This elephant was being fed and rested prior to a huge, night-time temple procession as part of Nilambur's Patutsav festival celebrations. Up to 40,000 people come to visit Nilambur for the festival. The procession takes place between two Hindu temples in an area of Nilambur that is sacred to Hindus - the old Royal Palace is also situated here; only hindus are permitted to live in the houses in this compound and visitors are required to be respectful and not eat meat whilst in this precinct. The elephant, whose name I sadly cannot recall, is also the star of numerous Mollywood (the Kerala equivalent of Bollywood) movies, and is in his mid-forties. All the elephants used for the procession, three this year, are males -introducing a female would allow certain urges to take over the proceedings and it would all be a lot less solemn than it is supposed to be. Feeding the elephants is fun too - getting a football sized ball of sticky, masala-spiced rice and pushing it elbow deep into the elephant's mouth is slightly nerve-wracking at first, but the elephants are gentle. They get about 12 kilos of rice, several bunches of bananas, whole pineapples, quarter kilo cakes of coconut jaggery (a non-processed sugar), mangoes, etc. as well as feeding all day long on greenery from palms, etc. It's no longer legal to catch wild elephants, and most of those that were caught from the wild are now in the care of temples who rely on donations for their care.
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