Sangita Iyer, an India born woman, has made it her mission to save ceremonial elephants in Kerala from being tortured to death.
As reported by the BBC, Sangita Iyer is a documentary filmmaker whose love for elephants dates back to her childhood in Kerala, a southern Indian state. Though settled in Canada now, Iyer is keen on saving these elephants subjected to the locals’ unbearable torture.
Sangita Iyer’s award-winning documentary
Once mesmerized by their beauty, she now tries to save these temple elephants and has made a documentary called God in Shackles. The said documentary was United Nations nominated, and multiple award-winning films screened worldwide to make more people aware of how ruthlessly these animals are treated in the name of worship.
The elephants’ ankles are tied with huge chains, leaving them bleeding, massive tumors all over their body, and even blind. The misery caused to these gentle giants is what Sangita is trying to put forward.
In Hindu and Buddhist cultures, these animals are considered religious and have been given an elevated status. They are used to perform sacred duties in some cases as well. Although some people worship them, the temple elephants in Kerala are paraded during festivities, getting the temples vast amounts of money.
These animals are brutalized using bullhooks, spiked chains, and long polls with a poking spike to perform, causing immense pain.
The brutality that these elephants face
One of Sangita’s favorite elephants, Lakshmi, lost eyesight in one eye because of her handler’s brutality, who poked a bullhook in Lakshmi’s eyes, making her blind in that eye. The torture is what Sangita is trying to show in her documentary, wherein these animals are beaten for hours on end until they give up and obey what the handlers ask them to do.
Another very devastating event was when Sangita saw an elephant with a paralyzed trunk trying to drink water but couldn’t fetch any of it because of his damaged trunk. While on the one hand, they are considered sacred. On the other hand, they are thrashed to follow orders instead of being let free in the wild.
Because of her opposition to these rituals, Sangita, who was honored by the country by presenting the Nari Shakti Puraskar, which is the highest civilian honor for women in India, has faced these festival’s wrath groups. Ever since the release of her documentary, she has faced cyber-bullying and veiled and explicit threats.
Image courtesy of Craig Morrison/Shutterstock