Elephants have played an important part in Thailand’s history and today the Thai elephant (chang Thai,) remains as an enduring symbol of Thailand. In bygone eras they were used in warfare, but more recently elephants were used as a beast of burden, particularly in the logging industry. The elephant also has special spiritual significance with its association with Buddhist and Hindu beliefs.
Throughout Thai history, elephants have been used to assist in the construction of temples and to help clear forests and carry timber. The ancient kings of Siam used elephants to ride into battle and the more elephants a king had (especially white elephants) then the more status and power he enjoyed. This is epitomised by the letter sent in 1861 by King Rama IV to the American president. When the Siamese king found out that the American president had no elephants he offered to send him some to help in the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln gently declined the offer.
From 1855-1916, the national flag of Thailand (Siam as it was then) was a white elephant on a red background and the white elephant still features today on the Thai Naval Ensign.
In Thailand, white elephants are auspicious because of the connection with Buddha’s birth and by law all white elephants belong to the king. However, this does not automatically grant the elephant the rare privilege of being called a ‘royal white elephant’. For this to happen, a number of checks and tests have to be conducted by the Bureau of the Royal Household to ensure the elephant has the correct physical and behavioural attributes. Most ‘white’ elephants aren’t actually albino. They are paler in colour than other elephants, but the skin tone is normally closer to pink than it is to white.
The expression ‘white elephant’ is believed to come from when kings used to give white elephants as presents. If somebody was in favour with the king, land would be given in addition to the elephant. However, if the king wanted to prove a point to somebody who needed to be taught a lesson, the elephant would be given but no land. As it was forbidden for the royal elephant to work or to be sold, its upkeep became a very expensive undertaking and with no land for the animal, the recipient would often be driven to financial ruin in trying to maintain the elephant.
Historically, elephants in Thailand are considered to be very important culturally. There are many elephant’s references to art works, literature and national emblems. Since Thailand is a Buddhist country, elephants are portrayed as sacred animals from their special symbolism in the practice of Buddhism. Many art works in Thai royal palaces and temples have drawings of elephants on the paintings on the walls. In 1917, Thailand’s official flag was a white elephant in the middle of the scarlet background. White elephants in Thai society also represent wealth and power because of their past association with the Thai royals. The royal Thai navy flag also bears the symbol of white elephant. Many provinces in Thailand used to have elephants as part of their official emblems as well. In the Thai animal and planetary zodiac, the elephant is the fourth animal zodiac of the Thai people.
As above elephant history of Thailand, which is strongly inspiration of our minds to decorate our restaurants which named “PATSARA” where is very well decorated with several THAI elephant wood carving then covered with gold, gems and jewels. When you are sitting in our restaurants, you can really feel like to be in THAI country with ambrosial THAI food that we are intentionally provide you.