The Lord of Seven Hills may soon get an ‘iravatham’ (sacred white elephant) as a gift from Anant Ambani, 17-year-old son of Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani.
Anant visited the Tirumala hill shrine twice in four days last week. During his first visit on May 6, he visited the temple’s goshala and fell in love with Jyothi and Padmavati, the temple elephants. Back again on May 9, he asked chief priest A V Ramana Deekshitulu about them and was curious about the upkeep of the TTD’s dairy and the medical facilities available to animals in the goshala. Learning of the temple’s animal donation scheme, he expressed a desire to gift a rare white elephant to Lord Balaji. Anant said he would import one from southeast Asia, where they are found in some number. White elephants aren’t white. They are albinos and not a distinct species. The skin of white elephants is not snow white as depicted in popular Hindu or Buddhist mythological art. Their skin is normally a soft reddish-brown, turning a light pink when wet. They have fair eyelashes and toenails.
Offering an elephant is not a new tradition in Tirumala. When Jayalalithaa became chief minister for the first time in 1991, she donated an elephant. Deve Gowda gave one when he became prime minister in 1996 and so did the Karantaka government in 1999. The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) is in need of three more elephants as the existing six are overworked.