The Elephant Festival is Jaipur went off without a hitch this year. Held in the middle of March this festival is rather remarkable. Usually the festival is celebrated as a part of Holi, the festival of colors and is a joyous occasion for all!
The gentle magnificence of Elephants has long held a special place in Indian society. Such is the importance of the Elephant in India that it has been granted its very own annual celebration. The Elephant Festival is a favorite amongst locals and tourists alike! It's avibrant 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.
History has it that Rajput kings would use their best elephant to be the flag bearer and lead processions in times of war, as well as during festivities. More elephant-based entertainment would often follow these processions, including fights and games. These would often be laid on for royal guests, including British colonial personalities and visiting Maharajahs. The same elephant who had led the procession would then ride up to Jaipur's opulent Amber Fort – a tradition that still happens to this day.
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.
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.
Although the festival for 2012 has already happened the state recently announced the schedule for the festival in 2013! The Elephant Festival for 2013 is scheduled to be held at the end of March.