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Not all elephants can take part in Thrissur Pooram

The elephant parade is such a big part of the Thrissur Pooram that the star animals have to be chosen very carefully.

MUMBAI: The city of Thrissur, at festival time, is a heady mix of religious fervour and a carnival atmosphere.

And during the early days of the festival, people flocked to see a display of some very precious ornaments.

"Pooram is one of the biggest festivals in the world. In the Guinness Book, it is known as one of the beautiful sights in the world," explained Gopinath, a member of the festival’s organising board.

"These ornaments are used for the elephant parade during Pooram, and that is why the people are interested."

Indeed, the elephant parade is such a big part of the celebrations that the star animals have to be chosen very carefully.

They are given extensive medical examinations, and only after they're passed fit by doctors are they allowed to be dressed up for their big day.

This is not just for the sake of the elephants, whose treatment at festivals has previously been a concern for animal rights activists, although instances of mistreatment are unusual these days but also for the safety of the festival goers.

Dr. N. R. Harsha Kumar, a district animal husbandry officer in Thrissur said: "After identifying the animals and verifying the data books kept with the mahouts, we are examining the conditions of the animals, whether it is having any ailment, any loss of temperament.

"The mahouts are asked to give directions for the elephant, for obeying their orders. If there is any disobedience, we will remove the name of that elephant from the list."

And the festival is truly an occasion for everyone. The festivities are centered around Hindu temples, Kerala's Muslims and Christians also join in the celebrations.

The mix of ancient rituals, music, and general all-around fun means that Thrissur Pooram is an event not to be missed. This year, even the sporadic rainfall that hit the city at festival time could not dampen the carnival mood of the multi-faith crowd.

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