Why We Didn’t Enjoy the Jaipur Elephant Festival
When Cody and I decided that India was one of the many countries we would visit during our 16 months of travel, I wasted no time in searching for festivals in and around India.
I quickly found that the month of March was reserved for the Elephant Festival in Jaipur, which excited me as I adore Elephants and the thought of them being adorned and decorated made me smile, not thinking that maybe it didn’t make the Elephants feel the same way. Never the less I arranged the dates accordingly to be here on March 7th, and 8th.
During the days leading up to the 7th we heard from many locals and travellers about the Elephant Festival, how it is extremely popular here in Jaipur.
There is an Elephant beauty pageant , and the Elephants are paraded around while hundreds if not thousands of tourists take photos of them (in my opinion) really not wanting to be there. I’m not really sure why I never thought of any of this while we were inquiring about the festival as I am a strong supporter of animal rights and liberation; maybe it was just a lesson I had to learn?
A day or two before the festival I started thinking to myself “maybe I shouldn’t attend this festival” and I started really “feeling” that I shouldn’t, yet Cody and I hopped into an auto rickshaw and made our way to the polo stadium where the festivities were being held.
Like any large festival there were thousands of spectators enjoying themselves, taking in all of the vibrant colours, as Holi Festival is the following day, and just like anywhere in the world, people just can’t wait to celebrate by setting off fireworks, releasing lanterns into the air, or in Holi’s case, bombing everyone with coloured powder.
They were draped in lush fabrics, elaborately painted, ears pierced so more fabric could be draped with large saddles sitting on their backs so tourists could sit comfortably to get their photos taken.
As much as they were still beautiful, and majestic, magical, and full of power, something was missing. Their freedom.
I was not enjoying myself at all, and I wondered if I was the only person in the crowd of at least two thousand people that felt that way.
Everyone was busy taking their photos with the beautiful, colourful Elephants, in awe of their size, and grandeur, without a single thought of how the Elephant really felt.
Maybe I am being a bit extreme? I’m sure some people would agree, but I can’t change the way I feel, and I feel for the Elephants.
I don’t believe they want to be there.
I felt like a hypocrite. I didn’t want to participate in anything, no photos with the Elephants, no petting the Elephants, and most definitely no riding the Elephants.
As everyone around me was so happy to be there, I felt great sadness.
So I turned around and refused to be a part of any of it.
Being at the Elephant festival was no different than going to a circus and I despise circus’. The Elephants were paraded around with their faces painted like clowns for yet again, human entertainment. I shared my feelings with Cody and he felt the same way, so he took a few close up photos of the Elephants eyes, their beautiful souls, rather than all of the paint covering up their natural beauty.
Like many animals, Elephants are highly intelligent and emotional, so why do we continue to discredit that?
Suffering is suffering, and I do not want to participate in anybody or anything’s sadness, and that feels so right to me. Hopefully I can redeem myself in Chiang Mai, Thailand, at Elephant Nature Park, where Cody and I will be volunteering from 8am to 5pm for 6 nights, helping to keep the Elephants in their natural habitat happy.
Happy Elephants are the best kind of Elephants!
“Those who wish to pet and baby wild animals “love” them. But those who respect their natures and wish to let them live normal lives, love them more.” ~Edwin Way Teale~