Phajaan (which originated from tribal communities in India and Asia) is the practice of separating an elephant’s wild spirit from it’s body so it can be domesticated and worked. It has been used to tame elephants for thousands of years, and despite controversy from the modern world, is still a standard practice today. In this article I will explain the Phajaan process, how it works, the effects it has on the elephants and the controversy surrounding it.
The elephant calf is then forced into a tiny cage that is only just big enough to house it’s body. It’s legs are tied tightly together so that it can barely stand, and its neck is tied to the top of the cage so the little elephant cannot lie down without strangling itself. Villagers shout commands at it and expect the calf to understand and comply. Then when it doesn’t they beat it, then shout the command again, then beat it again when it doesn’t do what they want… This inefficient method of trial and punishment continues until the elephant coincidentally does the right thing.
The Phajaan ritual lasts anywhere from three to seven days. During this time the baby elephant is given little or no water or sleep and no food (although villagers have been documented dangling food in front of the elephant’s face to torment it). When the village’s spiritual leader senses that the spirit of the elephant has changed, it is released from the cage and is given food and water. By this time the calf is very weak and it’s spirit has literally been beaten out of it. Apparently the Phajaan process breaks the bond between mother and calf, but in most cases it doesn’t matter, as the calf is never allowed to see her again anyway.
A YouTube video depicting the very cruel “Phajaan”