Elephants are the national animal of Thailand. Various festivals in Thailand are associated with elephants, but when it comes to elephant festivals, none are as renowned and recognized as the "Surin Elephant Festival." Why is Surin chosen for this event? Let's explore the answer.
Surin is nicknamed the "City of Elephants" because it has a group of elephant keepers known as "Kui" or "Kuy," who have been skilled in capturing elephants since ancient times. The art of elephant capture has been a cultural heritage passed down through generations, coupled with the vast forested areas that are suitable for raising elephants, cows, and buffaloes. This makes elephants a common domesticated animal in almost every household in the region. The most famous elephant village is the one in Ban Taklang, Tambon Krapho, Tha Tum District, Surin Province, situated near the banks of the Mun and Chi rivers. Although there are no longer wild elephant captures in the Phanom Dong Rak mountain range and the border areas with Thailand and Cambodia, there are still experienced elephant doctors who continue to uphold the local wisdom of elephant capture and live in the area.
The Surin Elephant Festival was first held on November 19, 1960, in celebration of the establishment of the new district. It became an annual event for Tha Tum District. The festival features a parade of elephants, elephant bathing shows, and fast-paced elephant races, attracting significant attention from the public. The event gained widespread popularity both nationally and internationally, prompting the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT, now TAT) to support and send officials to train elephants, shaping the format of the performances to make them more captivating. The Surin Elephant Festival was officially approved as a national event in 1962, with support from the government.
For this year's Surin Elephant Festival, it is scheduled to take place from November 16 to 27. If you want to experience elephants up close and witness the grandeur of the festival, start preparing for your journey. For those interested in learning about the Kuy way of life and the art of elephant medicine, you can meet experienced elephant doctors or explore exhibitions at the Kuy Cultural Center and the elephant village in Ban Taklang, Tambon Krapho, Tha Tum District, Surin Province, every day.