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Annual elephant race draws huge crowds in India

Thursday 8 Mar 2012 2:37 p.m.

Devotees and tourists thronged to Guruvayur Temple in India's southern Kerala state to watch the annual elephant race.

It traditionally heralds the beginning of a ten-day festival in the temple dedicated to the Hindu God Krishna.

Approximately 26 elephants were lined up for the event, popularly known as Anayottam, and six of them were selected for the race.

The 0.5km race began by a revered banyan tree and culminated with the victory of the 36-year-old elephant Gopi Kannan. The winner was named after the temple deity and he won the race for the ninth consecutive year.

Kannan will carry the idol for all the important rituals that will take place during the next ten days.

In India, elephants are worshipped. Elephants are seen during few of the Hindu festivals as part of the celebrations and Kerala has set the retirement age for the elephants at 65.

Elephants are a protected and endangered species in India. Conservationists say elephant populations have fallen rapidly in recent years because of loss of habitat as a result of human encroachment into forest areas.

3 News / Reuters

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