Today is the last day of the Mysore Dasara, an annual 10-day festival in the southern India city of Mysore (a.k.a. Mysuru), in which elephants play a very prominent role.
That role is a controversial one, especially to those of us who think elephants should be left alone in the wild. Be that as it may, there is a new twist to the scenario: a bull market for elephant poop.
First, some background: There are 12 elephants selected for the Dasara, and each is named after a Hindu God. These dozen elephants take center stage in a procession (known in Mysore as “Jamboo Savari") through the city's streets, in which the idol of the Goddess Chamundeshwari “is placed in a golden howdah on the top of a decorated elephant. This idol is worshipped by the royal couple and other invitees before it is taken around in the procession.”
Because the elephants are religiously revered and they represent the different gods of Hinduism, reports the Star of Mysore, their dung is considered holy.
But never before has it been reported that “people are standing in queue to pre-book elephant dung.”
“So many are collecting elephant dung in plastic covers and taking it home,” reports the Bangalore Mirror. “The dung is daily worshiped and the next day is placed at the bottom of a coconut tree or immersed in a river or well. And fresh dung is brought home daily.”
In particular, the dung of the lead elephant, Arjuna, is sought out, as he is the one who carries the golden howdah that carries the idol of the Goddess Chamundeshwari. Arjuna’s dung is reported to be “ ‘shreshta’ (meaning very pious.) Hence there is huge demand for Arjuna’s dung.”
Not only is the dung considered holy, but it is also believed to have a variety of medicinal qualities, curing “complications in postnatal care, knee problems, high temperature,” as well as (some believe) reducing body temperature “by standing on elephant dung” (without shoes, that is).
There certainly is no shortage of it: Each of the dozen elephants normally consumes up to 550 pounds of food daily, an amount that is increased during Dasara, “as they have added activities, they are fed more” — and thus more dung is produced. The rough estimate is that these dozen elephants collectively produce an average of more than 1,000 pounds of poop per day.