Festivals in Ancient Kerala

Aana yottam (Elephant Race)

The Elephant Race is connected with the flag-hoisting ceremony. Some selected elephants, out of the temple's forty-odd elephants, take part in the race. They stand in a line at Manujulal before they are made to run towards the temple. However, only some five to eight elephants are allowed to run inside the temple. The elephant that reached first and touches the flag-staff holds a place of honor for the next 10 days, receives royal treatment and carries His Thidambu during processions.

The origin of this custom goes back to the olden days when the Devaswom did not own any elephant. It was the practice in those days for big landowners and upper class people to offer their elephants free of charge to the temple on festival days. Once there was no elephant available at the start of the ceremony since all the elephants in the area had been hired out for a festival in another temple called Trikkanamathilakam and every one thought that the ceremony had to be done without the service of an elephant. Then a miracle happened. One of the elephants participating in the Trikkanamathilakam festival suddenly turned back and fled towards Guruvayur and presented itself in time for the ceremonies there. To commemorate this incident, the elephant race is held even today. Since this event, no elephant is taken in procession for the morning Siveli on the inaugural day of the festival.

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