Dodda Masti, the mahout of howdah elephant Arjuna, died of brain tumour at KR Hospital on Wednesday night. Masti belongs to the fourth generation of his family that is into the Dasara assignment.
According to sources, Masti, who retired during the last year Dasara, was suffering from serious health issues. After he fell during last Dasara, he was being at K R Hospital. On Wednesday, his condition became critical, according to doctors at the hospital. He is survived by his wife and three sons.
Elephants, especially tuskers, bond with their handlers, mainly mahouts, and depend mainly on them in their day-to-day activities. Mahouts are crucial in tackling elephants, the howdah elephant in particular as it carries — the golden howdah — through a sea of people during the Vijaya Dashami procession.
Arjuna, who was known to be temperamental, had graduated to be the howdah elephant, the captain of the dozen elephants, mainly due to the efforts of his mahout Masti.
Now, the forest officers are in a fix to find out a perfect howdah elephant.
According to the sources from Forest Department, 50-year-old Abhimanyu, who has performed Dasara duties for 17 long years, may get the nod this time. The gentle giant has looks and people feel he is the right choice. After the health check-up, it is revealed that Abhimanyu is capable of carrying 800 kg on his back and can a distance of 5 km with ease.
As a precautionary measure, foresters train two elephants to take the carry the howdah, one being Arjuna and the other Abhimanyu.
Another source said that after Masti retired last year, the forest department was already on search of a howdah elephant. Now, the second son of Masti is in charge of the elephant and the other two sons are also helping. “We will watch the behavior of Arjuna and Abhimanyu after they arrive in city. The decision will be taken in consultation with CCF and the state government,” sources concluded.