The Elephant Festival of Rajasthan is a unique event, one of the most popular festivals held annually in the famous Chaugan ground of Jaipur in Rajasthan, the capital of the north Indian state of Rajasthan, India. Elephant festival of Rajasthan has its own charm and is celebrated every year in March on the occasion of Holi, the festival of colors. The festival of Rajasthan has a unique concept of its own kind. 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. The colorful festival of Holi is celebrated throughout India, but the festival gets some more spice added to it, when it combines with the Elephant festival of Jaipur, Rajasthan. The Elephants become the major attraction of this festival in their classy attires.
It is a festival time for Elephants, so they enjoy the festivity by dancing and playing. Live Folk dances and music programs are also arranged for the overall entertainment of people. This festival of Elephants of Rajasthan revives the royalty of Jaipur of Rajasthan, when people enjoy the glorious Elephant ride in the ground. The Elephants beautifully decked with floral motifs, make ultimate picture for the tourists. Being the time for Holi, tourists play Holi mounting on these painted Elephants. Elephant Festival of Jaipur is unusual, something different and definitely a special treat for the tourists.
Legend and History of the Elephant Festival of Jaipur in Rajasthan
The elephant festival is the specialty of the state of Rajasthan. Like the Desert Festival of Jaisalmer, the Elephant Festival of Jaipur has become a major draw for the tourists. Given the importance of the elephant in the socio-cultural milieu of the state of Rajasthan, tourists can rest assured that they are in for some great Indian festivities and fun in Jaipur of Rajasthan. The elephant has references in Indian mythology. As goods or Devas and the demons or Asuras churned the oceans during "sagar manthan" for the elixir of life that would make them immortal, there surfaced the "navratnas" - nine jewels. One of these jewels was the elephant. The elephant is therefore absolutely precious, to be preserved and protected as jewels.
India is the original homeland of the Asiatic Elephant. Its association with the gods and king goes back to the dawn of history. India the King of Gods, rides on a white elephant, Airavata. The elephant is also associated with the Lord Buddha, and Jainism. The colossal size of the animal evokes awe but its docile nature, its graceful movements and its doleful eyes have always fascinated man. Its majestic presence has been associated with regal splendor and the elephant has always remained as the most important paraphernalia of the king.
The Jataka stories of Buddhism refer to the tradition of Hastimangala (the Elephant Festival). A royal mount from time immemorial, the elephant has also been a symbol of strength and wealth. For the Rajput kings, the elephants were of especial significance not only during war but also during the royal festivities-a must at royal pageant. Nishan-ka-hathi, the flag carrier, led the procession. The king always mounted a caparisoned elephant. Special hunting programs and elephant fights were organized to entertain the royal guests. Jaipur of Rajasthan was a favorite with the important personalities of the British Raj and the Maharajas always arranged for their guests of honor elephant rides up to the Amber palace of Rajasthan. Jaipur of Rajasthan has a long colorful association with elephants. Huge mountain-like male elephant chosen for their size and beauty of trunk, tusks tail and ears, were procured for the exclusive use of the Maharaja of Rajasthan. In royal processions the Maharaja sat on a gold and silver ‘howda’ placed on the back of the most favorite elephant. Scores of others tastefully decorated with dazzling ornaments and gold embroidered velvet Jhalars followed the royal elephant. Even today, the mahouts take tourists up to the Amber Palace on elephant back.
Rajasthan Tourism revived the tradition by including the Elephant Festival of Rajasthan in the cultural calendar. The present-day pageant, originated only a decade ago, was devised 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.
Jubilant Integration and Scintillating Colours of the Elephant Festival
The famous Chaugan ground of Jaipur in Rajasthan makes the perfect venue for the occasion. Elephant Festival commences with an impressive procession of the majestic animals lovingly painted and tastefully attired with glittering ornaments and embroidered velvets marching towards the ground. They greet the visitors, offer garlands to the guests and walk past the ramp before a jury of experts and tourists to select the best amongst them for the ‘Best decorated Elephant’ Shield! Different competitions are organized to enjoy the festival to its full and the arena is brought alive with musician and dancer. Witness a game of elephant polo a newly-introduced sport. Though they lack the speed and ability of the polo ponies it is great fun to watch the enormous pachyderms moving around the field after the ball in great speed. To get a feel of their true strength join your hands with the ten add people in the tug-of-war with the largest elephant. Then there is the unique ‘Gaj Shringar’ exhibition displaying everything connected with the elephant-ornaments, textiles (Jhoo) parapernalic howdahs and carriages, paintings medicines and food. Here one can enjoy seeing Elephants at their best. The Elephant keepers (mahouts) decorate their Elephants from head to toe with an exceptional care. The 'Best Decorated Elephant' contest is another feature of this cultural fest.
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.
Finally, the tourists are invited to mount the elephants and play Holi. Participants dance with great vigour and the excitement rising to a crescendo. A program of Dhaph and Gair dance to demonstrate the spirit of Holi and a dazzling display of fireworks complete the day leaving unforgettable memories. Come! Celebrate! You are most cordially welcome to the Elephant Festival of Rajasthan.
Although elephants are the main attraction of the festival, to add charm to the festivities, brightly bejeweled camels and horses with their masters seated on the saddle also take part in this remarkable festival. Traditional Rajasthani folk dancers enthrall the audience by their rhythmic dance.
Location and Transport
The famous Chaugan ground of Jaipur, the capital of the north Indian state of Rajasthan is the venue of the famous annual Elephant Festival of Rajasthan. It is held one day prior to the famous Indian festival of Holi. The city of Jaipur of Rajasthan is easily accessible from the major cities of India, so reaching Jaipur of Rajasthan is not difficult at all. Jaipur of Rajasthan is well-connected by rail, road and air. Jaipur of Rajasthan has a brilliant road network making it easier for people to travel.
Jaipur of Rajasthan is connected to Delhi (300Km), Mumbai, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Aurangabad, Calcutta and Varanasi by domestic flights.
The train service to Jaipur of Rajasthan is available from all the major parts of the country. Shatabdi and Intercity connects Jaipur to Delhi. Shatabdi is fully air conditioned train starts from Delhi (5.55 AM) to Jaipur (10.35 AM), you can also try Intercity Exp starts from Delhi at (4.55 PM) reaches Jaipur (10.35 PM). There are other trains also to Jaipur of Rajasthan from other metro cities.
Jaipur can be accessed from all the major places in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Delhi and Mumbai by bus. Jaipur of Rajasthan is well connected by road to major cities in India. Excellent road network serves people to enjoy a comfortable journey to and from Jaipur of Rajasthan. This mode of traveling is quite easy and comparatively cheap. Regular bus services from nearby cities connect Jaipur to the other cities. Deluxe Buses, AC coaches and Government buses are available for the convenience of the passengers. With good road conditions you can also travel by private car/taxi.