Metal spikes (ankus) were banned, and pith helmets were mandatory in an effort to mitigate accidents. At the annual pre-match meeting around a blazing fireplace with whisky tumbler in hand, Raj could be relied on to slow down proceedings pedantically to review the rules, ensuring the safety and wellbeing of elephants and riders.
Four elephants with a driver and player roped onto the gaddi (padded saddle) comprised each team, and the ball used was the same as regular polo — the footballs first tried burst when stamped on. The field was festively lined with banners, team tents, commentary stands, pop-up shops, local musicians and hundreds of villagers gathered from far and wide to enjoy the spectacle.
Clad in white jodhpurs, riding boots and team shirts, the over-excited braying participants competed for barmy team names (Rusty Kukris, Pukka Chukkas, Tickle & the Ivories, Afghaniphants), clutching bloody marys between chukkas and comparing blisters. Distracted by off-pitch party pranks, the point of elephant polo is to take it seriously or not, in careful measure, and beware to those who underestimate the complexity of pachyderm skill and strategy.