Jaipur Elephant Festival 2011: Chaos to the Max

I planned my entire vacation around being at the Jaipur Elephant Festival. I was so excited to finally be there! Yes, I was there, but I didn’t see it. I saw the opening procession —  but only some of it. It was a fiasco.

The venue had moved from Chaugan Field to the polo grounds for the first time this year. There was insufficient seating, to say the least. There were no permanent bleachers, only a few rows of plastic lawn chairs. An hour before it started, all the seats were taken.  Many people, myself included, were sitting on the ground. But that wasn’t the issue.

Spectators were constantly milling around and walking in front those who were seated, blocking their view. Even though I was seated in front of the temporary barriers right in front of the field, no one respected the barriers. They went out onto the field or walked between the barriers right in front of me almost constantly as I was trying to take pictures.  Seated festivalgoers started yelling at the people standing in front of them snapping photos to PLEASE SIT DOWN!!! No one did.

Despite the chaos, I managed to get a few decent photos, but many were ruined by idiot spectators on the field.

Idiot spectators on the field during the opening procession, ruining everyone’s shots.

More idiot spectators on the field both behind and directly in front of the performers, spoiling shots for everyone.

The gray bar at the bottom of the photo is the temporary barrier I was seated behind. The three jerks in the photo were among hundreds who didn’t think anything of wandering onto the field with the performers and spoiling chances for those who were seated to get decent pictures. Many of what would have been great photos were spoiled like this by inconsiderate people who didn’t belong there.

Festival officials feebly entreated people over the loudspeakers to take their seats but sent no one onto the fields to get people back behind the barriers and make them sit down. To say it was bitterly disappointing is an understatement.

Elephants weren’t the only stars in the parade.


There was no crowd control and no permanent barriers to prevent spectators from going out onto the field.  Soon things descended into complete chaos, as hundreds of people swarmed out onto the field to snap their photos literally right in the faces of the performers. If you were behaving yourself and stayed seated, you couldn’t see anything.

Seated on the ground as we were, Prem and I could only see a wall of camera-slinging spectators with the heads of the elephants peeking above them. Even if we had stood up, we wouldn’t have been able to see anything, and then that would have been rude to those behind us who were seated in the lawn chairs. Since the field was full of spectators and we couldn’t see any of the performances after the main procession had finished, Prem and I left. We had been there less than an hour.

I sincerely hope that the Jaipur Ministry of Tourism learns from this utter failure of event managing and makes some necessary changes for the future. Otherwise, even as beautiful as it is, tourists will start staying away in droves.

Update:

The Jaipur Elephant Festival was cancelled in 2013 due to pressure from animal rights groups, PETA in particular. Instead, Jaipur now hosts a Holi festival. Many websites have not updated their information and continue to refer to a Jaipur Elephant Festival which no longer exists. This includes what looks like the official elephant festival website, which makes no mention of the fact that there will be no more elephants at this event. The cancellation of elephants was mentioned in an article on about-dot-com on the event for 2015, but they still refer to it as the “elephant” festival.  If you are interested in seeing elephants, people are being referred to Elefantastic and Eleholi, but as of 2/24/2015, the eleholi link does not work.

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