India's Haati Chai infatuation
Posted on June 06 2012
Asian elephants have been domesticated for thousands of years. Used primarily for ornament and entertainment today, domesticated elephants have been used for moving cargo, felling trees, transporting caravans, and even waging war in centuries past.
As apart of the Indian culture these precious animals are decorated with festive paint and elaborate jewelry often. Haati's aka elephants are so loved in india that they've acquired their own special annual festival!
"Held in Jaipur in the state of Rajasthan, the Elephant Festival is a favorite among locals and tourists alike. It's staged in Jaipur's Chaugan Stadium as part of Holi, or the Festival of Colors, in late February or March. It's a vibrant occasion full of pomp and circumstance, with elephants bejeweled and decorated – as well as taking part in other events to entertain the crowds. Interestingly, all the elephants that participate in the festival are female. Do the organizers perhaps assume that lady elephants will be more comfortable in makeup? Whatever the reason, it's no holds barred when it comes to bedecking them with all the trappings of female ornament, including scarves, anklets – even the pachyderm equivalent of toenail polish.
For this annual extravaganza, the elephants arrive at the stadium adorned with precious jewels, draped with velvets and decorated with body paint. Who will be the fairest of them all? It's not a throwaway question – there is, after all, a prize for best-dressed elephant. Winning this accolade is an immense source of pride for the mahawat, or elephant owner – which must make for a rather stressful time in the run-up to the festival. That said, the elephants here seem to be taking it all in their considerable stride!
Much like a catwalk show or pageant, the elephants competing for the 'Best Decorated' gong parade past the judges, some of whom are tourists. The animals have also been known to offer the panel garlands, showing that even elephantine beauty contests aren't immune to bribery...
As well as the beauty contest, these jumbo-sized beasts also entertain the crowds with races, and even a game of elephant polo (played using a plastic football and long sticks). The pachyderm pièce de résistance, however, is surely the tug of war between the elephants and the humans. We know who our money's on...
The gentle magnificence of elephants has long held a special place in Indian society. One of the most recognized gods in the Hindu pantheon is, after all, Ganesh – a deity with an elephant's head – and Hindu mythology also includes the divine elephant Airavata (sometimes depicted with five heads) who carried Indra, king of the gods. It's hardly surprising, then, that elephants became symbols of royalty in Indian culture and that the animal is associated with a number of different festivals. " - Michelle Collet
If you plan on taking a trip to India this is something worth seeing!!