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A touch of Kerala in Tamil Nadu

Staff Reporter



JUMBO SALUTE: Elephants waiting for receiving Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa at a function held at Tirunelveli on Wednesday.

TIRUNELVELI: This dry-as-dust southern Tamil Nadu city on Thursday witnessed a unique Kerala-style spectacle of 21 caparisoned elephants in an array. They had been brought in specially from Kollam district in an overnight road journey in a parade of trucks, to welcome Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa. She was here to inaugurate a memorial to V.O. Chidambaranar (VOC), the legendary shipping pioneer and nationalist. Tamil Nadu Minister for Industries Nainar Nagenthran was the organiser of the show.

Besides the respective mahouts, four veterinarians had accompanied the animals, on the approximately 200-km inter-State journey. The cavalcade had reached here by midnight. On arrival, the veterinarians checked up the elephants. They were then fed sugarcane, banana, palm jaggery, coconut leaves and puffed rice. Although they had come from a rain-drenched region to humid Tirunelveli, the elephants did not seem to exhibit any visible signs of strain.

The Minister had also brought in 32 artists to play chenda melam, the typically Kerala-style drum routine. Then there were 30 persons to play pancha vaadyam. In addition, there were four kathakali artists, four theyyam artists and 20 young women in the traditional Kerala attire of mundu and suitable top to offer a welcome to Ms. Jayalalithaa.

As the Chief Minister, arriving from Chennai, came out of the State-owned helicopter, she was received by Ministers S. Karuppasamy and K.P. Anbazhagan, besides Mr. Nagenthran; District Collector Atul Anand and Mayor A. Jayarani, with blooming bouquets. As her car moved slowly towards the venue, just 200 metres from the helipad, the decorated pachyderms lined the road. The artists played the drums and the pancha vaadyam. Then came the Kathakali and Theyyam artists, fully made-up, and the young women, to receive a visibly cheerful Ms. Jayalalithaa.

After this round of the reception, she was received by 250 folk artists, brought by Mr. Nagenthran from Madurai. They simultaneously performed folk forms such as Thappu and Oyilaattam.

Last night, Mr. Nagenthran had arranged a fireworks display.

Ms. Jayalalithaa has a well-known soft corner for elephants. In 2003, she initiated a widely welcomed system of temple elephants in Tamil Nadu being provided a few weeks of rest and recuperation each year at a designated centre at State expense. In 2001, she presented a calf elephant to the Guruvayur temple.

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