Bathing With Elephants In Kaziranga National Park

Elephants are one of the most magnificent creatures. Though they are so mighty and dangerous, their humbleness and graciousness shows, when they allow humans to tame them. This attitude has always intrigued me and I’ve often wondered as to what makes them scared of humans; for we are so small and insignificant in mass compared to an elephant. But across the years in my little escapades to Kaziranga National Park in Assam, I have met up with many domesticated elephants and their masters, and I have realized it is rather a deep bond, that of respect, which brings an elephant and a man together, in a companionship that lasts a lifetime.

A mahout ranger with his elephant midst lush green grassland of Kaziranga.

Kaziranga is India’s little Africa; it’s fertile grasslands and forests rich with prey and predator, such as elephants, rhinos, deer  wild buffaloes,  monkeys, birds and on top of the food chain, the tiger! Ways to explore this park is through jeep and elephant safaris which are a thrilling experience; of being in the wild, close to the primal instinct that rules all existence. But if ready for a little more adventure, the national park has a few other surprises rolled up its sleeve, which cannot be found in any guidebook or tourist signboard. Like exploring some of the villages that surround the park and be delighted by the hospitality and friendliness of the villagers. Or trying out the ethnic cuisine; made of organic produces and herbs.

On one such adventure a few years back, I ended up spending an afternoon with a mahout named Rajan and his elephant Rukmani. He’d invited me over to join them in their daily afternoon bathe sessions, and I’d gladly accepted. I had never been much close to an elephant before, let alone to bath with one. When I arrived by the stream, I was a bit nervous, and excited. Rukmani was there, enjoying and splashing water to her back. Behind, her little male calf was trying to copy his mother’s actions. It was beautiful to see the little one. He was cute and tiny. Encouraged and helped by Rajan, it didn’t take long to feel comfortable of being in the presence of an elephant and her child. Rukmani enjoyed the scrubbing on her back, while her playful calf would not leave me alone; splashing water on me through his little funnel of a nose and in return I would splash water on him with a bucket. He seemed as much wound up by my presence as I was with his. The afternoon swept by quickly, spent having one of the most exciting bath of my life. It was an ‘Alive is Awesome’ experience; to be out in the wilderness, to be a part of its diversity and to communicate with creatures through methods that are enjoyable to them. The sun soon set over the vast landscape of Kaziranga National Park, painting the sky in shades of orange followed by purple. I hugged Rajan and gave him some money, while he promised to keep the elephants safe and healthy.

* This post is part of a series showcasing Alive is Awesome experiences for Cinthol.

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