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Annual Elephant Festival held at Jaipur

The Elephant Festival is a unique event held annually in Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan. Groomed to perfection, glittering in gold, row upon row of elephants catwalk before an enthralled audience. The elephants move gracefully in procession, run races, play the regal game of polo, and finally participate in the spring festival of Holi. It is festival time for the elephants.

Activities
A festival where elephants are the centre of attraction. The festival begins with a procession of elephants, camels and horses, followed by lively folk dancers. Elephant races, elephant-polo matches and a most interesting tug of war between elephants and men, are all part of this spectacular event.

History
The Jataka stories of Buddhism refer to the tradition of Hastimangala (the Elephant Festival). A royal mount from time immemorial, the elephant has also been a symbol of strength and wealth. For the Rajput kings, the elephants were of especial significance not only during war but also during the royal festivities-a must at royal pageant. Nishan-ka-hathi, the flag carrier, led the procession. The king always mounted a caparisoned elephant. Special hunting programs 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 for their guests of honor elephant rides up to the Amber palace. Even today, the mahouts take tourists up to the Amber Palace on elephant back.

Rajasthan Tourism revived the tradition by including the Elephant Festival in the cultural calendar. The present-day pageant, originated only a decade ago, was devised especially with the tourist in mind. The inclusion of the game of polo is more recent, being inspired by a cartoon in Punch magazine that showed the Indian polo team atop an elephant after it won all the international tournaments. Every year on the day after Holi, the old stadium at Jaipur, the Chaugan (originally planned for elephants), forms the venue for a spectacular jamboree.

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