April 14, 2007

white elephant

-Something that is more trouble than it is worth.
Was driving around town today when I came across a sign saying "White Elephant Sale", it reminded me of storybook England where the women of genteel birth used to organise these sales to raise funds for various church activities or other worthy causes and also of William, Richmal Crompton's adorably mischievous twelve year old who used to organise such sales in his own indomitable style. This term though mostly in use in western countries has a decidedly oriental descent.

White or albino elephants were regarded as holy in ancient times in Thailand and other Asian countries.To possess a white elephant was regarded as a sign that the monarch was ruling with justice and the kingdom was blessed with peace and prosperity. The tradition derives from tales in the scriptures which associate a white elephant with the birth of Buddha. To keep a white elephant was a very expensive task, since you had to provide the elephant with special food, and provide access for people who wanted to come and worship it. If a Thai King became dissatisfied with a subordinate, he would give him a white elephant. The gift would, in most cases, ruin the recipient.

8 comments:

Moi said...

Poor recipients!!! :)
On a tangent, I'd like to see a white elephant and also a white tiger..Never seen one......

And a great post..as usual......It's neat how we bring our personal touches to these expressions......from 666's Alwar post to mine on Denial to yours on elephants!!! I'm so loving this :)

suramya said...

not seen a white tiger, but elephant yes :), near ooty, it was a rare sight.
yep and its going to have a lot more contributors so its going to be delightful place.

Jas Bhambra said...

I knew of this one.My friends used to tease me at times of being one! LOL.

Radha said...

And I thought white elephants were auspicious because of the connection to Ganesha.

Last year when I visited Agra, I picked up this beautiful craved marble elephant for my boss. Its a tiny piece & doesnt require much upkeep. But i sure hope no ruin comes to him!! :)

666 said...

@ moi and suramya: thats the best part really. technically anyone can search google, open a dictionary and write posts on origins. The personal touches, insights is whats the spirit behind Semantica. And yes more the merrier:-)

@ jas: i think there exist better candidates from kingdom animalae to tease you!

@ radha: they surely are auspicious but owning one is not:-)

suramya said...

jas: they were considered holy also :)
radha: I am sure its still auspicious as long as nothing is spent on its upkeep :)

Jas Bhambra said...

Suramya, my friends did mean that I was much more trouble than I was worth! He he he!

Totally unrelated, but I love your name,Suramya. Sounds so musical. What does it mean?

suramya said...

jas: thank u so much, was never a big fan of my own name, it means a person who's very beautiful.