Once upon an Indian Elephant

Indian elephants
   Domesticated as early as the cow, the Indian elephant was probably a riding ani­mal by 2500 B.C., and in Medieval times carried Oriental potentates on its magnificently caparisoned back in state ceremonies. The elephant is most in demand for the great processions, which still mark some holidays, belonged to a large and powerful breed, the Koomeriah. Rare al­binos, prized above all, were held sacred by Buddhists and Hindus; the king himself could not ride a "white elephant." The war elephant originated in Asia, where a ruler's power was reckoned by the number he put into the field. Elephants bore the crossbowmen of Kublai Khan and the archers and musketeers of Akbar, greatest of Mogul emperors, to victory against Hindu princes. But gun-powder frightened the animals, causing them to break and scatter their ranks; by 1700, elephant divisions were becoming outmoded. The last one was demobilized in the Kingdom of Annam in 1882.