Elephants in Thai History.
Thailand has had a long-standing relationship with elephants, which have been significant to the country’s important institutions such as the nation, religion, and monarchy. They are also connected to the economy and beliefs. Let’s delve into the history of Thailand’s national animal and city symbol, the elephant.
During the reign of King Rama II, the second monarch of the Chakri Dynasty in the Kingdom of Siam (present-day Thailand), the national flag featured a white elephant on a red background. Later, during the reign of King Rama V, also known as King Chulalongkorn or Rama V, he visited Singapore and Batavia (now Jakarta, Indonesia) and received elephants as royal gifts from both countries to foster cultural and trade relations.
The relationship between elephants and the Thai people is intertwined with religion and belief. In Buddhist history, there are accounts of the Buddha being offered water by a wild elephant named Nalagiri, while a monkey offered him honey. This event is depicted in the form of a statue at Wat Pa Lelai in Suphanburi Province. Another example of the cultural significance of elephants can be seen in the Sukhothai period, where the Wat Chang Lom stupa in Si Satchanalai, Sukhothai Province, features elephant sculptures surrounding its base.
An important date associated with elephants is March 13, which is celebrated as “Thai Elephant Day.” This date was designated by the Thai Cabinet in 1998 (B.E. 2541) to honor the importance of elephants in Thailand. The reason behind choosing March 13 as Thai Elephant Day is that it was the day when the National Animal Selection Committee decided to designate the Asian elephant as the national animal symbol. Initially, this date was proposed to commemorate King Naresuan the Great’s victory in a historic battle. However, as this date was already used to commemorate Thai Armed Forces Day, it was chosen instead to promote awareness and love for elephants among the Thai people.