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 beauty pageants.
Most 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.
A magnificent spectactle, it unveils the majesty and grandeur of elephants celebrated
around Holi. The Mahavats or owners proudly decorate their elephants with bright
colours, jhool., (saddle cloth) and heavy jewellary. A royal procession of decorated
elephants, a match of elephant polo, an elephant race and playing Holi on elephants
are main events.