An Afternoon At The Punnathurkotta Elephant Camp

My blog posting on the occasion of World Elephant Day last week triggered some more memories – of a beautiful trip to Kerala that we undertook a couple of years back. One of the high points of this trip, at least for me, was a visit to the Punnathurkotta Elephant Camp in Guruvayoor. Our entire family had travelled to Kerala then for a wedding, after which we visited the Guruvayoor Shree Krishna temple and the sanctuary. Little did I know, when the trip was planned, that I would end up loving the camp so much that I would yearn to visit again even years after the trip!

The Punnathurkotta Elephant Camp is located just 3 km. away from the Guruvayoor temple, and houses the elephants that belong to the temple. When we visited, there were about 60 elephants housed in the camp. Not only are the temple’s elephants housed and maintained here, but also trained to participate in the various festivities undertaken in the temple. Most of the elephants here are offerings made by devotees to the temple, at one point or the other.

It was a sunny, but pleasant afternoon when we entered the camp. I still remember the sight that met our eyes then, and the collective gasp that escaped our mouths. Lush greenery all around, a number of elephants – some walking, some standing, some eating, some drinking, some bathing, some just sitting. Overall, an extremely beautiful sight. Considering that we are an elephant-crazy family, we started snapping away with our cameras as we explored the little sanctuary, my brothers-in-law chatting away, nineteen to the dozen, to the elephant keepers there.

The pens built for the elephants

We learnt that some elephants were kept in pens, unchained for most of the day. Some others were a bit ferocious, and had to be chained. Some were recuperating from diseases, and hence had to be kept in seclusion. It was rather sad to see the ones that were chained, but we were told it had to be done for certain animals. Overall, the elephants did look happy and well-maintained, and the place was quite neat and clean.

An elephant, chained to a tree
An elephant being walked inside the sanctuary
Feeding, again!

We were utterly fascinated to see some of the elephants being bathed. The mahouts use bits of brick and coconut fibre to scrub them thoroughly, and then hose them down with clean water. It was such a beautiful sight! The elephants seemed to be revelling in the experience, soaking in all of it!

Look at the way this elephant has lifted his trunk to enable the mahouts to clean under his chin! Cute, no?

The camp is located in the grounds of Punnathur Raja, a former ruler of the place. The complex also has a traditional Keralite home, which used to belong to the Raja. Presently, this house is used as a training school for mahouts. (We were too fascinated by the elephants to take any pictures of the home, in case you are wondering why there aren’t any!)

All in all, the elephant camp is one lovely place, a must-visit according to me. Definitely one of the lesser-known places in Guruvayoor. Don’t miss it!

14 thoughts on “An Afternoon At The Punnathurkotta Elephant Camp

  1. Love to visit an elephant camp soon, especially after the mistreatment being highlighted by many organisations. They are adorable! I appreciate your photos a lot.


    1. @Renucas

      Thank you so much! 🙂 Glad you liked the post. Welcome to my blog.

      Hope you get to visit an elephant camp soon. Yes, the mistreatment of the animals has been brought up by several organisations…


  2. I heard about this place only recently. But then I have one closer home 😀 That elephant is really relishing its bath! 😀
    I really don’t like the fact that elephants are used for festivals and there is lot of noise made in their vicinity that is very disturbing to them. 😦 Wonder when that will stop.


    1. @Shail

      I haven’t ever seen elephants being used in a festival, actually. Except brief snatches on TV, sometimes. That didn’t give me a real idea of how these festivals are for the animals. Now that you say it, it does sound sad. 😦

      The elephant camp that you had posted about sounds lovely, too. Would love to visit there some time…


  3. I got confused with the one Shail had put on her blog..this is the same one kya…I remember going to an elephant camp but dont remember where? I think this one only!! *Confused*

    loved the pics though..


    1. @R’s Mom

      Thanks, RM! 🙂 Good to see you back here.

      I just checked. The pics that Shail has put up are of an elephant camp at Kappakaadu, Thiruvananthapuram. The one we visited is at Guruvayoor, Thrissur.


    1. That’s a different place, Hitchy. And it is totally a rescue, rest and recuperation centre, no training or using them for festivals and such..


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