TAMIL NADU, INDIA, February 5, 2024 (The Organiser): In a move to delink animals from traditional temple practices, the Sree Sankaran Kovil in Gudalur, Nilgiris, has received a life-size robotic elephant from the NGO “Voices for Asian Elephants.” The initiative follows a broader trend of introducing mechanical alternatives for animals traditionally associated with Hindu worship. This follows a similar development in Kerala, where the Irinjadappilly Sree Krishna Temple in Thrissur incorporated a life-like mechanical elephant named Irinjadappilly Raman for daily rituals, replacing the use of real elephants. This robotic elephant was donated by People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India and actress Parvathy Thiruvothu in February.

In a bid to alleviate the suffering of elephants used in temple rituals, Sangeetha Iyer, the founding executive director of an organization, announced the launch of robotic elephants for temple festivities. Iyer, a National Geographic Explorer and renowned nature filmmaker, highlighted the alarming statistics of captive elephant deaths and mahout fatalities in Kerala. With an average of 25 captive elephant deaths annually and a declining population, the initiative aims to provide a humane alternative while preserving cultural traditions. The first pilot project is set to commence at Sree Sankaran Kovil on the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border in Gudalur. The life-size robotic elephant, named Sri Sivasankara Hariharan, seeks to prevent the suffering of elephants and reduce risks for their caretakers. However, devotees argue that such interventions by animal activists disregard the deep-rooted cultural and religious significance of animals in Hindu traditions.

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