Kottapadi Road, Iringaprom, Kerala 680505, India
A place where all majestic elephants of Kerala State lives.
Location of Punnathur Kotta
More about Punnathur Kotta
Punnathur Kotta (Punnathur Fort), also known as Anakotta is the largest centre for captive elephants in Kerala State. It is a mini sanctuary and home for all the elephants of Guruvayoor Devaswom, the management board of Guruvayoor Temple.
The fort was once home to the local rulers of the region but after the death of the last ruler, it was purchased by the Guruvayoor Devaswom and the grounds of the fort became the home for some of the majestic elephants that the state has ever seen.
History of Punnathur Kotta
During the olden days, growing elephants were considered a status symbol among many of the large and rich families. With the decay of joint family systems in Kerala, supporting elephants became a financial burden to many of these families. Gradually, various temple managements including that of Guruvayoor Temple took the charge of looking after these majestic animals as they play large role in temple festivals and ceremonies.
In addition to the elephants that were taken from the families, Guruvayoor Temple receives elephants as gifts from the devotees and they were all used to be groomed at the temple premises itself. Over time, the number of elephants in the temple started to grow and they were relocated to the grounds of Punnathur Kotta.
The fort previously belonged to one of the local rulers, Punnathur Rajas. After the demise of the last ruler Goda Varma Valia Raja, the property went to receivership and Guruvayoor Devaswom purchased it in 1975. As time passed by, the relevance of the fort subsided and the fort grounds started to house the elephants of the temple. The fort is now popularly known as ‘Anakotta’ (Elephant Fort).
What to expect at Punnathur Kotta?
Over fifty elephants live at Punnathur Kotta. The place is home to elephants of all ages, from months old baby elephants to elephants that are over 70 years old. Some are gentle and friendly, some are indifferent while a few are aggressive enough to be severely restricted by chains. Although all the elephants are loosely tied to a concrete stump with chains, they are always active - eating palm fronds, playing with the mud or having a bath in the nearby tanks. Morning is the usual bathing time. As all the elephants can not be taken to the bath at the same time, a few elephants get a wash in the day. Its incredible to see these large animals laying peacefully while their Mahouts scrub and wash them.
In addition to being just a grooming ground for elephants, sick elephants are also treated here in the traditional manner. Trainings for temple ritual performances and ceremonies are also given to the elephants in the fort grounds.
Architecture of Punnathur Kotta
The palace itself is made in traditional Kerala style architecture in nalukettu concept (a traditional rectangular home where four halls are joined together with a central courtyard open to the sky). The palace presently houses a training school for ‘Papans’ (Mahouts). The palace complex also contains a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and Goddess Bhavathy. Some scenes of the famous 1989 Malayalam movie ‘Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha’ were filmed at this location.
The dangerous elephants in their musth
Some of the dangerous ones, especially those on musth can be seen with few extra chains to prevent them breaking free creating mayhem. Musth is a period of intense hormonal activity during which elephants become very aggressive. It is a function of their biological cycle and takes up one or two months to end after which they will return to their previous nature.
Guruvayoor Keshavan- The Elephant King
The elephants here have their names placed at the grounds. The bigger ones have a large fan following as well. One of the most famous elephant ‘Guruvayoor Keshavan’ lived here after he was donated to the temple by the Royal Family of Nilambur in 1922. He is the most celebrated and legendary elephant in the state owing to his height of 3.2 meters and devout behaviour.
He died in December 2, 1976 at the age of 72 on the auspicious day of Guruvayoor Ekadasi. It is said that he fasted for the whole day and dropped down facing the direction of the temple with his trunk raised as a mark of prostration. Several decades after his death, he is still remembered for his good nature, intelligence and great size, and a large statue of him can be seen in Guruvayoor Town. He is conferred with the title of ‘Gajarajan’- Elephant King by the Guruvayoor Dewaswom.
Sukha Chikitsa- Restorative treatment for the elephants
During the last Malayalam month of ‘Karkidakam’ (typically July- August), the elephants undergo ‘Sukha Chikitsa’- an overall wellness treatment. Each elephant is given a bath, scrubbed clean, and given a special medicinal meal by around 3 pm in addition to their regular diet of palm fronds, grass and banana stem. The animals are fed with the special medicinal meal for all 30 days of Karkidakam without fail.
Special meals and medicine during Sukha Chikitsa
Guruvayoor Dewaswom Board - the owners of the elephants have an expert committee of doctors, veterinarians and Ayurvedic practitioners deciding the medicinal meal each elephants should be fed. The meals usually varies from elephant to elephant depending on their age and size but in general each of them is fed a meal comprising of about 3kg of rice, 1kg of either horse gram or green gram, 1 kg of Finger Millet, 250 grams of Chyavanaprasam (a cooked mixture of sugar, honey, ghee, Indian Gooseberry, jam, sesame oil, berries, herbs and various spices), 100 grams of Ashta Churnam (an Ayurvedic herbal powder that supports the healing of indigestion, loss of appetite and Irritable Bowel Syndrome), 100 grams of mineral mixture and 10 grams of salt and turmeric. The elephants are also given a tonic for general health.
Getting to Punnathur Kotta and the best time to be with the elephants
Punnathur Kotta is situated 3 km from the famous Guruvayoor Sree Krishna Temple. It is located in Thrissur District of Kerala State in Southern India. Nearest major city is in Thrissur from where there are direct buses to Guruvayur. Nearest major railway station also is in Thrissur and it is well connected with rest of the districts of the state and country by means of buses and trains.
The best time to visit Punnathur Kotta and its gentle giants is during their Sukha Chikitsa period in Karkidakam month. During the 30 days of the month, visitors will get a chance to see the elephants having a great time eating their delicious meals daily at 3pm.