She was also in water, but bathing:

One morning in Hampi, I saw a small crowd on Tungabhadra river bank. Everyone was watching a big elephant. She was lying down in the water. She was bathing and her caretaker was busy scrubbing her skin. The sight reminded me of queens bath. They used to lie down and relax, and her caretakers used to take care of her cleanliness.

Yes, she is Laksmi, an elephant of Sri Virupaksha temple. 7th-century Virupaksha temple made under the ruler Deva Raya II of the Vijayanagara Empire. And since then a custom kept ongoing. Sri Virupaksha temple will have its elephant which will be worshipped and taken care of by the temple authorities. Hindus worship elephants as God. They worship the elephant-headed god Ganesha. Many temples have their elephants whom they take care of like a family. Many temples in the south, follow this custom as a ritual. Lakshmi’s parent belonged to some other temple. Post her birth she was sent to Sri Visrupaksha temple authorities to take care. And this tradition is being followed for years now. And Lakshmi is one of the biggest assets of the temple and Hampi.

On the other side, on 27th May 2020 (I want to note down this date) an elephant that was pregnant died in Kerala. She was also standing in Velliyar river for long. Not for bathing, but to get rid of that unbearable pain, as she faced the most brutal heinous animal abuse. She ate a pineapple filled with firecrackers, offered to her allegedly by some local. The fruit exploded in her mouth. I am still looking for a simple answer. Why? How could they? Whenever I close my eyes and try to think about her, I remember of Lakshmi.

Playful Lakshmi

The elephant should have got the right treatment, as Lakshmi gets:

I got to spend a half-day with great Lakshmi. One morning around 6:30 A.M I went to the Virupaksha temple. It was less crowded. The morning vibes, the sound of mantras and incentives smell along with the 7th centuries architecture, took me to a time machine ride. Suddenly I heard the sound. The queen was entering the temple with her caretaker. He was feeding her. I didn’t waste time and offered him my help. He gave me a brush and asked me to rub her back. Post that she would be headed towards the river for the bath. When I touched her it was an instant welcome from her without any judgement.

The animals trust naturally. As Lakshmi did, like that Silent Valley’s elephant did. The only difference is, her trust was brutally broken. But did not they face such treachery many times in past, in present? Still, how can they trust the human race? Today I can’t imagine how Lakshmi trusted me that day. Why any other Lakshmi would trust my race? They should not.

My Experience with that elephant… That elephant’s experience with human…

I left my bag, phone aside and touched the gentle elephant. She just saw deep in my eyes. I felt overwhelmed. It was so polite, so innocent, words can’t describe that feeling. She wrapped me with her trunk, then touched my head and then concentrated on her food again while I rubbed her. Meanwhile, people started coming with their offerings for God and her. She ate all; bananas, grass, laddoos, attention, affection.

Inside the temple, there was a big gate which leads to the river. Through that, the elephants went for their bathing. Lakshmi was so happy when the time of her bath came. She moved swiftly and gently towards the gate. I followed her. Outside the temple, there was a market. The vendors were selling offerings and fruits. Suddenly Lakshmi stopped there. One shop owner came with bananas and gave to Lakshmi. She blessed him and moved ahead. But she stopped again in front of another shop. That time a lady owner gave her bananas and apples. So basically she had chosen a few specific shops and people, who came to offer her love in the form of foods. She took all and blessed them with her trunk and moved ahead. The moment she saw the river, she went fast towards it. and I saw the repetition of the first day’s incident. Just that day I helped her in her bathing for two hours.

The end of the story:

Post that the same way she came back to temple. The Pandit Ji came and placed a sandal’s tika on her forehead. He worshipped her with incentives, coconut, and feed her again. And the moment of bye came. I offered her some bananas and saved a few bananas for the monkeys outside. Generally, she placed her trunk post having the food. But she wrapped me around in her trunk. I thought she was trying to stop me. But she took the rest bananas and then blessed me.

Isn’t the ending beautiful, emotional? No one deserves a brutal ending like the Kerala elephant had. Why and what made us chose such behaviour? Why we lose humanity? Both Lakshmi and the elephant were hungry. They should get food. That’s it. Nothing else, believe me, nothing else. No one should be killed in the name of food.

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