January 10, 2016
If you have ever been to Thailand you cannot have failed to noticed, the importance of this majestic animal to the people of this Kingdom, in both their daily lives and in the spiritual needs.
When: Annually since 1998 on the 13th March
Where: Across Thailand
The peoples of Thailand had once an almost symbiotic relationship with elephants, where they played a critical role in transportation, labor and war. While their numbers have dropped from an estimated 100,000 domesticated animals in 1850 to only 2,700 today, (along with only, approx. 2,000 – 3,000 wild elephants), the Thai people still hold them close to their heart. The present King of Thailand has ten revered ‘white’ elephants in the Royal Elephant Stable.
Numerous events take place across the Kingdom on this day, in zoos and elephant parks you will find elephants being treating to huge banquets of their favorite food such as fruit and sugar cane. Before these buffets can commence and early in the mornings you will normally find Buddhist ceremonies being held to bring good luck to both these former beasts of burden and their handler (mahout – mahout derives from the Hindi words mahout) known in Thailand as a kwan-chang.
Listed here are a few of the major reasons why Mastodons still play such an important part in every-day life for the vast majority of Thai people.
The Reverence of Elephants in Buddhism
In the many myths that surround Buddhism, it is said that Queen Maya (mother of the Buddha), had a dream as she slept. She saw a young elephant descending from the sky. It had six great tusks and was as white as the snow on mountain-tops. Maya saw it enter her womb, and thousands of Gods suddenly appeared before her. They praised her with immortal songs, and Maya understood that nevermore would she know disquietude or hatred or anger and was later to conceive Buddha. This is why white elephants in the Kingdom are held in such high regard and many Thai Temples are adorned with images and statues of the animal.
Hinduism in Thailand
Hindu beliefs also play a role in the country, with many Thai’s believing Hinduism is an offshoot of Buddhism. It is not uncommon to see shrines and former temples to Hindu gods and deities here in Thailand, such as Airavata (a mythological white elephant who carries the Hindu god Indra) and Ganesha (with the body of a man and the head of an elephant-there are 32 forms the deity can take) along with the gods Indra, Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma. Many ancient Hindu rituals are still carried out today in the Kingdom, as are other aspects of Hindu culture include the Giant Swing.
Elephants are every where
An image of an elephant has adorned the Thai National flag on 3 occasions of the total of seven variations in the Kingdoms long history and an image of a white elephant still takes centre place on the Thai Navies ensign as it does with the nation’s number one selling beer ‘Chang’
So there you have it, the elephant in Thailand is entwined into so many peoples daily lives and with their ever decreasing numbers, this day is set aside, to remind us all, what we risk should we lose these intelligent creatures.
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