The Pink City played host to the annual Elephant Festival on the eve of Holi on Sunday with colourfully decorated pachyderms enthralling hundreds of tourists through their well-rehearsed moves and musicians and dancers performing elegantly at the traditional event dating back to the royal era.

The three-hour carnival added a new dimension to the festival of colours at Chaugan Stadium in the Walled City, where the show included elephant procession, folk dance with ‘Chang’, matka (pitcher) race for tourists, Holi dance of Brij and tug-of-war between locals and foreigners.

Elephants adorned with glittering ornaments, embroidered velvets and decorated cloth walked past the spellbound audience in style and gathered together at the centre of the stadium to form a ‘chaupar’, where their mahouts – carrying mashaal (torch) – played Holi. This was followed by an impressive display of fireworks.

For the first time, an on-the-spot elephant painting competition was organised for tourists and the best among the 30-odd elephants adorned with finery were selected at the end of the programme. However, the spectators missed the elephant polo for the second consecutive year in the festival.

The annual event, organised a day before Holi, is looked forward to by the tour operators in the State and elephant owners living near the historic Amber Fort here. Elephant owners begin preparations for the event almost a month in advance with the hope to attract more elephant riders to the Pink City.

In the spectacular grant finale, tourists were invited to play Holi astride the decorated elephants. Foreign tourists especially enjoyed the experience as they threw dry colours on each other.

Five private bands were invited to lend the distinctive Holi music with drums and Chang and a variety of cultural programmes were organised with the active participation of the audience.

A colourful Holi function was also organised at the historic City Palace here on the Dhulandi day on Monday. Members of the erstwhile royal family took part in the festivity with the artistes performing traditional dance with revelry on the occasion.