Elephants in Kerala – An Obstacle/Spectacle
One thing that we never saw riding around NYC, or anywhere else in the US: Elephants. But we’ve encountered wild elephants along the road in Sri Lanka, rescue elephants in Thailand, and now: festival elephants in Kerala, India. Our first India sighting, on our way to catch the backwaters ferry, was presaged with several kilometers of soccer-ball-sized elephant dung. Based on the, er, freshness of the scat, we knew were hot on the elephant’s trail. (My sister has now given Dmitry the moniker of “bicycle riding scatologist”.)
A video posted by Mila and Dmitry (@ourlifeunfolded) on
Steering around an elephant while buses and motorcycles whiz by is no mean feat – but the elephant held his line, and so did I.
Our second sighting came on our ride to Fort Cochin, where fortunately we had a friend along to help take pics. We heard drumming as we rolled into a small town just a few kilometers south of our destination, then saw the elephant – dressed up in full regalia with a gold mask and two men on his back. While we were stopped to watch and take pictures, two more men jumped onto the elephants back (using the elephant’s rear leg as a boost), and began to perform a dance. The dancers stood on the elephant’s back, moving opposite to each other and waving fans in the air, while two dozen drummers beat out a rhythm. It was very impressive.
No one spoke English, so we weren’t entirely certain what was going on, but apparently most Hindu temples in Kerala have an elephant and most local festivals in Kerala feature the elephants. All this took place on the shoulder of a fairly busy road – again, plenty of buses and motorcycles whizzing past – but this time with the addition of excited children and dozens of onlookers.
I’ve said it before – India is a lot of things, but it isn’t boring.