Guruvayur temple's celebrated elephant 'Gajaratnam' Padmanabhan's death at the Punathoorkotta, a training centre for captive elephants near the Sri Krishna temple, on Wednesday. The tusker was among the most sought after elephants of the Guruvayur temple in Kerala's Thrissur. He carried the idol of the presiding deity Lord Krishna for more than 60 years. The Guruvayur Devaswom Board, which oversees the administration of the Guruvayur temple, said that the tusker was unwell for the last two weeks. During the course of the treatment, his condition suddenly deteriorated and doctors declared him dead at 2 pm.
Padmanabhan was one of the most sought after elephant of the Guruvayur temple and used to charge Rs 55,000 a day for temple procession festivals. For special occasions, his per day rent, also known as ekkam, was as high as Rs 82,000. In 2004, he had set the highest ekkam record and charged Rs 2.25 lakh a day, for the procession at the Nenmara-Vallanki vela.
The elephant was offered to the Guruvayur temple in 1954 by a business family from Palakkad's Ottappalam. Since then, he had been carrying the idol of Lord Krishna. He enjoyed a massive fan following in Kerala and his demand would rise manyfold during the famous Thrissur Pooram. With long tusks and a ground-touching trunk, Padmanabhan had an attractive demeanour, which gained him the title of "Gajaratnam".
Scores of devotees attend Padmanabhan's funeral
Chanting "Narayana Narayana", hundreds of devotees attended the funeral procession of Padmanabhan. The devotees believed he was an avatar of Guruvayur Kesavan, one of the most celebrated pachyderms owned by Guruvayur Devaswom. Following the death of its leading pachyderms, the Guruvayur temple closed its gates for two days.
Several people took to social media to condole the demise of 'Gajaratnam'. South Indian playback singer Anoop Sankar posted a picture of himself with Padmanabhan and wrote that he didn't know that was the last "Pranam" he offered to him. "Never ever knew in wildest of dreams that this was the last Pranam I was offering to you dearest Gajaratnam Guruvayur Padmanabhan," Sankar wrote on Facebook.
Youth Congress leader Raksha Ramaiah S wrote, Where ever he went, people welcomed him with garlands and even spread floral carpets for him".