The elephant festival is an annual event held in Jaipur, capital of Rajasthan, India on the day before the Hindu festival of
Holi (also known as the festival of colours). The venue for the elephant festival is the Chaugan Stadium in the old city, just behind the City Palace. The festival does not have any great historical roots and appears to have been established mainly as a tourist attraction. That said it appears to be much enjoyed by locals and visitors alike and is a riot of colour and an excellent opportunity to see lots elephants in their party frocks along with dancing girls, camels, monkey men and much much more. Even better, the traditional Indian approach to running this sort of event means it is very easy to get back stage and see the elephants getting ready. The elephants themselves were in seventh heaven – lots of lush grass to devour, although I suspect the ground staff may not have been so enthusiastic about the aftermath.
The festival got underway with a parade of elephants, bullock carts, camels, dancers and musicians; all very
colourful and noisy. There followed the best-dressed elephant competition, lots of traditional dancing and music, tug of war (elephant v tourists); elephant winning comfortably. Some years there is also elephant polo. By late afternoon the festival had descended into anarchy. Visitors and locals alike clustered around the centre of the action depriving those who stayed in the stands of a view. The appeals of the compere fell on deaf ears, until she made an announcement that “the police would help people to find their seats”; that worked for about 5 minutes. Fortunately, the general confusion also meant access to the roof of the grandstand was left unguarded, so I managed to get a good view regardless of the chaos at ground level. By now dusk was falling and bonfires were being lit at most road junctions in the old city. This is the prelude to Holi and is intended to represent the triumph of good over evil by burning Holika, the evil sister of King Hiranyakashyapu –or so I am told.
Photo credits: Jeremy Richards.