Who will lead the Jamboo Savari this time?

Dasara high power committee meeting on Tuesday will take a call; Abhimanyu is likely choice

Will Abhimanyu, the 55-year-old tusker, get the nod for carrying the 750-kg golden howdah in this year’s Jamboo Savari of Mysuru Dasara as a ‘successor’ to the incumbent lead elephant Arjuna?

This question has surfaced ahead of the crucial Dasara High Power Committee meeting which is scheduled in Bengaluru on Tuesday to decide on the nature of the annual festivities in October although the government had already announced that the celebrations would be a low-key affair in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The meeting is also expected to take a call on whether to keep the Jamboo Savari within the palace premises over curbs on public gatherings and the number of elephants in this year’s Dasara squad.

The tall tusker Arjuna took over the mantle from Balarama, a veteran, and carried the howdah with great precision since 2012, winning the hearts of many.

Ahead of the festivities amidst the pandemic, the authorities had been compelled to look for a successor to the lead elephant since Arjuna turned 60 and ageing jumbos are not used for any stressful work in view of guidelines. Prior to Jamboo Savari, the lead elephant undergoes weight carrying training with sand bags and a wooden replica of the howdah having the same mass as ‘Ambari’ on its back as a part of rehearsal for the big day.

No final decision has been taken on whether the stately jumbo, which has been a star attraction at the finale since the last eight years, would be retired from performing the big task over age factor.

Balarama had carried the howdah for 13 years in a row before attaining superannuation from the role of lead elephant. It is still part of the Dasara squad as an accompanying jumbo because of its commendable service.

The next jumbo in the elite list which has all the merits and is considered on par with Arjuna is Abhimanyu, best known for its astuteness in the operations for capturing errant elephants and aged and injured wild tigers straying out of forests.

The strong point on why Abhimanyu might get a call would be its experience as a Dasara jumbo since nearly two decades and the weight carrying training it too undergoes along with Arjuna every year as a stand-by for Jamboo Savari.

A Forest Department source, said, “Usually, after 60 years, elephants are not used for any rigorous work. With Arjuna turning 60 as per the State jumbo records, talks are on at the department level on finding a successor to it. The government and the department officials will take a call.”

The Forest Department is also readying the second line young tuskers for the roles being performed by the aging elephants. However, they would need some more time to get the subtlety and Abhimanyu is at present considered the right choice as Arjuna’s heir.

Besides Abhimanyu and Arjuna, jumbos Gajendra, Srirama, Vikrama and Harsha possess the skills to capture wild elephants, besides adding grandeur to the festivities every year. Abhimanyu is considered an “all-rounder” as it makes the job easier for the forest authorities with its expertise of tracking the target jumbo because of its sprightliness on any terrain.

Subduing wild elephants without these six tuskers becomes tough as they promptly obey the instructions of their masters and perform the job with finesse.

Abhimanyu, which is from Mathikodu camp near Thithimathi forests, has established a bond with its mahout Vasantha and this bonhomie is also measured while considering it for the big roles of lead Dasara elephants.

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