Arjuna trains with the wooden howdah on his back
Dasara elephants, led by Arjuna carrying a wooden howdah, hit the city roads on Thursday as part of their ongoing rehearsal for the Vijayadashami procession slated to be held on October 4.
The elephants which reached Mysore last month have been training since their arrival. Carrying the wooden howdah constitutes the last phase of the training programme before the finale.
The golden howdah weighs about 750 kg and hence Arjuna, the elephant designated to carry it, is going through ‘weight training’ to get used to the load on his back.
The wooden howdah weighs around 250 kg, to which the Forest Department officials added nearly 300 kg of sand.
“The load will be gradually increased to 1100 kg by the end of this week. In addition to Arjuna, Balarama, Gajendra and Abhimanyu too will be trained as standby if the need arises,” said V. Karikalan, Deputy Conservator of Forests, Mysore.
A battery of Forest Department officials and veterinarians are monitoring the health of the Dasara elephants to ensure that there is no hitch in the training or during the Jamboo Savari. The elephants are on a special diet and their daily grind includes marching along the procession route twice a day to familiarise them with the route and with the presence of crowds and noise.
The distance from the palace premises to Bannimantap – where the procession terminates – is about 5 km and there used to a return procession to the palace during the days of the Maharajas. However, this has been disbanded in the State-funded festival.