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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. tourismthailand.org

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