Rajasthan is the home for colorful festival and what could get more vibrant than the festival that itself is celebrated with colors. The Elephant Festival of Jaipur, the capital-city of Rajasthan, starts a day before Dhulendi on the day of the Holika Dahan. It celebrates Holi, the festival of colors along with the entire nation during March/April of every year.
The very name of the festival suggests that the festival’s main focus is on the elephants. In India elephants are specially treated as they have been contributing in the proceedings of the human civilization in many ways starting from domestic needs to warfare. Thus presence of elephants in occasions like marriage, puja and festivals etc are considered as propitious.
Various religious ceremonies take place paying tribute to the elephant leading to a fun filled participative procession through the streets of Jaipur.
Legend behind the Elephant Festival Jaipur:
Elephant symbolizes power and royalty and thus has been related to the rich cultural heritage of the great Maharajas of Rajasthan. The Rajputs who are noted for their bravery, patriotism and regality, have led the princely states of Rajasthan for a long time.
The festival is observed to keep the memories of the traditional processions practiced by the Rajputs alive – post victory celebrations, Rajyabhisheka (swearing ceremony) and many more.
According to some hearsay, the festival is inspired from an ancient elephant festival named Hastimangala whose reference is found in the Buddhist Jatakas.
Customs and traditions of the Elephant Festival Jaipur:
The elephants participating in the parade during the festival are all female in gender. They are adorned with glitzy ornaments over their trunks and tusks. The mahouts (elephant riders) take special of their respective elephant decorating them in the finest possible ways.
The festival starts with the extravagant procession where the elephants are joined by rows of embellished camels and horses. These elephants carry decorative shields and they bow down and offer garlands to the visitors. There is a jury of expert set for judging the best shield. The winner is rewarded with gifts and prize money at the end of the festival.
Several games involving the elephants are played during the festival. Enthusiasts from all over the world enjoy being a spectator to the amazing events like elephant races, elephant polo matches and most interestingly the tug of war between the local men and the elephants.
The elephant polo is a rare event as polo is generally played riding on horses. The polo player dresses in saffron and red turbans and ride on their respective elephants. The game is played with a modified Polo stick and a plastic football.
Thus the Festival provides a unique opportunity to see elephants in their unusual actions.
Traditional folk dances and popular music functions enhances the festive spirit among the people. Young boys and girls dress up in dazzling Rajasthani attires and perform popular folk music.
A unique exhibition, Gaja Sringar, portrays a variety of elephant ornaments – jhoo (textiles), howdahs (carriages), paintings, handicraft and other decorative items. Melas and food festivals are common on such occasions.
Cultural Importance of the Elephant Festival Jaipur:
When it comes to culture and tradition Rajasthan represents India in the Western world.
The Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation or the RTDC has taken the initiative to celebrate this festival to spread the popular memories of the Rajputs beyond the National Boundaries.
Rajasthan has been the dream place for tourists round the world, more so as it has retained its rich cultural heritage through its age old customs, traditions, ceremonies, festivals and architecture.
Like other festivals of Rajasthan this festival also provides an opportunity to the national and international travelers to experience the royal fervor of the land of the Rajputs. The festival is extremely tourist friendly. The hospitality by the local people during the festival once again exemplifies the warmth in Indian culture to the foreigners.
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