By July, monsoon sets in across the state and in the olden days, it was a time for rejuvenation treatments – for both humans and animals. For the 51 elephants that inhabit Punnathoorkotta about 3km from Guruvayoor, it is time for their annual 'Sughachikilsa'.
What is 'Sughachikilsa'?
'Sughachikilsa' is an overall wellness package for the elephant', says Radhakrishnan, the assistant manager of Punnathoorkotta. 'Each of the elephants is given a bath, scrubbed clean and then given a special medicinal 'meal' by around 3 pm in addition to their normal diet of palm fronds, grass and the stem of a banana plant.
The special meal varies from elephant to elephant depending on their age and physical conditions. But in general, each elephant is fed a meal comprising of about 3 kg of rice, 1kg of either horse gram or green gram, 1 kg ragi 250 gms of chavanaprasham, 100 gms of ashtachoornam, 100 gm of a mineral mixture, 10 gms of salt and turmeric. They are also given a tonic for general health.
The animals are fed this meal for 30 days in the month of July without fail.
Who decides the diet
The elephants at Punnathoorkotta belong to the Guruvayoor Dewaswom Board and they have an expert committee of doctors – veterinarians and Ayurveda practitioners who decide what each elephant should be fed.
You can watch
Visitors are allowed from morning to evening at Punnathoorkotta. During the 'Sughachikilsa' month, make sure you visit Punnathoorkotta around 3 pm in the afternoon to see how these gentle giants are fed.
Once a palace belonging to Punnathur Raja, the complex houses a traditional nalukettu - a building with a courtyard inside - and two huge ponds. It is now used to house the elephants – 51 of them according to the latest count, belonging to the Guruvayoor temple. Elephants are trained to participate in festivals. No maintenance work or renovation has been done on the age old structure. Visitors are not allowed to enter the building now.
Nearest railway station: Guruvayoor, about 3 km
Nearest airport: Cochin International Airport, about 58 km from Thrissur town
Time: 9.30am to 5.30pm
There is an entrance fee