Tuesday June 27, 2017

Rajasthan Elephant Festival

Written by Robert Groothuis
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Rajasthan Elephants Parade Through The Streets Of JaipurRajasthan Elephants Parade Through The Streets Of Jaipur

The Pink City

Jaipur. The pink city.  That was pretty much most of what I knew about of my new destination.  Alighting from my 17 hour train ride from Mumbai, I was greeted by an intensely hot March afternoon.

Each year on the eve of Holi, the Indian festival of colour, the Rajistan state government holds the Elephant Festival, largely intended for the many tourists which visit Jaipur each year.

Having checked into my guesthouse, I proceeded to wander the chaotic inner city streets.  Most of my attempts to find out any details of the festival from locals, were just answered with a smile and a wobble of the head.  By now I had learned that this was a good sign and the festival promised to be a great show.

The following morning, after fending off a rather persistent rickshaw driver, another traveller and myself found ourselves in a tree covered courtyard not too far from the old observatory.  The sound of drums met us on the main street, a conduit which runs down the middle of the old walled area of the city.

Groups of locals and tourists jockeyed for position alongside the road to catch the marching bands and traditionally dressed women dancers. The elephants, came into view, decorated with brightly coloured silks and adorned head to toe in jewellery. This being the result of many hours work by their adoring owners.

Curious to the destination, we kept pace with the elephants and Vishnu Marching Band. The parade ended at the city’s Chaugan Stadium, where many of the musicians and dancers took the opportunity to escape the intense heat under the cover of one of the stands.

There is no charge for this event, we were told.  Just return here by 4pm, you will enjoy very much.

Greeting us later that afternoon in the entrance building was a richly colourful floor mosaic of fresh flowers.  The stand we had rested in a few hours before was now full.

On queue, the PA system announced the program. Best Dressed Elephant, Elephant Tug of War, Elephant Polo and the grand finale, Elephant Holi.  I could only imagine what that might involve.

Rajasthan Elephant Festival, Jaipur

Rajasthan Elephant Festival, Jaipur

As many locals looked on from the edges of the field a menagerie of elephants, cows, camels and marching bands, paraded out. Judges, camera crews and the odd curious local inspected the elaborate costumes of both elephants and their passengers, to determine the ultimate winner of the day.

"May we have some volunteers who want to play Holi?" the announcer asked.

A surge of spectators closed around the four remaining elephants. Clouds of Abeer, a colourful fragrant powder, rapidly filled the air thrown by the elephant’s passengers. They targeted each other and anyone in the surrounding crowd below.  Soon people were stained shades of red, blue, yellow, orange and purple.

Holi Celebrations At The Elephant Festival, Jaipur

Pink Abeer Flies In The Holi Celebrations, Jaipur



Outside the stadium in the streets, revellers were crowded around bonfires, shouting aloud Holi Hai, Happy Holi.

Dusk descened and the crowds made their way  to waiting taxis.  I realised how fortunate I had been to have witnessed this spectacular event.

Rajasthan Elephants Parade Through The Streets Of Jaipur

Rajasthan Elephants Parade Through The Streets Of Jaipur

Chaugan Stadium, Rajistan Elephant Festival, Jaipur

Chaugan Stadium, Rajistan Elephant Festival, Jaipur

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