India and Elephants, a relationship that goes back a long way...!
When you travel to India, one of the things you may have in mind is to see Elephants... North India, and especially Jaipur is a well known place to go if you are keen to do that!
Elephants, the biggest mammals on earth have always been part of Indian History and have long been revered by Indians. The elephant-headed god Ganesh, the remover of obstacles, is invoked before every new endeavor and elephants add to the aura of temples and bestow blessings on the devoted.
They were probably first tamed by Indians around 4000 BC in the Indus valley. Unlike cows or dogs bred in captivity, elephants, mostly because of their unstable behavior and the high cost of their care and maintenance due to their slow growth, have always been taken from the wild.
Originally captured for the agricultural works, they have been afterwards used for military purposes. Actually Indian civilization was the first to see the interest of its military use on a battelfield. Either as pack animals pulling war machineries, as a charging force to break the ennemy lines, or even as prisoner executioners.
Indeed in European History, the first report about this magestic animals came from Alexander the Great when he faced not less than 200 of these war animals in -326 at the doors of India...He understood quickly the advantages and disadvantages of this war weapons by using them in his army: elephants would frighten the ennemy's horses and infantry still they were subject to panic and were a threat to their own army especially when their mahout were killed.
The mahout, from a Muslim cast, is their sole rider and caretaker. He is assigned an elephant early in its life and both remain bonded to each other throughout their lives.
The royalty of India - Hindu and Muslim- understood long ago as well that concrete and symbolic power was best wielded from the back of an elephant. Kings appeared before their dazzled subje