National Geographic : 1958 May
Pipers Lead a Tusker Too Regal for Riders During Dasara, gay throngs crowd the streets of Mysore city to watch sword dancers, clowns, and fireworks, and to drink in the pomp and pageantry. Each day they view the spectacle shown here, when the state ele phant, most venerated animal in the royal stables, is taken to Somesvara Temple. Gilded toenails and silver anklets adorn the beast's legs. Jeweled sword and shield em blazon the forehead. The seat is sheer ornamentation, since not even the Maharaja rides the state elephant. A two-headed eagle, long the emblem of Mysore, is painted on the trunk. This bird seems to be related in mythology to the roc, the gigantic creature whose claws carried Sindbad the Sailor in the ArabianNights tale. Musicians play drums and bagpipes adapted from Scottish models. Members of the honor guard at left raise a ceremonial um brella and pike. Man in white trousers, long coat, and gold striped turban wears Mysore's prescribed court dress, including a 10-foot sash. 709 © National Geographic Society Cosmetics and vegetable dyes beautify an elephant. Paints are washable so that the animals can be freshly decorated for each day's festivities. Artists exaggerate eye lines and make bright flowers grow on legs and trunk. Forehead crescent symbolizes Siva, the Hindu god whose wife Durga once fought a terrible buffalo demon for 10 days. This battle and Durga's eventual vic tory are the occasion for the Dasara celebration. To Hindus they represent the triumph of Good over Evil. Baby elephant accompanied his mother in all Dasara parades because she refused to leave the stables without him. To keep him quiet during rituals, ma houts offered bribes of sugar cane. Too restless for formal adornment, he wears only eye make-up and stray dabs of paint.