Thailand is usually associated with elephants, and with good reason: this majestic animal is the country’s national animal. It only makes sense, then, that a good part of the Thai experience has to do with seeing these animals in their natural habitat. If you are making plans to visit one of the many elephant sanctuaries in the country, why not learn a few facts about elephants beforehand? Read on below!
1. Elephants are religious symbols – one of the most common facts you will learn at an Pattaya elephant village or elsewhere is that the entire country views the animal religiously. As you would know, Thailand is a predominantly Buddhist country, and a specific tale in the religion has to do with this specific view of elephants – the premonitory dream the mother, of the baby who would go on to become Lord Buddha, had. In this dream – which is believed to signify her conception of the foetus – the Queen Mahamaya saw a young white elephant with a lotus flower in its tusk make three rounds around her before entering her stomach. If you have visited any of the country’s holy sites, you will see man images or sculptures of a white elephant, which symbolize this specific dream.
2. They are also royal symbols – and of course, another point you would learn about elephants in Thailand is that they are also symbols of royalty. The stately nature and its large size naturally play a part in this – in fact, most of Asia and other regions which had elephants have tended to associate them with royalty. The white elephant is once again seen as the most valuable here as well, to the point that the royal family of Thailand held a monopoly over them in the past (and would often gift them to other countries as a sign of diplomatic alliance or the like).
3. They are an important part of Thailand’s tourism industry – this is an obvious point, but if you did not know, tourism in Thailand is quite heavily linked to their elephants. Sadly, this has also been a negative point for the country (and for the elephants), as unscrupulous individuals have exploited these beautiful animals for money. On the bright side, however, recent years have seen the country and the international community address these problems, and nowadays, you can easily find ethical elephants in Phuket or other famous tourist spots in the country.
4. They have an annual festival devoted to them – and to conclude, why not mention the colourful Surin Elephant Roundup? Held during the third week of November, this is a cultural festival of the region. It celebrates the animals by holding magnificent parades of the animals and offers delighting food buffets during its run, so it is definitely worth a visit if you are planning to visit Thailand during the season.