A day in the life of an elephant at Punnathoorkotta during July

A day in the life of an elephant at Punnathoorkotta during July
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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'?

A day in the life of an elephant at Punnathoorkotta during July
It is a sight to see all the 51 inhabitants of Punnathoorkotta gather for the meal in the afternoon. Photo: Unni Kottakal

'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. 

A day in the life of an elephant at Punnathoorkotta during July
The medicinal meal is rolled into balls and fed to each elephant. Photo: Unni Kottakal

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

A day in the life of an elephant at Punnathoorkotta during July

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

A day in the life of an elephant at Punnathoorkotta during July
An elephant being fed. Photo: Unni Kottakkal.

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. 

About Punnathoorkotta

A day in the life of an elephant at Punnathoorkotta during July
Punnathoorkotta houses a small temple and the old mansion. Photo: Unni Kottakal

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. 

Reaching Punnathoorkotta

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

Read more: Destinations in Thrissur | Beyond Kerala | Eatout

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