The White Elephant of Thailand

White elephant

The legend of white elephant started in Southeast Asia, it was the land of these rare creatures that were attributed to royalty.

The story of Buddha sees the White Elephant as a symbol of fertility and knowledge wherein the mother of Buddha saw the vision of a white elephant offering lotus which is the symbol of purity and knowledge upon the birth of Buddha.

The temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia depicted these magnificent animals in their murals whereas a few years later, Siam or today known as Thailand has taken respect of the animal. Elephants were significant for military purposes as well as in pageantry for Kings parading during royal ceremonies and processions.

At the moment, the elephant shares a place in Thailand’s navy flag. The white elephant is rare, only seen in Thailand. It symbolizes not only the long history of elephants in the culture of Thailand but of its history. Long been revered, elephants were ridden by Kings to battle defending the land against invasions.

Moreover, " Thai legends has it that a marriage is like an elephant– the husband is the front legs, that choose the direction, the wife the back legs, providing the power." T he "order of the white elephant" is one of the highest honors, bestowed by the king to an individual.

The white elephant which use to roam the country in numbers, is a noble beast of special abundance. This, according to the ancient royal Thai traditions, exemplifies the king’s honor and glory. "Known in Thai as Chang Samkhan, a white elephant is a gift fit for a king and to acquire one during his reign, will bring about prosperity and happiness throughout the kingdom."

"Elephants are of immense importance in Thailand. They are smart land mammals and hard-working beasts, providing transportation for mankind. At times of war, elephants played an indispensable role in the war machine of Thailand and other Asian countries. Commanders fighting duels on elephant back, documented throughout Thai history, required strategic planning and great skills to lead armies to win wars. Elephants in battle played a sterling part in maintaining the sovereignty of Thailand in past war periods."

It is unfortunate, however of its decline in numbers. The rampant slaughting and hunting of these precious animals have reduced their numbers. In a documentary of Discovery Channel featuring Meg Ryan’s quest for the White Elephant, we have seen the the mystery and magnificence of one animal to a culture and to a whole country.

 
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