By Kiran Kumar, Star of Mysore
At a time when the entire city was celebrating Gowri-Ganesha festivities, the tribals comprising the Mahouts, Kavadis and their families were busy attending to elephants, caring and feeding them. These people are, however, humble enough to admit they are only the commonest of the people, doing their assigned duty. They also claim that they need not be seen only as children from the forests, as they too can understand everything going on around them.
When asked how they celebrated the festival, their answer was merely a laugh, while claiming that taking care of elephants was itself a big festival for them.
When further questioned whether they were happy only at this job, these children of the nature retorted saying that they prepared ‘Anna-Sambar’ and this itself was something special for them.
Vasantha, the mahout of Dasara elephant ‘Arjuna’, said that they celebrate Ganesha festival only if they were living in the forests. “We also bring Ganesha idols from nearby towns and carry the idol in a procession to our place, where the idol will be worshipped with devotion. The idol will be immersed in a river after 5-6 days and we always use colourless Ganapathi idols.”
However, Kavadi Manju points out that Ganapathi idols need not be necessarily brought from the town. Several tribal habitats (Haadis) themselves prepare clay Ganesha idols. These idols are not painted.
Mahout Vasanth and his wife Ambika say that they have been celebrating Ganesha festival since many years. But they can not celebrate it according to their traditions once they were out of the forest with the Dasara elephants. They visit the Ganapathi temple in the Palace premises for worshipping the Almighty along with their children Akash and Tarunya. As part of the festival, they buy new clothes for children, they say with a sense of fulfillment.
Although the couple do not prepare the trademark Obbattu and Payasa for the festival, they feel pretty satisfied making Uppittu and Kesari Baath, says Ambika.
The story is almost the same in other tribal households, when during the festival celebration, there will be a strict ban on consumption of alcohol and meat, she adds.
As for the children, work is worship for them also. The children take active part in giving oil bath to the elephants on festival day, besides grooming them.
They feed the elephants with sugarcane, jaggery, paddy, grass etc., much to the relish-ment of the pachyderms.
These children spend time involving themselves in clearing the dung, taking the jumbos for rehearsal etc. The festival day is not much different from other days, for which they have no regrets either, their only intention being the welfare of elephants.
The children also claim that unless the elephants are not looked after properly, there are chances of them attacking other elephants. As such, they cannot keep themselves away from the elephants for long, they say adding they cannot wear new clothes while taking care of elephants.