The Jumbo Savari on Vijayadashmi is the highlight of Mysore’s annual Dasara celebrations. Since 2012, Arjuna has been the star of this show. The tale of Arjuna is fascinating.
A crowd gathers every year to watch the caparisoned elephant majestically walk down the Raja Marga while pulling the 750-kg golden Howdah with an idol of the Goddess Chamundeshwari behind him.
This may be the elephants’ last year as the head of the procession since he is already 59 years old.
Arjuna, The Dasara Elephant – Quick Facts
- Born: 1960
- Height: 2.95m
- Weight: 5.500-5.870 kg
The Tale Of Arjuna
Arjuna was captured in 1968 from the Western Ghats in an operation named the Khedda Operation. He was tamed and soon became a part of the Dasara camp.
At the time an elephant named Drona was pulling the Howdah for the Dasara procession. In 2009 when Drona fell ill, Arjuna was named his successor.
In 1996, two elephants from the Dasara camp, Arjuna and Bahadur were bathing in the Karanji Lake when bahadur’s mahout fell off and was trampled.
Though the incident was reported as an accident, it was blamed in Arjuna’s bad temper. He was taken off-duty and kept in the Balle Elephant camp at the Nagarahole National Park.
He was brought back to Balarama and made the Nishane elephant from 2001 to 2011. In 2012, during the Howdah rehersals, Arjuna overtook Balarama and completed the 5km course with a 45 minute lead.
This made him the leading contender for the procession. Since then he has been carrying the golden howdah for the Dasara procession every year.
When the elephant isn’t training or participating in the procession he is used to capturing and taming other wild elephants. Refreshments like a ball of beaten rice, jaggery, cane and glucose tied together in Dhruva grass are placed along the way for the Dasara elephant so that he does not get fatigued or dehydrated.
Arjuna’s Role In The Dasara Procession
The Jumbo Savari is held on the streets of Mysore. It starts at the Mysore Palace and culminates at the Banni tree. The procession has musicians, dance troupes, colourful tableaux and caparisoned elephants and camels.
Arjuna carrying the howdah with the Goddess Chamundeshwari idol is the show stopper of this procession. He is flanked by two female elephants and led by the nishane elephant bearing the flag with the royal insignia.
Selecting Arjuna’s Successor
Government rules prohibit elephants over the age of 60 years to be used for rigorous jobs. Given the weight of the howdah, participating in the procession would fall into this category and hence Arjuna needs a successor. This elephant would need to be:
- Atleast 35 years old
- Weight atleast 4,500kg
- Be well trained
Abhimanyu, an elephant who has also been participating in the Dasara procession has been earmarked as Arjuna’s successor. He holds the record for participating in the highest number of such processions.