Guruvayur Temple is one of the most popular temples in the state of Kerala. Its major claim to fame is the elephant race or Aanayottam, held every year at the temple. This remarkable event is the one which marks the starting of a ten day long annual temple festival. As the name itself suggests, elephant race is quite an extraordinary aspect of this temple which draws plenty of attention from tourists across the globe. One’s imagination needs quite a hard push to envision the idea of several four-legged titans with a weight of approximately some twelve thousand pounds, racing against one another under the glaring sun, in a street full of spectators. People from not just the other parts of the state, but from all over the world flock the place during this time with an unparalleled eagerness to witness the unusual scenario which has found home in the traditions of Kerala.
It is quite an amusing experience to feel the zeal and enthusiasm surrounding the temple area at the time of the event. People are extremely thrilled and are waiting desperately, crowded in groups outside the temple, for the race to begin. Amidst all the excitement and fun element, full attention is paid to the security of people by the organisers and so, the area for the race is steered clear of the thrilled crowds. The area for spectators is cordoned off at both the sides with very thick ropes and other solid dividers to ensure complete safety and save any possible havoc. Precaution is also taken with regard to controlling the elephants pace, running direction etc and also, elephants are strictly prohibited from running around freely anywhere in the temple compound or a populated area. Professional men are also present along with each of the elephants to control and guide them during the event.
At the end of the event, a winner is selected from among the 60-70 participants descended from different cities and is acclaimed by all, thereafter. The winning elephant becomes the center of attraction over the next ten days of the temple festival with the attention received from various devotees who come to attend the temple festival and worship. The winner gets to stay in the temple compound itself for ten days of the fest and is given a much royal treatment. The elephant is given a proper bath, is fed with its favourite sumptuous food like palm leaves, cooked rice etc in very good quantities. But the main privilege received by the winner is the honour of carrying the replica of the idol of Guruvayoorappan, Thidambu, on all special occasions of the entire year. This is considered to be no less than getting a gold medal or any other award. This captivating short event is surely not to miss while on your tour to India, for not just this but Kerala has a lot more to offer.