Friday, 13 June 2008

Surin Elephant Round Up

The northeastern part of Thailand has always been popular with tourists for its festivals. However, the festival that is considered to be the most popular is the Surin Elephant Round Up which held annually in November.

The people of Surin have long been renowned for their skill in capturing and training wild elephants and rounding them up. In the past, wild elephants lived in the forests near Cambodia. Unfortunately due to the war in Cambodia, the forests have become inaccessible and the elephant population has dwindled drastically. Now the elephant catchers make their living by performing shows with their elephants.

The Surin Elephant Round Up Festival is a display of talents and abilities of the elephants. The first round up happened in 1960. The festival usually begins with a procession where all elephants take part. The number of elephants range from 120 to 150 and include calves and adults.

Once the procession is over, the elephants begin to demonstrate their prowess by moving logs, playing soccer and tug-of-war. The events are designed to show that the elephant is not only a strong animal but intelligent, gentle and obedient. The festival concludes with a mock battle which used to be an important part of the elephants’ lives in the days bygone.

In earlier times, the Surin Elephant Round Up Festival used to be presided over by the king. Prayers, specially designed for this ceremony, were read and these included prayers for taming the captured elephants. In recent times, this festival has become a major tourist attraction in Thailand with Surin being the hub.