rice mixed with jaggery, turmeric and other ayurvedic tonics. This improves the health of these over-worked elephants.”
The elephants really seemed to be enjoying their lunch except for one who was harshly trumpeting for too long. We moved to look what was wrong but we were stopped by care takers as the elephant was rampantly trying to break the chains tied to a concrete block near him. While others seemed to have adjusted with the chains to enjoy this luxurious life, this one seemed to want freedom than the tasty jaggery rice or relaxing massage.
Despite his powerful attempts the mahout calmly climbed up the elephant and started rubbing its back. The elephant slowly calmed down and got a nice pat from all the care takers. No violent methods were used in the whole scene.
Nisar was smiling again, he knew this had created a positive image of his state. The people in Kerala as we saw treat elephants as god and worship them. The activists taking in consideration one or two events have tampered the image of Kerala as God’s own country to Devil’s violent country. Recent scarring news highlighted an elephant being killed with fire crackers in food, but since 1985 Punnatur Kotta has been catering elephants, how many activists and media appreciated this great effort?
This tour did nothing but alerted me that tourists should never create any image before they actually visit the place. Both good and bad images can ruin the actual tour. With its hospitality one thing is for sure everyone is a god in God’s own country, Kerala.
“Freedom is the power to choose your own chains.“Jean Jacques Rousseau.
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