One cannot think of India without thinking of elephants and their place in India’s story. From using their strength to clear forests and help build cities, to status symbols of the Maharajas who dressed them in fine robes for their processions through the streets. Now, they tend to be used at wedding ceremonies or for religious occasions.
They are such intelligent, majestic beasts, but also have a sense of fun. I was fortunate enough to be invited to play Elephant Polo one year in Jaipur. I was initially very scared at the prospect of sitting atop an elephant, never mind wielding a polo stick and trying to hit a ball. I needn’t have worried as the elephants are so accustomed to their passengers being useless, when they get near the goal they often kick the ball in themselves!
Another magical trip was visiting Kanha National Park hoping to see tigers. We stayed at the lovely Kipling Camp where an elephant called Tara lives. She is the elephant written about by the late Mark Shand in his book, “Travels on my Elephant”. Every afternoon Tara walks down to the river for a bath and if you are lucky, you might be invited to join her. She is very patient and lets you scrub behind her ears, and rub her skin with stones. Occasionally she gets a bit fed up and wanders off to eat some plants on the opposite bank of the river, much to her Mahout’s annoyance. Tara and her Mahout are very close and love to play games. She would throw him up into the air with her trunk and he would somersault down into the water.
There are many wonderful Indian textiles which were made to dress elephants on religious and royal occasions. Please keep reading our blogs and we will show you some pictures another time.