This isn’t the elephant in the room, nor is this the giant mammal in the jungle.
This beast commands the crowd, has its own palace and travels in splendour in the streets around the temple at the time of the festival.
This is the ceremonial Indian elephant. The Kerala pachyderm. Dressed up with somewhere to go.
From the very start of the proceedings the impression is overwhelming and impossible to ignore.
As if her enormous vanillic mass: metres high, tall and wide, were not enough there are her spiced up personal effects.
The ornaments and adornments of our lady of Guruvayur.
Golden head shields – nettipattam – glistening with clove oil. Bells and necklaces studded with mandarins and nectarines rendered in amber.
Atop her convex back the mahouts, her faithful attendants perch precariously holding silk parasols aloft – muttukuda – embroidered with the perfume of ylang ylang, gardenia and heliotrope.
Swaying white tufts – vencamaram – and peacock feather fans – alavattam – slice the air with scents of cardamon, caraway and cumin all to the rhythm of an ambulant orchestra.
This is chaos transubstantiated into communal devotion.
Personified in the glimmering deities some sons and daughters of the sahya carry on their circumnavigations.
This is spectacle beyond considerations of taste and the partialities of prickly western palettes.
This is, like the sub-continent itself, a vast sensuous vista of the sacredness and vulgarity of existence laid out like a feast.
This is a moment to put aside discernment and discretion.
This is a time only for surrender.
A great fashion editor once quipped that ‘pink is the navy blue of India’.
So Kenzo’s Jungle L’Elephant, for all we know, may be the eau de cologne of the sub-continent.
What to our noses is a great, brash, bold statement of sweet and spicy intent, may well seem as commonplace as cirise in a country where cardamon and cumin are mere condiments.
This is not a fragrance for the feint-hearted.
No caution has here been exercised in the deployment of great discordant symphonies of notes from mandarin, clove and caraway atop the stave through a middle section of exotic flowers to a dirty syrupy sweet and massively vast vanilla made darker with patchouli and saltier by amber in the base.
It would be easy to dismiss this scent as mad self indulgence put together with a poverty of ideas.
This incredibly amiable animal works to its own higher intelligence and a logic that is not circumscribed by notions of ‘neatness’ and ‘politesse’.
Catch it while you can for it may soon be sadly extinct.
I believe many of the pantheon of the Hindu faith some gods have neither sex, or both.
Can you guess who that fashion editor was and to what exactly she was referring?
The clue’s in the review.
Happy long weekending.
The Perfumed Dandy.