This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Andaman tour travel. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

The Incredible Life Of Rajan – India’s Last Swimming Elephant

More from Andaman tour travel

It was during the colonial era when British officials realised the potential of rainforests in the eastern Bay of Bengal, which is now the Andaman and Nicobar islands. They nurtured a logging industry at the islands by making use of the lush green rainforest in the area. The flourishing wood industry made the British establish a forest department in 1883. This marked the need for elephants to drag the logs and they were thus imported.

Elephants were imported from different states of India like Kolkata, Madura and Mysore. These giants were transported in ships after ensuring adequate harnessing. They were lifted by a crane into the ships. A long voyage of five days was needed to ship them to Port Blair and at that era, the equipment was scarce. The present Andaman and Nicobar islands, which are one of the major tourist destinations, welcomes people on ships from various places like Kolkata to behold its eminence.

How fast has the world changed! Then, it was these innocent creatures who were shipped to carry timber and nowadays, arrangements are made for the tourists to reach Port Blair from Kolkata in a ship. Kolkata natives visit this place to watch the elephants brought from their land. 

After these elephants were transported to Andaman and Nicobar islands in ships, (of which most of them died due to seasickness), there arose a need to transport them across various islands. There was no other option than to make them swim. It was at this point when the swimming elephants were born. Before the arrival of these elephants, there were other elephants shipped before World War II.

When World War II allowed soldiers on the islands, the elephants were freed from their stables by the officials for causing no harm to them. They roamed around the jungles and were few in number, most of them died too. The swimming elephants were born after that. All elephants have the talent to swim but only a few try it as they spend their whole day in forests or mountain areas and are not used to sea. But elephants in Andamans were trained to swim as well as for carrying timber.

During the 1970s, an elephant named Rajan was introduced to this clan. Rajan was imported from the jungles of Kolkata to Port Blair for the same purpose. Nothing has happened as planned and the story changed after 2000 when the supreme court banned logging on Andaman islands in order to protect biodiversity. About 200 elephants that were imported for the timber carrying purpose were left at fate’s hand.

There was no demand to help these innocent creatures afterwards. At last, a wildlife sanctuary was established to protect these elephants on the islands. Between the year of 2000-2007, most of the privately owned elephants were shipped back to other places, where most of them died within a year too. The sanctuary nurtured only a few of them.

Rajan’s story unfolds after the issuing of the ban. He had a wealthy owner who rejected the offers to sell Rajan. Thus Rajan enjoyed his life swimming in the pristine waters of the Andaman sea. Finally, he happened to remain as the last swimming elephant of the island. Filmmakers came in search of him to star him in films and thus Rajan had to figure in an occasional film shoot.

He became famous in the year 2006, after being filmed as a swimming elephant in the Hollywood movie, “The Fall”. He was an obedient elephant. Slowly it became difficult for the owner to transport him back to the mainland and one day he finally got stranded at the Havelock Islands. A south Indian temple offered ₹24 lakh to his new owner to take him but a resort named Barefoot scuba of Havelock islands came in to help. The resort owner took his ownership by availing a loan.

Thus, Barefoot resort took the ownership of Rajan and after which he led a peaceful life with his mahout entertaining the tourists coming there. Fifty-nine-year-old Nazrul was the mahout of Rajan and they shared a lovely bond between themselves. Nazrul accompanied Rajan while swimming and took very good care of him. He noted that unlike other elephants Rajan was very comfortable with salt water and the ocean.

People from many other places like Chennai come to behold this swimming giant. People over there are very fond of elephants. The Tamil speaking folks were more acquainted with him as some of the inhabitants of the island have their nativity in Chennai. This marked a special bond between Rajan and the Tamil speaking clans. Even the resort official charged an amount for photo shooting Rajan in an effort to repay the loan back which was taken.

Thus indirectly, he helped his owners to repay the loan. Tourists find it interesting to watch Rajan walk on the islands and he was the only swimming elephant on the island. Rajan used to leave the resort early morning and would come back only after the sunset. He was a delight for the wildlife photographers and movie makers.

The resort tried to pay the loan back by charging for interactions with Rajan. Thus finally, they recouped the amount in an effort to make Rajan retire from his swimming duties. Children were very fond of him. He was considered the last swimming elephant by the national as well as international media and documentary makers. He raised enough money for his welfare by swimming with the scuba divers, and tourists.

No one ever reported any violent attack from his side at all. Finally, after 2014, Rajan retired from his swimming but he left with a bang. He got a chance to swim with the crown prince of Dubai in that very same year itself.

Finally, after leading a truly unconventional lifestyle, in the year of 2016, the last swimming elephant vanished from the islands of Andaman. He died while he was grazing through the forest at the age of 66.

These 66 years were a swimming saga for him. His body lays undisturbed in the jungles which were his adopted home. The world knew his parting when the former director of Barefoot resort quoted a parting text on his demise. He actually thanked him for being a part of the resort as well as that of Havelock islands. Fortunate are those who got a chance to see him in their lifetime.

You must be to comment.
  1. Prateek Prabhat

    Amazing post very in depth knowledge… its a perfect guide


More from Andaman tour travel

Similar Posts

By Vanshika Gadekar

By ED Times

By Dhruvika Sodhi

    If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at

      If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at

        If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at

        Wondering what to write about?

        Here are some topics to get you started

        Share your details to download the report.

        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        Share your details to download the report.

        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

        Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

        Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

        The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

        Read more about his campaign.

        Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

        Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

        Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

        Read more about her campaign.

        MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

        With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

        Read more about her campaign. 

        A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

        As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

        Find out more about the campaign here.

        A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

        She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

        Read more about the campaign here.

        A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

        The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

        Read more about the campaign here.

        A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

        As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

        Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

        Find out more about her campaign here.

        Share your details to download the report.

        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

        A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

        Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

        A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
        biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

        Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
        campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

        Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below