They come painted red, yellow, blue, their thick greyish skin blossoming with mythological Nepalese symbols. They compete for their beauty, the way humans understand it. Welcome to the Elephant Beauty pageant, organised for the third time in Nepal’s Sauraha in December 2012.
ThinkBrigade reporter Rajneesh Bhandari presents the following photo essay from the contest:
Pinki is one of the participants at the elephant beauty contest. Here, she is being washed on the banks of the river Rapti by Aar Mohammad, 20, and Dosh Mohammad, 24, in December 2012.
Aar and Dosh hope that Pinki will win the beauty contest.
Aar uses red, pink, green, blue and black colours to paint various symbols and signs on her body.
"I am not a professional painter," says Aar Mohammad, drawing a symbol on 's body using a hand-made brush.
Five elephants participated in the beauty pageant and Pinki is among the three picked for the final round.
Aar is the man behind Pinki's beauty.
After three hours of hard work Pinki is finally fully decorated.
Aar uses red cloth, for he believes that it will bring luck and make Pinki more beautiful.
After eating, Aar and his brother Dosh, who assists him, leave for the beauty contest with Pinki.
The venue is crowded and its organisers are ready for the final round.
The judges carefully assess Pinki's physical hygiene, body structure, nails, paintings, and dresses.
Beautifully dressed up and with colourful makeup, the three finalists – Pinki Kali, Prakriti Kali and Chitwan Kali – walk on the ramp.
The team of judges decided to give the beauty award to Chitwan Kali, an elephant from the Chitwan National Park. Aar's Pinki didn't receive any award this year. She and her owner returned home empty handed.
"It didn't go as I expected," Aar said later, when back at home.
Pinki is the main source of income for his family. "I will take more care of Pinki now," Aar said with determination.
All pictures by Rajneesh Bhandari/ThinkBrigade.com. Click here to watch a video produced by Rajneesh about Nepal’s Elephant Beauty Contest.