Myanmar junta welcomes arrival of rare white elephant with lavish ceremony

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Myanmar's ruling junta threw a lavish welcome ceremony for a rare white elephant, a traditional symbol of power and prosperity, which was transported from the jungle to the country's remote capital, state media reported Tuesday.

The 38-year-old female elephant was recently captured in the jungles of northwestern Myanmar and transported Monday by boat and truck to Naypyitaw, where it was given the name Bhaddavati, or "One Who is Endowed With Goodness," in a formal naming ceremony, the Myanmar Ahlin newspaper reported.

Top military leaders greeted the 7-foot, 4-inch (2.2-meter) elephant when it arrived in Naypyitaw and sprinkled the beast with scented water during a ceremony at the Uppatasanti Pagoda, a replica of the famed Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, the former capital and biggest city in Myanmar.

The white elephant marched in a parade of other elephants and circled the pagoda, where religious sermons were delivered for its safety and well-being, the newspaper said. The white elephant will be housed in an enclosure at the foot of the temple.

White elephants, actually albinos, have for centuries been revered in Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and other Asian nations. They were normally kept and pampered by monarchs and considered a symbol of royal power and prosperity.

The elephants are not necessarily white. They can look similar to other elephants except for certain features such as fair eyelashes and toenails, light-colored hair or a reddish hue to the skin.

Bhaddavati is the fourth white elephant captured and held in captivity in Myanmar in recent years. The other three are kept at a special park in Yangon, where they live in an enclosure with spiraled pavilions, a manmade waterfall, ponds and trees.