Nepal is very popular in terms of adventure related sports. Among other sports, Elephant Polo is one of the rare, adventurous and only of its kind in Nepal. This game was first played in India around 20th century by the members of the Maharaja’s Harem (Zenena) to keep them busy. The idea of Elephant Polo in Nepal with the name of The co-founders, James Manclark, a Scottish landowner and Jim Edwards.
The first elephant polo games were played with a soccer ball. But after finding out that the elephants like to smash the balls, the soccer ball was replaced with a standard polo ball. The World Elephant Polo Association (WEPA) was established in 1982 with its headquarter at Tiger Tops Jungle Lodge in Chitwan, Nepal. The very first elephant was played on a grass airfield in Meghuauly, located just on the edge of the National Park.
Elephant Polo is similar to Horse Polo. The major difference between horse and elephant polo besides the substitution of an elephant for a horse, is that the elephants are driven by their trainer called ‘mahouts’. The mahouts are the care takers of the elephants who have generally worked with the elephants for several years and the elephants respond quickly to mahouts’s signals. There are two distinctive ways that the mahout makes communication with the elephant. First one is with the verbal commands and the second – by applying pressure to the back of the elephant’s ears with the feet. It is the players’ responsibility to let mahout know where to go, when to stop, in which direction and so on.
The games of the game are very similar to that of horse polo, but the pitch is ¾ length (because of the slow speed of the elephant). The game is played by four players in each team on a marked pitch 140 x 70 meters, using a standard size polo ball and consists of two 10 minute chukkers of playing time. The interval is of 15 minutes and the whistle is blown by the referee stops and starts the game. The sticks are made of bamboo and have a standard polo mallet on the end. The length of the stick depends on the size of the elephant – anywhere from 5 to 12 feet.
After Tiger Tops Jungle Lodge stopped this event, this event is being continued by Chitwan Elephant Festival in Sauraha Chitwan. We would like to thanks Kemika Bhandari, Player of Elephant Polo, for encouraging us to start this program in Sauraha.