myanmar white elephant

Myanmar White Elephant – A Symbol of Rarity and Power

Do you know that besides magnificent pagodas and precious gemstones, Burma is also known for having rare elephant specie? The Myanmar white elephant. The white, or Albino, the elephant is not your typical dark colored elephant and it is not exactly white also, an albino elephant has a slightly pink or brown hued skin that distinguishes it from its other family members.

Myanmar White Elephant

Besides the white elephant being a rare and prized species, white elephant’ term is widely used in literature to signify an object that is of less value but requires high maintenance. Interestingly, Albino or white elephants are treated in the same way, since they are always considered as a valuable possession; it was not treated as other elephants that are used for riding and for entertainment purpose. As a result, they are practically of no use rather than pampering and, and some more pampering.

Why are they considered white?

Albino elephants are considered white because they lack the usual dark colored pigmentation that work as a camouflage for them. As a result, Myanmar White Elephants are significantly lighter in color with equally white skin and hair color, their toenails are light in color and their eyes have pink or blue iris with deep red pupil.

Historical Importance of White Elephants

For centuries, white elephants are considered as the symbol of peace, prosperity and power, countries like Thailand and Burma worship these rare elephants as they are kept in luxurious fashion to ensure their perfect health. Myanmar is a Buddhist country and therefore, they are amongst the countries that believe that having a white elephant will bring happiness and fertility to the land.

Presently, Myanmar has a total of nine white elephants out of which three are kept in Rangoon, or Yangon, and it is stated that the Myanmar’s military strongman, Than Shwe, wants to possess one of more of these rare species to signify his own power and rule. Other than Buddhism, white elephant holds equal importance in Hinduism also as god Indra is considered their owner and, in many depictions, he is seen with a white elephant. Likely, Buddha’s mother had a dream that a white elephant has entered her womb before she gave birth to him, which elevates the importance of this unique breed.

White Elephants in Myanmar

Thinking how important white elephants are in Myanmar? You can well calculate the fact of knowing that to capture the animal a training camp, White Elephant Capture and Training Group, has been exclusively set up to capture and train them for ‘royal’ life. If you want to see these royal creatures, then head to the Royal White Elephant Garden in Yangon, the place is not a usual Myanmar tourist attraction because many of them actually do not know that albino elephants do exist and that also in this mysterious pagoda land.

When visiting the Garden, you will receive a brochure stating how white elephant has ‘blessed’ the land with prosperity and is further bettering the country’s condition in regards of development, peace, modernizing and improved foreign relations. As they are such regal creatures, they are believed to be suited only for the very rich, royals and military men that can keep them lavishly. In case a Myanmar White Elephant dies, it is considered to be a disastrous omen for the owner.

How are they Treated?

Believed to be sacred creatures, Myanmar White Elephants are treated luxuriously with everyday bath and their cuisine of grass and sugarcane’s. White elephants are kept in Naypaydaw, the newly formed Myanmar’s capital, the city is military built by Than Shwe, a Burmese military man and monarchical aspirant who also built a couple of pavilions at the base of the Uppatasanti Pagoda for the comfort of his royal creatures. The downside of their treatment is that one of their feet is tied with a chain, which does not allow them much freedom. They are believed to be sacred that means that they are not for any work other than as a sign of royalty and power and a sacred animal of worship for people.

Have you had the coincidence of watching one of Myanmar White Elephant? Do let us know of your experience in your comments below.

Related Article: Top 10 things to do in Myanmar

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