Rajasthan – The images that come into one’s head are those of sand dunes, massive forts and palaces, and the royal majestic elephants. Perhaps the picture perfect Orient! The Elephant Festival of Jaipur offers the most splendid opportunity to witness and experience the royalty of Rajasthan. The time that I visited Jaipur, the festival was organized at the Chaugan Stadium in the walled old city. With increase in the popularity and large crowds that it attracts, it is now being held at the Jaipur Polo Grounds every year by Rajasthan Tourism.
The Elephant Festival is organized as per the Indian calendar on the full moon day of Phalgun Purnima which falls in February or March. It coincides with Holika Dahan, the eve of the festival of colors. The festival begins with a procession of elephants groomed with love by their loving mahouts. Their bodies are intricately decorated with different colors using traditional colors, heavy jewellery, embellished head plates gold embroidered velvet jhools (saddle cloth) and parasols. A mix of emotions flooded me when I saw these majestic creatures all groomed and ready to be showcased to the world. The bells on their chunky anklets tinkled every step of the way. It is then no surprise that there are prizes for the most beautifully adorned elephant. Not only are the elephants decked up, you will also find their mahouts showing off their traditional attire with bright, colorful turbans.
It doesn’t end here. It only gets more interesting and fun. Ever heard of elephant polo and tug-of-war between a might elephant and nineteen men? Well.. All of it happens here! Elephant polo is one of the featured events which is a must watch. It a modern version of the traditional game of Horse Polo where the players try to score goals for their respective teams with modified Polo sticks and a plastic football. The event culminates with tourists being invited to mount the elephants and play with colors. As the festival of colors is on the following day, it isn’t uncommon to see people sprinkling gulaal or colored powder while perched atop an elephant.
Though celebrated in a completely different way, the Thrissur Pooram in Kerala also features a similar grand elephant festival. Known as the festival of all festivals, the Elephant Festival in Kerala is something which is not to be missed either. I suggest you should see the grandiose of both the festivals. Head out to Jaipur in March and to Kerala in April!
Contributed by Izra Nawas