In the month of Phalgun, a day before the festival of Holi, India’s festival of colors, the elephants of Jaipur gather in a show of pomp and pageantry recreating the royal splendour of a bygone area. There is a parade, polo match and tug of war. Here is our report of the Elephant Festival on 13 March.
Jaipur’s Elephant Festival is organized by Rajasthan Tourism, and begins with a procession of elephants and folk dances in the morning. For the first time this year, the parade was held through the city, instead of just at Chaugan Stadium as in previous years. It ran from Ram Niwas Garden, through New Gate, and over Chotti Chaupar to the stadium.
In the late afternoon, the events continued at Chaugan Stadium, which was packed with tourists. There, the elephants from the parade, folk dancers, and music bands paraded onto the field and were joined by camels, horses, cows and more elephants that would later play in the polo match.
After the long procession there was a tug of war (see video below) between a female elephant and 17 tourists. Unfair you say? Well, the elephant won by a long shot and dragged the tourists over the grass. People had been able to sign up for this event at an earlier stage (unfortunately we missed this) and 17 names from around the world were announced to come forward. The event was rather chaotic as all spectators walked down from the bleachers and approached the event to take pictures.
Then there was a 15-minute elephant polo match (see video below) between Jaipur and Amber, a former capital of Jaipur state, but now a ruined city. The chaotic, but fun-to-watch match, ended in a tie. Each elephant was controlled by a mahout who sat on the neck. The polo player sat on the elephant’s back and wielded a very long stick to hit the polo ball.
After the polo game there was a short session of Holi on elephants, where tourists on top of elephants would throw colored powder at the tourists below. This, we thought, was a little strange and rather sad for the poor elephant. As if the polo game hadn’t been humiliating enough.
At sunset there was a small fireworks display, at which time a few dozen flying foxes awoke in a nearby tree and flew around until the fireworks had finished.
Here are two short videos of the tug of war and elephant polo game: