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Riding an Elephant in Rajasthan



Riding an elephant  is an unbelievably “jerky” experience.

I was really surprised although I don’t know why, that every ponderous step caused me to sway from side to side, some times with considerable impact.

It was fun though.  We were at a resort in Rajasthan, India where the elephants play polo like in the days of the Raj in India.  I would have liked to have watched a match.  Hard to imagine these huge creatures lumbering around a polo field.

I thoroughly enjoyed our elephant greeting.    About a dozen lined up to meet us, riders keeping them in a row. It was all part of a well practiced drill.   We were given bananas to feed them.  How fun to hold out a small treat and have the big beast reach out the trunk and take it.



An elephant is important in India  for transportation, tourism and as one of the Hindu gods.  Ganesh is the Hindu God of knowledge and the remover of obstacles or God of elimination of troubles.  We saw carvings and paintings of him frequently on temples, forts, palaces and public spaces.

 We also saw elephant sculptures at doorways and learned that elephants are symbols of welcome.  In fact, there is even meaning given to whether the trunk is up or down.  Up  is a symbol of good luck, fortune, and basically optimistic  and down means “welcome.”



Elephants are a big part of the tradition in India.  They were used for ceremonies but also as part of the military.   It was interesting to se the “elephant doors” of large forts where spikes were installed to prevent invaders from using elephants to knock down the doors to gain entry.


Today elephants mostly give tourists like me rides.  Our guide told us that “buying an elephant is like buying a bus.”  First, they are expensive–somewhere around $25,000.  One has to have proper registration and be able to prove that one can take care of the animal. It takes an elephant a good six months of “training” to be able to work in the tourist industry–giving rides around the major historical venues.

The elephants only “work” a few hours a day and then require rest.  “They have better work conditions than we guides do,”  our friendly ambassador to Jaipur told us.  “They really don’t work for very long each day before they get fed and time for a rest.”

I learned that in March an Elephant Festival is held in Jaipur.  At this point I have no plans to return to India…….but the call of an Elephant Festival might be too strong. I had such a good time at the Camel Festival.    Hmmmmm. A chance to see Elephant Polo?  Could happen.


 Photo credit:


From Wikipedia:

Elephant Festival is a festival celebrated in Jaipur city in Rajasthan state in India. It is held on the day of Holi festival, usually in the month of March.The festival features Elephant polo and Elephant Dance. The Elephant Festival begins with a beautiful procession of bedecked elephants, camels, horses and folk dancers. The owners proudly embellish their elephants with vibrant colors, jhools (saddle cloth) and heavy jewellery. It is quite a treat to see female elephants wearing anklets, which tinkle as they walk. One can see people sprinkling ‘gulaal’ (colored powder) perched on top of the elephant. The most beautifully decorated elephant is awarded. Elephant polo, Elephant race, the tug-of-war between Elephant and 19 men and women are the featured events of the festival.



Post Author
Susan J. Smith
Susan's career includes writing for newspapers, lots of community work and a wonderful family life. Now she is enjoying traveling, photography and writing for DesignDestinations and Grand Rapids Magazine. She welcomes you on her journey and appreciates your comments.


  1. posted by
    Cindy Schad
    Nov 24, 2011 Reply

    Loved hearing about your “elephant” adventure.  There is a wonderful book Modoc: The True Story of the Greatest Elephant That Ever Lived by Ralph Helfer…highly recommend. Both of us enjoyed reading it, and it will enhance your “elephant knowledge”!

    • posted by
      Nov 24, 2011 Reply

      Hi Cindy,
      Thanks for the recommendation.  I’ll put it on my iPad to read soon. 

  2. posted by
    Apr 23, 2013 Reply

    Hey! While I respect that elephant riding seemingly is an awesome experience. The training the elephants go through is akin to torture. I have seen this first hand, in Thailand, Nepal and India, it’s horrific. I will leave it there. But I am happy to give you more information I am more than happy to help you out. Also, those seats, are terrible. Elephants were never made to be ridden, and unfortunately the huge, heavy seats often breaks the back of the elephants…

    Keep in mind, a wild elephant would NEVER let you get within 500 m of it. So why does this one let you ride it? The short answer is because the elephant is too scared to do otherwise, in fear of a beating.

    Of course you were unaware of this, so this is in no way an attack, but people need to be aware of the damage elephant tourism is doing.

    • posted by
      Apr 23, 2013 Reply

      HI Emma,
      thank you for your comment. It’s interesting. Just last night I watched a documentary about elephants and how they are mistreated in circuses and zoo and then this morning, here’s your comment. Like you say, I had no idea. I’m surprised Abercrombie and Kent would incorporate an elephant ride in the trip knowing what I now know. Thank you so much for your comment.

  3. posted by
    Vishakha Gupta
    Sep 19, 2013 Reply

    Riding an elephant is a great experience indeed. When I first took Rajasthan Tour Packages and ride an elephant, I got scared but after sometime it was incredible.

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