Punnathoor kota
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Punnathoorkotta, near the Sree Krishna Temple at Guruvayoor, Kerala, houses probably the largest single group of captive elephants in the world. The number is currently 62. It is here that the elephants that are offered to the deity by the rich and the mighty are kept. Punnathoorkotta, during the annual "sukha chikitsa"(restorative treatment) given to the elephants during the rainy Malayalam month of `Karkadakam'.

During this period, each of the elephants are given extra food, in addition to the usual diet of palm leaves and grass. Those animals which show signs of weakness are given, in addition, pressed rice, dates, plantains, egg and milk.

The sprawling, forested grounds swarm with elephants. Right at the entrance, you are greeted by huge tuskers, their trunks thrown casually around a tusk, the elephants standing on three legs, probably to rest the fourth leg, and calves as active and mischievous as any young one. Further ahead, there are more in various sizes, shapes and colours. 

Most visitors to Punnathoorkotta are so smitten by the beauty of the beasts that they hardly see the notice boards. Their contents range from warnings against getting too close to the elephants to solicitations for donations to feed and maintain them. Then there are 35 office staff who are paid at State Government scales. There is an in-house veterinarian, besides livestock inspectors, supervisors and their assistants.

Among the announcements, one forbids you from asking for receiving strands from the tail tuft of the elephant. These strands, which are as tough as steel wires and as supple as rubber, are in demand for making charms and amulets. This explains the absence of tufts on most captive elephants of which there are hundreds in Kerala. The elephants of Punnathoorkotta are, of course, an exception in this respect .



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