Elephant Festival is an inimitable event held annually in
Jaipur. Groomed flawlessly, rows of elephants do a catwalk
before an enthralled audience liked best fashion models to make
this festival an amazing one. The elephants move with poise in
pageant, run races, play the regal game of polo, and finally
participate in the spring festival of Holi. It is
festival time with elephants typically celebrated one day before
the Holi, Indian festival of colours.
Staged at Jaipur Chaugan Stadium elephants put up a
variety programme and the arena is brought alive with musician
and dancer. The crowd, which includes sizable presences of
foreign and Indian tourist, electrify the atmosphere. The
festival starts with an impressive procession of the majestic
animals lovingly painted and tastefully attired with
glittering ornaments and embroidered velvets. There are deadly
and fierce elephant fights.
A ceremonial procession is recreated with caparisoned elephants,
lancers on horses, chariots, camels, cannons, and palanquins.
Elephant is the centre of attraction in the many races and
of the participants are female elephants. The mahouts
(elephant keepers) take great care to decorate the elephants
painting their trunks, foreheads, and feet with floral motifs
and adorning them from tusk to tail with interesting trinkets.
Female elephants wear anklets with and make music as they
walk.The game of polo forms the highlight of the festival.
Dressed in saffron and red turbans, the teams try to score
goals with long sticks and a plastic football.
Finally, the tourists are invited to mount the elephants and
play Holi. Participants dance with great vigour and the
excitement rising to a crescendo.
The Rajput kings had extraordinary implication for elephants not
only during war but also during the royal festivities-a must at
royal pageant. Nishan-ka-hathi, the flag bearer, led the
procession. The king always mounted a caparisoned elephant.
Special hunting programs and elephant fights were organized to
entertain the royal guests. Jaipur was a favourite spot with the
important personalities of the British Raj and the Maharajas
always arranged for their guests of honour elephant rides up to
the Amber palace. Even today, the mahouts take tourists up to
the Amber Palace on elephant back like shuttle taxis.
Rajasthan Tourism revitalized the ritual by including the
Elephant Festival in the cultural calendar. The
present-day pageant, originated only a decade ago, was worked
out especially with the tourist in mind. The inclusion of the
game of polo is more recent, being inspired by a cartoon in
Punch magazine that showed the Indian polo team atop an
elephant after it won all the international tournaments. Every
year on Holi, the old stadium at Jaipur, the Chaugan (originally
planned for elephants), makes the setting for a stunning fete.