Magoosh GRE

Animals Culture and Society

| March 24, 2015

The Relationship between Elephants and Human Beings in India

This essay will be focusing on the relationship between Elephants and human beings in India. I will also be discussing the background of Indian elephants, the relationship that Indian elephants share with human beings in India, issues that these relationships may hold and what may act to cement Indian societies with the Indian elephants.

Elephants are known to be one the largest land breathing mammal as well as the biggest in the animal kingdom. Elephants live in areas that are south of the Sahara Desert while Asian elephants are found in India and other countries in Southeast Asia. Elephants are interesting animals because of the way they travel together and care for their young and have been living up to today since 2000 BC. They’re also interesting to many people living in Asia and Africa because of their size and the way they can contribute to the economy. The natural environment of the elephants in India depends on the type of elephant. The Asian also known as the Indian elephant also lives in forests jungle and the tropical region. Elephants need a large range of land to roam so that they can find enough food and water to survive. They often follow elephant trails to get from one area to another to look for more food. Elephants eat bark, grasses, twigs, and leaves and they drop seeds in their dung, making them act as gardeners as they go about their travels.

Elephants in general where ever they live are have always been known to be an importance as part of the ecosystems they inhabit. They use their dung to drop seeds and help create a plant life. Their bodies are large they are used to knock down small trees which help other animals to find food. If there was to be any shortage of water elephant would also dig deep to find ways of getting water. Elephants are very family-centred animals they will always travel together under the control of a female known as a matriarch. The matriarch of a herd has knowledge of food and water sources and is responsible for helping her sisters, cousins, and other family members to stay safe and healthy. When it’s time to reproduce, the female elephants mate with bull elephants after a period of courtship. The female stays pregnant for 22 months while her baby elephant grows and develops inside of her. During labour, the pregnant elephant is given help by another female elephant. Once a baby elephant is born, it may drink its mother’s milk for up to four years and will be cared for by everyone in its herd.

In India Elephants have been are found to be fundamental as part of their Indian cultural and history, dating as far back as the Vedic Period (1500BC. 600.C.)Elephants ultimately gained a privileged significance as horses therefore; they were tremendously in Indian culture. The elephant were known as the transporter (vahana) of Indra, the king of Gods .They also prominences in the storylines of Buddha with elephant’s festivals and procession being commonplace beside 231B.C.The elephants became the emblem of Buddhism and they appear as famous features in the artistic carvings. India, elephants are a symbol of India itself.

The Asian Elephant (Indian) controlS and its use as the royal mount was strongly recognized along with this became an asset of the war. The elephants are well known for being social animals with a wide range of multifaceted within the community laws, rules and regulations this however, is marked as being discipline and well established customs. These creatures. have also been known for having a number of key places in different societies especially in India where human beings have revered, adored, and exploited them .India has eleven elephant keeping states that are domesticated elephants that are very valuable for different projects that humans in India engage them with. Asian Elephants (Indian) are also known have a huge feeding range as each animal eats 150 kg of food every day. They travel from one generation to another for long distance to find food and water in large territories which they follow same paths.

Indian elephants (Asian ) well known for their huge brains that store information which therefore, allows them to differentiate between individuals by recording memories and accumulate experiences such as droughts ,floods, dangerous places and where their superlative feeding places are .The Indian Task Force affirms elephants as integral to cultural ,religions in many societies therefore Indian is famously known for having the long tradition of elephants keeping and handling.

The relationship between elephants and human beings in India has increasing became an importance as the population of human grow and influenced on the elephants territories. As the current population growth in India continues it’s estimated that it would reach up to 12 billion people by the year 2054 however, 20 % of the world’s inhabitants live near the range of Asia’s Elephants. Human settlement has been a huge problem in India as a result of elephants believed to breaking up the habitants and cutting them off from other elephants and as a result this has unable them to follow their ancient migratory.(India Today)

In the south Asia of Hinduism is one of predominant and indigenous religious tradition they relate themselves to elephants also in different forms. Elephants play a large role in other aspects of Indian life beyond religion There is no doubt and western historians accept the fact the Hindu civilization is perhaps the oldest in the world. It predates by almost 4500 years the Christian era, which really starts with the birth of Christ. Equally accepted is the fact that the elephant is closely interwoven in Hindu ethos and culture. The elephant has been used as an instrument of war and also as a herald for temple worship. This fascination of the Hindu with the elephant has to be understood in the context of one of the prominent Hindu Gods Ganesh having a trunk as a nose. In addition the abundance of the elephant during all periods of history to the present day is also a factor that has made the elephant a distinct part of Hindu culture.

The ancient Indian epic the Mahabharata makes the first mention of the elephant as an instrument of war. The battle between the Pandavas and the kauravas on the plains of kuruskshetra a town about 100 miles from Delhi is the first recorded use of the elephant as a part of military arsenal. Subsequently the elephant became the main stay of Hindu armies. The commander in chief usually went to battle mounted on an elephant. The elephant was a decisive element in battles fought on plains and without gun powder. It must be recorded that the Hindus were the first to use the elephant for war and the last to discard it as well.

Hindu religion also greatly reveres the ‘elephant God ‘Ganesh.He was a son of Lord Shiva, one of the principle Hindu Gods. Ganesh Chaturthi which is the birth day of the god is celebrated with great gusto all over India particularly in the southern and western part of the country. The elephant is so much a part of Hindu religion that they are also used in temple ceremonies. This is very much in vogue in the Hindu temples of South India. The most famous of the temples at Madumalai near Coimbatore in South India has a very colorful pageant in which the elephant form part of temple ceremony.

Just as we have stud farms for Horses in South India so do the Hindus have elephant farms. The largest of them is attached to the Guruvayoor temple at Madumalai which has almost 50 elephants. The elephants are reared in a special environment and are taught the temple rituals.It is really a sight to see the elephants going in procession in pair to pay their obeisance to the deity. The festival of Ganesh Chaturthi which lasts for a week is spectacle worth seeing. Many tourists from the western world come to see this temple worship by elephants. Elephants are part of temple ceremonies all over South India.The state of kerela alone has about 500 elephants attached to temples for worship.

The elephants normally come in procession and enter the temple in pairs. They are decked with ornate jewelry and move to the accompaniment of music and devotional songs with the beating of drums and blowing of conch shells. The elephants on approaching the deity kneel down and then carry on.It is a tribute to the trainers that the elephants can be so trained that they become part of the pageant and take part in worship of the Gods.

The Hindu belief of the sacredness of animals is a dominant and beautiful aspect of Indian culture. Hinduism has many animal deities, modelled after the animals Indians see in life every day. For the female artists, saturating their art and their words with animal images is as natural as breathing. A Passage to India captures the prevalence of animals in India, and the holiness Hindus associate with them. In a key scene of the novel, Adela Quested and Ronny Heaslop are enjoying a car ride after deciding not to marry. Suddenly, the driver hits an unidentified animal. In the commotion of the minor accident, the two young people accidentally touch hands, and feel a thrilling wave of exhilaration. They search for the mystery animal with a spirit of excitement. After this electrifying adventure, the two decide to marry. Forster depicts how an animal indirectly brings the two lovers together. The intervention of nature and animal life impels the characters to make choices that shape their lives. For the characters, like many Hindus, animals are an important force in life. Understanding the role that animals play in all aspects of Indian and Hindu life allowed me to understand the universal essence of the Indian spirit. Indian culture is extremely faithful and spiritual and respects and cherishes life in all its forms.

This all looks fine but there is another side to the coin. A great many elephants are kept chained and not looked after properly. The mahouts are generally untrained and are prone to consume drugs. This reflects on the treatment of the elephants. I do feel the Hindu love for the elephant has to be translated to their better up keep and looking after. Can we expect animal rights activists and the Government to intervene

Due to lack of food which leads to a reduction of birth rates forests in India have been cut down in order to allow make space for cash crops such as rubber, tea and palm oil. The confrontation between human beings and elephants has increased in India due to shortage of wild food .Hungry elephants are believed to take crop raiding therefore crops are destroyed and damaged and this makes smaller farmers live hood with in a very short space in time .Communities have managed to control elephants by scaring them off however this has not been effective therefore it results in animals deaths by shooting and poisoning.

Elephants also attack human being especially those that live in fragile villages in India to satisfy them self with a taste of alcohol this also has resulted into human deaths. (John Knights) relates this as the conflicts between people and the elephants being ubiquitous and that the wildlife in general treats a variety of human responses. He also believes that elephants are being adapted to and benefit from human environment.

There has been an outcome in Thailand where elephants were believed to be at risk especially in forestry due to high death increase jobs were believed to be lost due to logging ban that was in place in 1989.During this period the elephants were believed to be profitable for their owners who had always made them work .Indian Elephants were exploited for their greedy purposes, by renting them in order for them to work on the streets for money. These however, resulted into huge problems as the street elephants had begun suffering from bad health and were feet hit with a hot tarmac. They caused a lot of concerns in towns of India as they were believed to be in control polluted in cities and always engaged themselves in road traffic accidents too.

That is bad both for humans and jumbos. After the deaths in Anekal, villagers angrily demanded that officials control the elephants. Others are taking direct action: around 100 of the animals are being killed each year, according to “Securing the Future for Elephants in India”, published on August 31st. A booming human population and rapid economic development are shrinking the elephants’ habitat. In Anekal farmers encroach on the forest, disrupting a migratory route. This is happening across 90 such corridors, leaving the animal populations isolated.
India has done a reasonable job of protecting its elephants. It has some 60% of the remaining total of 44,000-56,000 Asian ones. Whereas in India the population is stable, elsewhere numbers have slumped. Laos, once dubbed “the land of a million elephants”, may have only 1,000 left. Indians are generally keen on the animal in whose form is manifested a popular god, Ganesh. But even that fondness can cause misery: some 3,500 elephants are kept captive for temple rituals, political processions and spoilt children’s birthday parties.

The Indian elephants’ good health is not assured. Many are hit by trains or cars, or electrocuted by low-hanging power lines. Others fall to ivory poachers. Unlike African elephants, only the males have tusks, which has skewed the gender ratio in some places to one male for every 100 females.

The report suggests forming an elephant-conservation body and legal protection for the migratory corridors. The government will name the elephant a “national heritage animal”, giving it the same protection as the tiger. But that should really worry jumbo. Four decades after the much trumpeted setting up of Project Tiger, the big-cat population has continued its disastrous fall from 40,000 a century ago to 1,400 now.

In India, elephants have been an integral part of their cultural history, dating as far back as the Vedic Period (1500B.C. to 600B.C.) References are made in these early times to their domesticity and tameness. Elephants eventually gained a higher status than the horse, which was an extremely important animal in Indian culture. The elephant became the carrier (vahana) of Indra, the King of the Gods. They were also prominent in the stories of Buddha with elephant festivals and processions being commonplace. By 231B.C. the elephant had become the emblem of Buddhism and they appeared as prominent features in artistic carvings. Elephant possession and use as a royal mount was firmly established and along with this they became an asset of war.

Chung T, (2008). The raise of Asian giant in India. China: china
James, M Jasper and prothnelkin (1992). Growth of moral protest. Fordham University free Press.
Murray, J 2000, To the Elephant Grave Yard England, London
Knight, J. 2000, Natural Enemies, USA and Canada
Scigliano, E .2002, Love War and Circus (Old Age), Houghton Muffin Harcourt.
Gajah (Report) Securing the Future For elephants in India August 31/08/2010
Animals and Society
The Indian Zoo Inquiry (2006)

Category: Environmental Studies, Essay & Dissertation Samples