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Overtures ARTS &

Overtures ARTS & CULTURAL MATTERS 13 MARCH Gigantic Feast! The elephant, ‘chang’ in Thai, is one of the enduring symbols of Thailand that’s played an important role in the history and culture of the kingdom. In 1998, the Thai authorities formally recognise their significance by designating March 13 as National Thai Elephant Day. Even during King Rama II’s reign in 1817, when the country was still known as Siam, the flag represented a white elephant. On Elephant Day, various events take place in zoos and elephant parks throughout Thailand. A huge banquet of fruits and sugar cane spreads out for them to indulge. In some cases, Buddhist ceremonies are held with the aim of bringing good luck for the elephant and its mahout. When travelling around Thailand, you will also notice many Thai temples with depictions of elephants – from statues to mural paintings. In the Buddhist legend, it is believed that Queen Maya (Buddha’s mother) conceived after the dream of a white elephant holding a lotus in its trunk entered her womb. This is why the white elephant is seen as highly auspicious and enjoys royal status in Thailand. Buddhism in Thailand also incorporates elements of Hindu beliefs and it is common to see elephants together with Hindu gods and deities. The Hindu god Ganesh with an elephant’s head and Erawan, the white elephant often seen carrying the god Indra, are often depicted in shrines and at temples in Thailand. T-shirts and souvenirs, as well as everyday objects, draw the hard-working creatures in realistic portraits to playful illustrations. Some Thai hotels offer towels with elephant logos, whilst restaurants and coffee shops in Thailand may also feature elephants on plates or cups in warm affection. Here’s to spotting an elephant in any shape or form on this day. 28 29