A visit to 'Hathi Gaon' in Jaipur, and why I regret it...

It was almost the end of the day and I had a long long day with the elephants at Jaipur's Hathi Gaon (elephant village). For those who don't know about the place, Hathi Gaon is a village created to meet the special needs of elephants who work in and around Jaipur. On a personal level, I am completely against any form of enslavement of animals, and though this might be a bit better than many other places, to me it's still keeping these majestic animals away from their homes and families so that we can enjoy life at their expense.

Anyway, after the long and hot day I decided to climb up and sit on a small hillock near Hathi Gaon. I wanted some peaceful time away from people as I contemplated on the things I was doing in life, and the highly unusual direction my life was taking. Usually I am satisfied at the end of the day, but today I was just contemplative.

While my mind churned and I looked at the sun going down, a couple of voices barked right behind me. As I turned suddenly, a young girl and her even younger brother laughed hard looking at my surprised face. I asked her name, and she tried to scare me again, even though I had my camera on her.

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The young girl and her brother :)

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The hike up...

Just like most young kids, she asked me if I had a pen that I could give her. I didn't and offered her some chocolates instead, which they happily took. Maybe no one in her family had warned her about the dangers of taking food from strangers. Maybe she didn't even have a family.

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View from up there...the sheds are for the elephants

So what exactly is Hathi Gaon?

As I mentioned earlier, Hathi Gaon is an architectural project for housing about 100 elephants and their mahaut on the outskirts of Jaipur. Work on building the village started in 2006 and finished in 2010. The village was meant to be a safe and comfortable place for the elephants to stay after a day's work at the Amber fort during the day. It was world's third, and India's first elephant village, but it seems it's getting worse by the day.

It's a celebrated architectural project and was done by architects Rahul Mehrotra, Cyrus Patella and Robert Stephens. I must admit that the space is designed in a way that seems more like natural habitation, but the truth is that the animals are still held captive in enclosed spaces. Perhaps it's a much better space than how they are usually kept in other places, but it's still keeping a giant animals enslaved for our entertainment.

I didn't spend as much time at the village, but I didn't really feel so good about it as well. I saw a few tourists trickle in to see the elephants and take a ride on it, something I feel very strongly about, and that only disappointed me even more. Why have an elephant village where these majestic elephants can't even rest?

Often the relationship between a mahaut and the elephant is glorified, and though all mahauts are not as cruel, the process of taming a wild animal to listen to human commands is absolutely heartbreaking. Here's a video shared by my friend Shilpa on how elephants are tamed. Let me warn you in advance - it's not an easy watch.

How to reach Hathi Gaon?

If you still feel a deep urge to visit Hathi Gaon, and ride these tired animals even at their homes, here's how you can reach the village. It's located only about a kilometre away from where the Jaipur Delhi highway and the road to Amer Fort meet. You can easily map it on google as well.


  1. Sid, I know what you must have felt. This ancient tradition of using captured wild animals for human use should stop completely. It will stop only when we, common people stop admiring such usage of wild animals. Here is a short film where you can see how elephants are tamed which otherwise has been bestowed status of National Heritage Animal by our Government in 2010. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sy9jtX0_LTI

    1. I completely agree with you, and it breaks my heart to see how people continue to support and promote it even today. Many tourists need to be education about what goes on in the background as they just see elephants as huge and docile animals, without realising how much torture they must've gone through to become that way.

      I included the video you shared in the post above. It's a difficult, but an important clip to watch...

    2. Oh thanks Sid. Good to see there are many people who share the same concern.

  2. Hate to see wild animals in captivity. That is why I never visit any zoos or take any of those animal rides.

  3. I can understand how you feel. Riding elephants has been shown beyond doubt to be cruel and unnecessary, and it shouldn't be happening in the 21st century. As Shilpa says, people need educating on how these beautiful wild animals are treated in preparation for our 'enjoyment'. I think the only way to stop these cruel parks is if we all stop visiting.

  4. Thanks for sharing about the elephant village - I'm with you on being disappointed by any type of establishment which enslaves wildlife - I've visited so many zoos and seen the terrible effects being cages does to an animal's mental state, and while I'm happy to support orphanages, rescue centers and most sanctuaries, I feel as though the word "sanctuary" is far too loosely applied these days, and many places slap the same on so there's no negative connotation. Thanks for spreading awareness about how visiting these parks feuls the bad treatment of beautiful animals.

  5. Yes, I understand what you mean completely. There are always places in the world that take advantage of beautiful animals for profit. I am completely with you on that... But I believe its actually OUR problem. If people stopped going to this places and stopped paying money to see them, maybe most of that problems would be solved. Thanks for the post and for making me think about that problem too...

  6. So many people don't understand the background on most animal tourism. It's hard because most people who interact with animals on their travels feel that they're doing so because they love them (I myself have been guilty of this in the past) but in reality they're deeply hurting them. Posts like this will hopefully make changes!

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  9. I am planning to go there, before reaching thought read some article if its there then sudden found your article is posted which is really informative.
    Whole thing that you shared your positive and negative experience with us that is truly worth.
    Me too coming from a company , i have to make a project on this and submit to my company
    . Thanks a lot for sharing this.


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