Malini The Elephant

by Hrishikesh das

After two years of paperwork, Malini, a four-year-old two-ton female Indian elephant from Mayapur, India, arrived in the United States during the autumn of 1985, and spent the winter in Myakka City, Florida. Kirtanananda said she was to be “the first of thirty elephants for New Vrindaban.” [i]

Tattva Das, Malini’s trainer (mahut), explained, “Malini is a very happy elephant, but when kirtan starts, a huge smile comes across her face and she flaps her ears back and forth and sways with the music. Sometimes when the kirtan really gets going, she rapidly flaps her ears individually in time with the kartals.” [ii]

On March 15, 1986, Malini arrived at New Vrindaban with much fanfare. [iii] About 5:15 p.m. on Saturday, March 15, the huge elephant trailer bearing Kasyapa, Tattva, other devotees, and the star of the show, Malini, New Vrindaban’s baby elephant, rolled into the temple parking lot. Members of the gurukula spotted the trailer, which looks more like a giant semi truck, as it lumbered down the road. The word spread like wildfire among the teachers and children. In seconds, ashram after ashram poured out of the ground floor of the Lodge, spontaneous kirtans broke out in every direction and key. Malini’s chauffeur sounded a few loud blasts on his horn to announce her arrival.

The crowd, now including many adults, cheered and ran towards the parking spot to welcome our new celebrity. Malini was greeted by Kuladri, to whom she offered a garland, obeisances, and fanned him with a chamara. Kasyapa, bright-faced and misty-eyed, fed her laddus. She seemed to be all smiles at her long awaited arrival in her new home.

Tattva Das, who studied advanced elephant care during a five-week training course at the San Diego Wildlife Animal Park, explained the purpose of New Vrindaban’s elephant program, “Most Americans think of elephants as some kind of animal-machine, carrying logs, hauling bricks, and so on. Our elephant program is being designed to educate people in general about the cultural role elephants have played throughout the centuries. In India, elephants are employed in huge processions and gala religious festivals. They’re decorated with beautiful jewels and golden ornaments, stylized quilts, and body paints. It’s an impressive and very beautiful sight. Malini can already offer her obeisances, dance in the temple, offer flower garlands, and wave a chamara—a yak tail whisk used in religious rituals.” [iv]

During the summers, Malini lived in a small barn across the street from the temple, and during the winters, at a small farm in Myakka City, Florida. Sumati Morarji, the elderly owner of the Scindia Steamship Company who gave A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami free passage to the United States on the Jaladhuta, agreed to ship New Vrindaban’s second elephant from India on one of her ships. [v]

During the summer of 1988, Malini won a trophy at a Moundsville parade competition in the category titled “best dressed.” Tattva explained, “Malini is not an ordinary elephant. She is classified as kumariband, a rare strain of Indian elephant which appears about once in every thousand elephants born in captivity. Kumaribands are considered the most beautiful and most adaptable for temple functions.” Tattva also spoke about Malini’s intelligence and sense of humor, “But Malini also lays claim to an uncanny sense of character judgment,” when he recalled with a smile the time she sprayed a trunk full of water on a visiting West Virginia senator. [vi]

(See a picture of Mallini here) ——————————————————————————–
[i] Kirtanananda Swami, quoted by Kasyapa Das, “New Vrindaban’s First Elephant: Malini,” Brijabasi Spirit, vol. 2, no. 2 (c. Spring 1986), 36.
[ii] Tattva Das, “Update Malini,” New Vrindaban News (February 17, 1986), 4.
[iii] “Malini Arrives,” New Vrindaban News (March 19, 1986), 2.
[iv] Tattva Das, quoted in “Krishna Devotees Bring Baby Elephant Into U.S.” New Vrindaban News (June 14, 1986), 4.
[v] “Stories from Bhaktipada’s Trip,” New Vrindaban News (March 19, 1986), 2.
[vi] Tattva Das, quoted by Tracy Roberts in “Happy Birthday, Malini!” Wheeling News-Register (May 5, 1987).

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