For a century, from 1916 to till now, our family has been working with the gentle giants – the elephant. My great-grandfather Doraisamy worked as a Mahout in the Koodal Azhagar Temple, the Kundrakudi Temple and the Azhagar Temple in Madurai. My grandfather and father too have worked with elephants. My father is planning an old-age home for retired elephants, and we are a family devoted to taking care of the elephants of India. Across the states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh, most of the Mahouts in the temples have been trained by our family members. We are a pioneering family in other ways too! We are the first family to become private owners of elephants.
Traditionally elephants were owned only by the Government, temples and royal families, because many people thought that only they can afford to feed the jumbos. My father R. Rengan felt that it would be better to adopt these elephants and offer them for temple festivals and other occasions. At his behest, my grandfather bought the first privately owned elephant in 1974, when the Government decided to auction.some of them due to vanishing forests and a large population of elephants.
Interestingly, my grandfather D. Rajaram has appeared as a mahout in one of the earliest movies shot in Tamil using elephants. The film starring the great Chevalier Sivaji Ganesan. My great grandfather had three sons, and all three followed in his footsteps and were trained mahouts who have worked with elephants throughout their lives in one capacity or the other, including training mahouts! My Dad, R. Rengan too has worked with elephants his entire life.
Our family members have been registered members of the Elephant Heritage Charitable Trust & Animal Rehabilitation Centre of Tamil Nadu and my father is the current Managing Trustee of the same. Looking at the overall exposure of handling and taking care of these pachyderms - we have an experience of 100 years in working with them and 50 years in owning them, which makes us the acknowledged experts for Elephant Handling & Mahout Training in South India!