I look gigantic, strong and majestic. When I walk down the streets of my city, or carry a bunch of these tiny little humans on my back, I can see a sense of excitement in every pedestrian’s eyes. When I slowly pass through the busy roads of walled city, with the towering Hawamahal on my left, I see locals and tourists pointing their smart phones at me and clicking pictures after pictures.
You will see me everywhere in pink city- during the long walks to and fro Amber Fort, royal wedding processions wouldn’t move without me, I have been riding the princes for ages now, and not just this, you will see my deities and structures in all the significant places viz. temples, forts, monuments etc. Every year midst all the weddings, processions, tours & long walks in scorching summers, there used to be one day when I wasn’t vehicle, one day when people would turn their heads away from the colossal forts and palaces, when their eyes were not fixated on their beloved, the one day when all the eyes were gazing at one person – me.
Just like you look at a dull sky every day, but admire its true beauty when it is suddenly splashed by the seven colors of rainbow, my monochromatic grey body was suddenly bedecked and wrapped in beautiful colors. That day was the Elephant festival.
As I walked inside the vast stadium of my city, I felt like a queen walking royally with a beautiful curvy body, the musical sound of my tinkling anklets alerting everyone, and a silver elegant cloth with red border covering my saddle. My pristine white tusks are covered with bracelets and rings, my head embellished with heavy jewellery and I think all the other ladies were looking at me for inspiration and men for obvious reasons. One moment I felt like a model in a beauty contest and in another, like a bride walking down the aisle. I closed my eyes and the flashback began.
The process of painting our bodies with all kinds of colors in the world began almost a month before Holi. My guardian (Mahaut) would wake me up, clean me and I could see a different kind of twinkle in his eyes. I would look around and see my fellow friends being cleaned and bathed like it was the first day to school after a long summer vacation. The next moment, some new men started to paint me in vivid colours. This went on for days and days and then came our D-day. The one where I was both excited and nervous.
I opened my eyes to the reality, to the hugeness of the Chaugan stadium, and later at Ram Bagh Polo Ground and saw a little human sitting on another elephant throwing a fist full of colour at me. It did not stop here. We went around playing various games such as running; pulling, tugging and I also won a pageant that day. I felt important, celebrated, and completely oblivious to the fact, that this will be my last time here.
My mahaut still wakes me up, bathes me, cleans me occasionally and dresses my saddle with the regular red cloth. But I still miss that special day, when I would meet my friends, the brown camels and black horses, watch the humans laughing, playing and running, and when I felt like one of the most beautiful animals in the world, on the joyous festival of Holi.
- Elephants, that symbolize royalty according to the traditions of Rajasthan, had been a part of the world famous Holi Festival organised by Rajasthan Tourism Dept. that took place in Jaipur since ages.
- Elephants, along with horses, camels, were painted in vivid colors and bedecked with heavy jewellery to make them look stunning. This festival attracted thousands of locals and tourists and Rajasthan tourism experienced a major boost during Holi.
- In 2013, the Elephant Festival was officially discontinued the Dept of Tourism, Govt of Rajasthan and replaced by the ‘Holi Festival’ which did not include Elephants.
- Copy of an official letter putting an end to our very own ‘Elephant Festival’