Elephant who led Mahakumbh processions dies, gets an unusual burial by saints
The 80-year-old female elephant had been part of every Kumbh fair since the 1960s and led the royal processions (peshwayi) of Akhadas during Mahakumbh fair.
For 60 years, the female elephant brought into Haridwar’s Shri Nirmal Panchayati Akhada, Pawankali, had been its integral part. On Tuesday, she became a part of folklore.
Pawankali who died of cancer yesterday was given a burial (bhusamadhi) similar to the last rites accorded to saints at Nirmala Chavni in the holy city’s Bilkeshwar Colony.
The 80-year-old female elephant had been part of every Kumbh fair since the 1960s and led the royal processions (peshwayi) of Akhadas during Mahakumbh fair. The 2010 Mahakumbh was her last.
Hundreds of seers, Akhada ashramites, elephant lovers, pilgrims and local people turned up to bid adieu to the pilgrim city’s most famous and recognised elephant. Draped in saffron clothes, with flowers and chanting of hymns, the female jumbo was given land burial at Nirmala Chavni, with the help of a crane.
Mustakbeen, the 55-year-old mahout of Pawankali, was all tears as their four-decade association came to an end.
“My father Noor Mohammed was the first mahout who trained Pawankali and despite being Muslims, Akhada saints and people all treated us as family members. We have almost been a part of Nirmal Akhada for the last six decades. But now it is a moment of lifelong grief for me as Pawankali, who my father loved and nurtured, is no more. The love which Pawankali got is unprecedented as many generations in Haridwar have been taken for ride on Pawanali’s back for decades,” said mahout Mustakbeen.
Nirmal Akhada Mahant Gyan Dev Singh Maharaj was seen in utmost grief. He referred to Pawankali as a family member of the Akhada who would be sorely missed.
“Pawankali’s death has left a huge void in the entire Akhada as well as all those who had seen and sat on her. Her last rites were performed with due religious rituals… She was more than an elephant, a family member and pride of Nirmal Akhada. In every Kumbh fair, she was a major attraction for everyone ranging from seers to children, pilgrims to tourists and was accorded first position in all the peshwayis (royal processions) during Kumbh fair and other religious-spiritual events,” said Mahant Gyan Dev Singh.