the-south-asian Life & Times                   April - June 2009



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 Rajmata Gayatri

City Escapes
 Gurgaon's Hidden

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 Tikli Bottom


 Cruising along


 Elephant - icon of
 new style

 Photo Essay

 Elephant Festival
 of Jaipur


 Iqbal Hussain

 World's First
 Climate Refugees
 of Sunderbans


 Most Spectacular
 Himalayan Golf

 Gulmarg Golf Club

 Royal Springs,

 Naldehra Golf Club

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Elephant Festival of Jaipur

The Elephant Festival of Jaipur is an annual event, introduced 30 years ago as a celebration of the most sagacious living being in the animal kingdom – the elephant. It is held on the day of Phalgun Purnima (full moon in the month of Phalgun – the 12th month in the Hindu calendar which coincides roughly with end-February / early-March). This is the day before the centuries-old festival of Holi (the festival of colours), which marks the onset of Spring. The Chogan Stadium in Jaipur comes alive with colours and a spirit of festivity as the regal-looking and colourfully painted elephants, some ingeniously, and adorned with yards and yards of gossamer fabric and tinsel, parade the grounds in a glitzy contest that could be easily designated ‘Ms Elephant Universe’ – because all contesting  elephants are females!

We were advised to reach the stadium an hour before the festivities began – and not without a reason. It turned out to be more than a full house. Guests, mostly foreign, were spilling onto the grounds, trying to find a spot to sit. Backstage, the participants were  getting the last-minute touch for their all-important catwalk – and there was no sign of frenzied nerves. It was business as usual for the seasoned participants.

The main entrance to the stadium was a welcoming podium of shehnai players with male ushers in local attire waiting to seat the guests. The show began, more than 30 minutes later than scheduled, with a live commentary by a member of the organizing team, and the fanfare of indigenous music and dance groups accompanying the parade. The procession was led by the flag-carrier – obviously an elephant! The mahouts were also clad in formal Rajasthani attire – after all it was a grand celebration. One after the other, the elephants paraded to the rhythm of drums and raised their trunks as they reached the Main Pavilion – acknowledging the applause and at times a standing ovation. They came decorated in all manner of style – from kitsch to ethnic chic – their massive bodies painted with floral motifs or depicting jungle rule. The eventual winner Champakali had her face so covered in art it was difficult to discern her facial profile – was it her eye or the eye of the deer-grabbing tiger so cleverly painted on both sides of her face? Accompanying, and enforcing the festive spirit of the occasion were the Dandiya, Ghoomar, and Kalbeliya dancers, the Langa musicians, a Brass Band, camels – and a baby elephant! Crowd control or rather photographer-control seemed difficult. Ecstatic visitors could not stop clicking endlessly, and from all angles, what could well be, for them, a once-in-a-lifetime spectacle. A tug-of-war between foreign guests and elephant fighters was announced – and there seemed no dearth of the former. The team of foreign guests, which included women, were the winners.

Once the dances, music, and games were over, and as sunset approached over the surrounding hills, it was time to announce the winners. The majestic trio walked up and stood short of the Main Pavilion. Thereafter it was the winner’s day. Champakali, now the reigning queen, proudly strode up to accept her trophy, while the world around her clicked to capture her special moment. A true show-stopper!











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