Elephants play a prominent role in our culture. Several religious, mythological, historical and social references have fascinating tales about elephants. For this reason, an elephant lugging weight in a timber yard, or a decorated tusker in a temple may not seem out of place to many of us. But how often do people pause to think how that elephant ended up there, amongst people, away from its herd, away from its home?


Hassan had been in the news for a while, due to an escalating conflict between men and elephants. The authorities finally ordered a capture, which was documented extensively by Kalyan Varma. This image speaks volumes about the ordeal that everyone involved in the capture went through. Here is what Kalyan has to say.

“It was one of the first and the largest male elephants that was captured during the Hassan elephant capture operation. The elephant was tranquillised in the forests of Umblibetta. He was then tied up with ropes to other Kumki (Tamil name for captive, trained elephants) elephants and after reviving him, the Kumkis started dragging him out of the forests and onto an area where he could be loaded into a truck.

Night fell and all the people from surrounding villages had gathered around to witness the operation. As the elephant was dragged over a kilometer, people started following the elephants in their jeeps and bikes. This kicked up a lot of dust and with the headlights of the vehicles behind the elephants, it created a very dramatic effect.

With immense will power, the wild elephant fought at every opportunity to resist the Kumki elephants. At one such moment, when it put up a fight, everything came together – the dust, the back-light, the forest department staff overlooking the operation and the other Kumki elephants – in one single frame, and I think it truly captures the fighting spirit of the elephant and the pain it was going through.”