Walking with Giants


Photo by Raja Badri


We have never been in such close proximity with an elephant before this experience at Punnathur Kotta. So if you really are fascinated by elephants, this elephant sanctuary is a MUST place to visit.

Punnathur Kotta is situated near the temple town of Guruvayoor and it is about 4 hours drive from Kochi.

Punnathur Kotta means Punnathur Fort and it was originally a palace ground for the Punnathur Rajas (local rulers). Today, this elephant sanctuary is owned by the Guruvayoor Temple along with all its 51 elephants.


Photo by Raja Badri

Walking into the gates of Punnathur Kotta, we were immediately greeted by  a huge elephant, calmly eating palm leaves. There are no walls or barriers in between us. Looking at the elephant, we could see that it is used to having tourist staring but after a while, it will get a bit uneasy and you will know it is time to keep on walking.

We noticed that each elephant are loosely tied to a stump and we can’t help but wonder how the trainers trust these elephants not to run amok.

Not 50 feet away is another elephant. In fact, as we began to absorb the peaceful environment of the sanctuary, we could see there are over 30 elephants scattered all around us. Each to its own spot minding their own business.

To tell you the truth, it is quite unnerving to be this close to an elephant. You will not be able to ignore their strength….there is always that tiny fear should something goes wrong that can cause these giants to lose their cool.


Photo by Raja Badri


As we began our slow walk through the sanctuary, we could see that each of the these gentle giants are unique in their own way. According to the trainer/keeper, like us… these elephants are named and each has its own character, some are mischievous, cheerful, naughty, playful and then there are the grumpy ones. In fact, some of the more aggressive elephants are kept at a distance, far from the craziness of tourists.


Campers in the Wild
Photo by Raja Badri


In the morning is usually the bath time and we had the opportunity to watch one bath session in action. To bathe an elephant, the keeper will get the elephant to lay on its side while they scrub… and at all time there will be a long stick resting on the the elephants’ cheek. According to the keeper, the stick is their way to train and discipline these elephants.

It is fascinating to know that these elephants know they are not allowed to cause the stick to fall to the ground and in order to do that, they will need to stay as still as possible….naturally all good behavior are rewarded.

_MG_0193By the way, these are Asian elephants not the African elephants, and they are slightly smaller than their African counterparts.

These elephants have duties too… especially during festive seasons as they are used to head processions. Unlike Guruvayoor Temple, other temples have only 1 or 2 elephants, so these elephants in Punnathur Kotta are also available for rent.

Oh yes… they charge a nominal entry fees of Rs 25 per adult however additional charges of Rs1000 is applied should you want to bring in a digital camera and that includes your Ipad… yup… they consider your ipad or tab or any smart phone that can be used to take pictures as a ‘camera’.


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