Gaja Payana

“Gaja Payana” (Gaja = Elephant; Payana = Journey) is the stately march of elephants from the jungles to the Royal Mysore Palace, to participate in the world famous, annual Mysore Dasara celebrations. In fact, Gaja Payana marks the countdown to the Dasara festivities. This year, Gaja Payana is going to begin on September 28th and the elephants will reach the Mysore Palace later.

The Maharajas of Mysore started this tradition of Gaja Payana. Back then, the elephants chosen to take part in the Dasara celebrations would walk the entire route from their forest base camps to Mysore city. It is said that the King himself would falg off the Gaja Payana, after performing puja to the elephants. The nearby villagers would add more colour to the ceremony with their tribal or folk dance, music and songs. All along the route, villagers would warmly greet the elephants and offer them eatables. Once the elephants reached the main Palace gate, they would receive a grand Royal welcome and their regular training routine for the final day’s Dasara Procession would start.

When compared, there is not much of a difference to how Gaja Payana was back then and now, but for a few. Now, our political leaders perform the puja to the elephants and start the Gaja Payana. Also, instead of walking the complete distance, after walking for a ceremonial distance, the elephants are brought to Mysore by trucks. Thus, the risk of getting the elephants overworked or tired is eliminated.

Once they reach the Palace, they are given a special rich diet, different from what they ate at their forest base camps. This would be a protein and vitamin rich, high calorie diet. This is done to ensure that the elephants are strong and fit for the final day Procession. They are also trained daily to familiarise themselves to the city sounds and life. They are taken on rounds around the city, to get them used to the traffic, the crowd etc. This would help immensely to keep the elephants calm on the final Dasara day, when thousands would throng to see the grand Procession, making a lot of noise.

Gaja Payana usually starts at the Veerana Hosalli camp, near the outskirts of the Nagarhole Forest, some 70 kms from Mysore city. Until the start of Gaja Payana, the elephants that take part in the Dasara procession are kept at various elephant camps at Dubare, Hebballa, Moorkal, Kallalla, Nagarhole, Veerana Hosalli, Metikuppe, Sunkadakatte, Bandipur, Moolehole, K. Gudi and Bheemeshwari.

Dasara Elephants’ Profile


Name Info Characteristics
Balarama Male, Age: 55, Height: 2.7 mt, Length: 3.77 mt, Weight (approx): 4900 Kg, Elephant Camp: Thithimathi Elephant camp
Captured in 1987 in the forests of Kattepura, Kodagu. Very gentle and soft natured. Has carried the Golden howdah 13 times. Very strong and is participating in Dasara since 18 years.
Arjuna Male, Age: 53, Height: 2.80 mt, Weight (approx): 4750 Kg, Elephant Camp: Balle Camp Captured in 1968. He has carried the Howdah twice. He will be carrying the Howdah again this year.
Gopalaswami Male, Age: 31, Height: 2.62 mt, Length: 3.82 mt, Weight (approx): 3240 Kg, Elephant Camp: Thithimathi Camp Captured in 2009 from the forests of Hettur in Sakaleshpur. This is his second time in Dasara.
Gajendra Male, Age: 58, Height: 2.84 mt, Weight (approx): 4570 Kg, Elephant Camp: K. Gudi Camp Captured in 1987. Specializes in capturing and taming other elephants. Participating in Dasara since 17 years.
Abhimanyu Male, Age: 47, Height: 2.68 mt, Weight (approx): 4270 Kg, Elephant Camp: Moorkel Camp Captured in 1977. He specializes in capturing and taming other wild elephants and also in providing medical aid. Participating in Dasara since 15 years and he pulls the Palace Musical Instrument carriage.
Varalakshmi Female, Age: 58, Height: 2.29 mt, Weight (approx): 3090 Kg, Elephant Camp: Sunkadakatte Camp Captured in 1977. Has a very soft nature and is in Dasara since 10 years.
Srirama Male, Age: 56, Weight (approx): 4300 Kg, Elephant Camp: K. Gudi camp
Captured in 1969. Very brave and strong. In Dasara since 16 yrs and participates in all the pooja procedures in the Palace.
 Sarala Female, Age: 71, Height: 2.46 mt, Weight (approx): 3250 Kg, Elephant Camp: Sunkadakatte Camp
Captured in 1968. In Dasara since 14 years.
Vikrama Male, Age: 41, Weight (approx): 3820 Kg, Elephant Camp: Dubbare Camp
Captured in 1990. Has participated in Dasara, 12 times.
Harsha Male, Age: 47, Weight (approx): 3290 Kg, Elephant Camp: Dubbare Camp Captured in 1990. Very strong and is participating in Dasara for the 14th time.
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