The Elephant Festival in Jaipur was meant to be meant to be an unmissable event. I love to document major festivals, therefore I’d timed my trip so I’d be in Jaipur on March 26th. Unfortunately, on the day before the festival, there was strange rumor being whispered around the city. By the evening, a piece of paper stuck to a hotel window confirmed our fears, this year the Elephant Festival would be elephant free.
I completely understand and applaud the organizers, if they believe that it is no longer appropriate to use elephants to celebrate a festival. If the elephants have to be conditioned into a state of docility and obedience by violence then I’d hate to condone the behavior by photographing, and therefore promoting, the event.
What was frustrating was that this decision had been taken weeks if not months previously, and yet it was only announced the day before the festival. This became obvious when, on arriving at the event, all the banners and printed materials called it a Holi Festival and there was no mention of elephants.
The Holi Festival turned out to be a bit gimmicky with foreigners taking part in a turban tying contest, and a race carrying earthenware pots. There was also a small parade with some locals dressed in Rajashtani folk costumes. It wasn’t what I was expecting, but at least I could get some portraits.
I didn’t stay for the tug of war or the fireworks, but headed back to the hotel. I’d get some food and an early night, so that I’d be ready for a more exciting, and far more colorful tomorrow.