The Elephant festival is truly the day of the pachyderm. This unique festival is celebrated with much fanfare each spring, a day before the festival of holi which is also known as the festival of colours. The festival begins with a cavalcade of groomed, beautified and well decorated Elephants being paraded through the streets of Jaipur. In this ceremonial procession caparisoned elephants are accompanied by lancers on horses, chariots, camels, cannons, and palanquins. Elephant races, elephant-polo matches and even a tug of war between elephants and men, are all part of this spectacular event.
This festival celebrating the might of the Elephant was recently revived by the royals of Rajasthan, but in olden times the elephant commanded a special degree of respect and also symbolized strength and wealth. For the Rajput kings elephants were a must during the royal festivities and at royal pageants. The Nishan-ka-hathi or the flag carrier always led a procession. The king always mounted a caparisoned elephant. Special hunting programs on elephant back and elephant fights were organized to entertain the royal guests. Jaipur was a favorite with the important personalities of the British Raj and the Maharajas always arranged elephant rides up to the Amber palace for their guests of honor. Even today, the mahouts take tourists up to the Amber Palace on elephant back. In fact for the maharajas of yore special howdas ( seat placed on the back of the elephant) were created, made of silver and gold and studded with precious jewels, these ornate and resplendent artistic creations can still be found in the many museums of the erstwhile royalty.
Rajasthan tourism in a bid to capture the lost glory of this festive occasion has revived it in a big way and placed it firmly on the cultural calendar. On the day of the festivities the Jaipur chaugan comes alive with dancers, musicians, elephants and onlookers from around the world. The Festival starts with an impressive procession of the majestic animals lovingly painted and tastefully attired with glittering ornaments and embroidered velvets. They greet the visitors, offer garlands to the guests and walk past the ramp before a jury of experts and tourists to select the best amongst them for the title of 'Best decorated Elephant'. A fascinating game of elephant polo takes up the next few hours of the celebration. The game sees players seated atop elephants maneuver the enormous pachyderms as well as the plastic ball with which they try to score goals. Nothing like the fast paced blood-curling excitement of well bred polo ponies thundering down the fields nevertheless great fun and equally absorbing, especially with a hilarious on the spot commentary that keeps the players motivated and the audience in splits. You don't have to be just another passive onlooker, if you so wish you can volunteer to join in and be a part of the fun and games. One such opportunity is the massive tug of war that happens between elephantine strength and enthusiastic mortals. You could join hands with the gang of adventure seekers who dare to take on the might of the elephant. A lot of elaborate, artistic, amazing and sometimes simply strange elephant paraphernalia is also on exhibit at the unique 'Gaj Shringar' exhibition , here one can find everything connected with the elephant - ornaments, textiles (Jhoo), ornate howdahs and carriages, paintings, medicines and food. The evening leaves the floor open for music and dance, the ghair is traditionally performed and women swirl in unison to rhythmic beats. A dazzling display of fireworks brings the festival to a colourful and memorable end..