Thailand - The Land of White Elephants

Flanked with shimmery beaches and lush green trees, Thailand is a slice of paradise. In spite of the incessant modernization as well as commercialization, Thailand has retained its cultural heritage and how! What people need to understand is that Thailand is so much more than the exotic, sensual place that we are made to see. It is a land steeped in integrity, a land peppered with ancient Buddhist monasteries, a land with mouthwatering food, and the land of white elephants.

About Thailand

Also referred to as Siam, the Kingdom of Thailand has a plethora of amazing things in store for tourists as well as locals. While the wonderful floating markets draw you in with their trinkets, the dense forests beg you to explore its hidden treasures. On one hand, the pristine beaches of the country call out to you to spend a couple of hours bathing in the warm rays of the sun, while on the other, the historical landmarks tug at the hearts of those who wish to uncover its past. When you pay a visit to Thailand, rest assured that you shall have no dearth in all the sights to see and all the food to gorge on!

Why is Thailand Known as the Land of White Elephants?

Depiction of the White Elephant in 19th Century Thai Art(Source)
To find the answer, one needs to be acquainted with the ancient practices of the kingdom that has been handed down for several centuries. 

1. The Historical Significance of the Land of White Elephants

This regal White Elephant bears a substantial amount of significance in this country. In keeping with the traditions of the Thai culture, the social status of a monarch has always been determined by the number of white elephants they have under their ownership. However, not any and every white elephant is accepted into the royal kingdom. They are put through a number of tests that are usually held by the official Bureau of the Royal Household in order to ascertain that the elephant in concern is deserving of the honour. In addition to being physically fit, these animals should also be easy to train. 

Of all the sovereigns who sat on the throne of the Kingdom of Thailand, King Bhumibol was the one to own the most number of elephants. Of the twenty-one white elephants that were under his ownership, eleven are still alive. However, six of them are no longer a part of the Royal Household - an instance of how the process of bestowing the white elephants with imperial titles is carried. Even today, a Royal Member strives to uphold his status with at least eleven white elephants in his stable.

2. White Elephants - A National Symbol

The state flag of Siam between 1916-1917 (Source)
  • The revered white elephant of Thailand has found its way up on the Naval Flag of the country. Against the backdrop of the national flag of Thailand is a bright red circle, at the heart of which stands a white elephant, decked in gold.
  • In addition, the diplomatic flags of Thailand also bear the image of the white elephant inside a blue circle against the backdrop of the national flag.
  • A number of provincial flags, including that of the Chiang Rai Province as well as the Nakhon Nayok Province, bear the revered image of the white elephant.
  • Formerly, the national flag of Thailand too was an image of the white elephant set against a scarlet background.

3. Elephant Tours in Thailand

Source
At present, these mesmerizing creatures are fairly accessible to the visitors as well as the residents of this country. A number of tour agencies host various kinds of elephant safaris where people can touch, interact with, as well as embrace these wonderful animals. Usually referred to as the "chang samkhan" in the local language, which may literally be translated to "auspicious elephant", the Thai consider these animals to be a symbol of purity, prosperity, power, as well as divinity.

Thailand is a place that shall inevitably be etched in your memory long after you have come back. It is one of those dreamy paradisiacal places that draw you in with its ethereal charm. In addition to its pristine wonder, Thailand's fascination with the gorgeous white elephants only adds to its mysterious aura. So while planning your next trip to the land of white elephants, make sure to meet them!

This post was published by Soumita Ghosh

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