The Elephants I met in India

The first elephants I met in India were in Karnataka, at Dubare Elephant Camp. Nowadays it seems to be a holiday lodge destination with added elephants, but when we visited, it was still largely home to elephants who’d given years of service to the state’s Forestry Department as log-hauliers.

As we arrived, the elephants were being a good old scrub in the River Cauvery, It was clear they relished having their hard leathery hide scrubbed, their hard bristly hair scratched. And it was obvious their minders were enjoying it too. After that – breakfast. Here’s a picture of a cook in the cookhouse. He’s boiling up an appetisng concoction of jaggery (dense dark sugar), millet and vegetation before rolling it into giant balls which the men feed to the expectant animals.

And here’s feeding time. And that was it really. A short but memorable experience.

Feeding time

I had a very different time about ten days later, at Kumbakonam, where my new American friend had taken me to visit some of the eighteen – EIGHTEEN – temples in this small town. I’ll take you for a tour another time. This time I’ll introduce you to the elephant who, at one of the temples, was available to bless visitors in exchange for a few coins for the temple’s finances. Gwen took me to meet her. As I stood before her, she lifted her trunk and laid it gently in my shoulder. I did indeed feel blessed.

Temple elephants are a common sight – here’s one in Thanjavur.

Temple elephant, Thanjavur

But only once did I see one in the wild, a youngster crashing through the undergrowth and feeding at the edge of a forest.

Elephant feeding in the early morning

With thanks to That Travel Lady in her Shoes, whose challenge Just One Person from Around the World has had me rifling through my archive hunting for memories of long-gone adventures.

Author: margaret21

I'm retired and living in North Yorkshire, where I walk as often as I can, write, volunteer, and travel as often as I can.

38 thoughts on “The Elephants I met in India”

  1. Being blessed by an elephant sounds way better than being blessed by a rat in the Gujerati rat temple – yes, there are thousands of them in the courtyard, mainly brown. I was blessed by the white rat running over my BARE foot!

    Let’s hope you can now start to plan to visit your new grandchild.I think I have turned into a potato…….


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    1. I’ll pass on the rat blessing Richard, though I wonder if our current elusive field mouse lodger provides the same service? Yes, I’m longing to get over to Spain before too long Already Anaïs is six weeks old, and so changed from Day One. If it’s much longer, I too will have changed into a potato, or mangel-wurzel, or worse. Dying to see you both in your no-longer-new house too! Love to you both.


  2. I do love elephants! We went to an elephant ‘sanctuary’ many years ago in Karnataka. I have no idea of the name (we were on an organised day tour). The elephants seemed well cared for but it’s not a place I would visit nowadays as they allowed riding. I didn’t know / didn’t think about the impact of this on the elephants back then – I know better now.


    1. I wonder if it was the same place? This is in Karnataka too, though as far as I know didn’t arrange riding jaunts. That wouldn’t have impressed me either.


  3. I have very mixed feelings about elephants in capture like this. I hate to see them with chains around their feet, or being ridden, and I only hope they are being well-treated. I much prefer them to be in the wild, but I suppose that’s asking too much.

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  4. I know what you mean Jude, and I don’t know much about this place’s present situation. But at the time we went there, elephants were no longer used in the logging industry, in that area at least, so it was their ‘retirement home’. They seemed to have a positive relationship with their ‘carers’, and in fact, with elephants in the wild having an increasingly precarious time, perhaps it’s no bad thing to have some in the gene pool. It’s a difficult one.


  5. Such an interesting and informative account with charming photographs of the ‘domesticated’ elephants. It is such a difficult issue isn’t it, elephants in captivity especially those used to work for humans.

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