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Ganesh is Grumpy with the Treatment of Elephants in India

December 30, 2017 asian elephant Ganesh Hindi Hindu Hinduism India

Ganesh, or Ganesha as he is sometimes called, is one of the most popular gods in the Hindu religion. Ganesh is distinctive in that he has a human form with the head of an elephant. The best-known story about the creation of Ganesh is that he is the son of Parvati, the Hindu goddess of the mountains and wife of the greatest god, Lord Shiva. As Parvati wanted a guard as she took a bath, she created Ganesh from dirt to protect her. However, the boy refused to let Lord Shiva see his wife. An angry Shiva cut off the boy's head but replaced it with that of an elephant to console his wife.

"All obstacles, whatever they may be, will be rooted out by worshipping Ganesh,'' according to an ancient Hindu text. Ganesh is depicted on many temples some of which maintain a stable of real elephants for ceremonial events.

Accordingly, elephants are elevated in Indian culture particularly since 80% of the population is Hindu. Although elephants have a special place in the Hindu faith, they do not receive the care and nurture that they deserve like the domesticated elephants of Thailand which are equally revered in the Buddhist faith. Seldom does a major wedding go by in India without a decorated elephant appearing to bless the bride and groom. As a result, elephants are painted vibrant colors and walk great distances on the pavement in order to maximize the profit potential of working as many weddings as possible in a given day.

Domesticated elephants in the more natural settings face similar issues with those elsewhere in the Asian elephant world but Indian elephant conservationists indicate that the close connection between the mahouts and the elephants that exists in Thailand are not present in India. Apparently, the elephants in India are viewed more like chattels than family.

Elephants in the wild face even more drastic circumstances from time to time. Biplab Hazra was awarded the Sanctuary Wildlife Photographer of the Year award for his alarming image of an elephant and calf being attacked by a mob in West Bengal. A crowd of people are shown below throwing flame-soaked balls of tar and firecrackers at the animals, allegedly attempting to keep them away from local villages.

On the other hand, Sanctuary Asia indicates "This sort of humiliation of pachyderms is routine, as it is in the other elephant-range states of Assam, Odisha, Chhattisgarth, Tamil Nadu and more. India is the world's stronghold for the Asian elephant and boasts over 70% of the global population of the species. But this achievement rings hollow as vital elephant habitats and routes continue to be ravaged, and human-elephant conflict escalates to a fatal degree."

Where has the wisdom and compassion of Ganesh gone? Conflict situations between farmers and elephants exist wherever elephant wild habitats are juxtaposed to subsistence farming and are growing as the wild is rapidly shrinking. Nonetheless, Ganesh needs to send some messages to his followers centered on the compassion of Buddhism and encouraging more beekeepers for elephant control as illustrated in the following article centered in Thailand.

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