Thai Elephants and Its Significant to Thai Culture and History

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  • Topic: Elephant, Asian Elephant, War elephant
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  • Published : March 31, 2011
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Thai Elephants and its significant to Thai Culture and History

The elephant, the giant size animal with enormous power and gentle heart, is a living creature that have special place in Thai’s heart. It has been the icon of Thai tradition, culture and royal power through centuries since the old Siam. The thousand and thousand years of relationship between Thai people and elephants are even recorded and can be found abundantly on the pages of Thai’s historical book. Because of their long association, it surely can be said that Thailand is to elephants and elephants is to Thailand. The elephant has been an integral part of Thailand’s history and culture through both good time and war time. It is a symbol of tradition, history, royal, fortune and superstition. According to Buddhist legend, Queen Maya of Sakya, Lord Buddha’s mother, was dreamed that a divine Bodhisattva on white elephant touched her side. Later she became pregnant. This is why elephants are place in high esteem and reverence to Thai people, and white elephants are representing as high dignity and majesty. Therefore, the white elephant was a national emblem on Siam’s national flag. Moreover, the elephants are on Thai’s stamps, Navy flag, Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, coins, architectures, Buddhist art, temples and many more. The country annually celebrates the 13th of March as Elephant Day.

In general, elephants are the largest land animal that exists now. They are great in size with enormous strength, intelligent, and gentle creature. Elephants are highly socialized animals. They live in forests, grassland and scrub with their family herds and friends. The life span of elephants is closely equal to human beings, approximately 70-100 years. The elephant’s gestation period is between 18 to 22 months. Elephants become sexually mature at the age of 16 as their early teens. A mature male elephant of age 20 is usually stay in pairs or a group of three. There is a hierarchy in elephant, the dominant adult male elephant with experience and strength is established and gain respect from their younger elephants in the group. The older female with years of accumulated knowledge is respected by the female members. The prime life of elephants that reach the peak of their physical power is between the ages of 25-40. They begin to slow down after the age of 40 and set in approximately at the age of 55. They normally live for 80 years or more. Elephants are herbivorous. They enjoy a variety of vegetation like bamboo, grasses, trees, plant leaves and fruits. A mature elephant can consume up to 200-300 kilograms of food and 60 gallons of water a day. Elephants are the kind of animal that love affection and attention. They have a gentle hearts and value friendship.

Thai elephants have shared history with Thai people in traditional and cultural ways since the days of old Siam. Historically, elephants were people main transportation, labor and warfare. Based on historical recorded, elephants are supreme importance in the battlefield. The most renowned elephant war was 300 years ago between Thai and Burma. They were used as the main source of army with fully plate amours. In elephant dual, commanders would sit on elephants’ backs and combat adversaries. In the battlefield of the late 17th century, there were as many of 20,000 war elephants in Siam’s army. There were four renowned war elephant in Thai’s history as follows: the battle between King Ramkhamhaeng and Khun Sam Chon during Sukhothai era, Chao Aye Phraya and Chao Yee Phraya in early Ayuthaya era, Queen Srisuriyothai and Pharachao Prae, a Burmese commander in Ayuthaya Era, and King Naresuan and the Burmese Crown Prince in Ayuthaya Era. Recently, the films called ‘Srisuriyothai’ and “King Naresuan” were made. War elephants were included as an important part of the movies. The importance of Thai elephants is not only for the used in battlefields. Elephants are also the prestige animals to Thai’s Kings,...
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