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Surin Elephant Festival | งานช้างสุรินทร์


Kuy People demonstrate how to catch an elephant

Amazing Elephant Fair in Surin

History of the Surin’s  Elephant Fair

If we turn back the time to more than 200 years ago at the reign of Somdet Phra Chao Yu Hua Phra Thi Nang Suriyat Amarin (Thai: สมเด็จพระเจ้าอยู่หัวพระที่นั่งสุริยาสน์อมรินทร์) the last monarch of Ayutthaya kingdom the king’s white elephants broke the elephant-trapping pens and ran away from Ayutthaya kingdom to a forest and to Phimai city. Somdet Phra Chao Yu Hua Phra Thi Nang Suriyat Amarin, therefore, sent some soldiers to follow those white elephants and took them back to Ayutthaya kingdom. The soldiers he sent had been following those white elephants until they reached a small town where a group of people called Kuy ( Thai: กูย/กวย) lived. These Kuy people are very famous in catching elephants, so the soldiers asked them to catch all elephants back to Ayutthaya, and they did this successfully.

The Kuy people’s feat at that time made the king very satisfied and after that the Kuy’s leader was given the title Luang Surin Pak Dee (Thai: หลวงสุรินทร์ภักดี) and later was promoted  to the title of Phra Yaa Surin Pak Dee Sri Narong Jang Wang (Thai: พระยาสุริทร์ภักดีศรีณรง จางวาง) and became the first governor of Surin Province.

From the past to present, there are many generations of Kuy people who inherit the elephant heritage from their ancestors, the method of catching and raising elephants such that they are viewed as part of their family. This has made the relationship between Kuy people and elephants closely bound for such a long time.

Kuy people and their elephant assembly at Ta Glaang village in 2498 (1955).

Kuy people and their elephant assembly at Taklang village in 2498 (1955).

The year 2498 B.E (1955 C.E) was regarded to be the year of unintentional elephants’ assembly. The assembly happened because the Kuy people heard about the news of a helicopter visiting in Taklang village (the village of Kuy people regarded to be the biggest elephant village in Thailand nowadays). All the villagers then agreed to assemble since they had never seen a helicopter before. At this time, most of the villagers used well elephants as their vehicles. When they arrived at the place the helicopter landed, it made the people on the helicopter more surprised because there were more than 300 elephants there.

The situation of the unintentional elephants’ assembly in 2498 B.E (1955 C.E) made all people who heard about it interested. In the year 2503 B.E (1960 C.E) in Tha Tum district where the elephant village is located, there was a celebration for a new district office. At that time the Kuy people and their elephants were invited to do the elephant show to all Surin people. The elephant show that time was of big interested to a large number of people.  Apart from showing how to catch an elephant, there also were elephant parades, elephant’s competition such as elephant’s race and at night there were also some various kinds of entertainment for the whole night.

After that the Surin Elephant Fair began and from then on become the world famous festival held each year in November. Up until now, the Surin Elephant Fair has already been organized continuously for 50 years. The province used to be very quiet in the past but is now a major attraction. The Kuy and their elephants have proudly made the province notable worldwide.

The elephant shows later were added to be more entertaining to visitors, elephant parades, clever elephant show, elephants walk cross human, elephants play football and elephant parades in the war (represent Thai history) etc.

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Thai Language Teacher