Small World

The Magnetic Mahouts of Mysuru

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Two individuals come up with an ingenious path-clearer to help elephants on their Vijayadashami march

Elephants play an integral role in Mysuru’s grand Dasara Festival. In the procession that takes place on Vijayadashami, a decorated elephant carries a statue of Goddess Chamundeshwari atop itself, while other elephants, camels and horses, apart from dance and music groups, follow him. The procession covers a distance of 5 km from the Mysuru Palace to the Bannimantap parade grounds and is said to have existed for centuries. But for several years now, metallic objects like nails, screws, upturned bottle caps and other sharp metal shards have come to impede the elephants’ march. In the days leading up to Vijayadashami, on 23 October this year, the elephants are made to walk the 5 km route as practice. Describing how the tuskers develop wounds that take weeks to heal during these processions, a forest officer says, “They are not used to walking on tarred roads. They are not like horses or bullocks that can be fitted with shoes. Their feet are very sensitive.”

Two individuals from the city have now come together to offer a solution. The duo has created an eight-foot long magnetic mobile contraption, where 14 magnets have been fitted into a long aluminium strip with a pair of wheels. Once attached to a vehicle— which moves ahead of the pachyderms during their practice sessions—this magnetic strip rolls along the road and attracts sharp metal objects and debris, effectively clearing the path for the animals plodding their way. The contraption is currently being used for the elephants’ daily rehearsals. Vijay HN, a motorcycle dealer, and Santosh Kumar, a technician at a private firm, came up with the simple but ingenious solution. “This device makes it safe for the elephants and also eliminates manual intervention,” Kumar says, referring to the forest department personnel who usually accompany the animals and keep an eye out for sharp objects on the road.