It happened more than 400 years ago. Mughal emperor Akbar was very fond of taming elephants and riding them. Hawai was the most magnificent elephant in the royal stable. Despite his huge size, the male elephant was a swift runner. He was as quick in losing his temper. Even the best riders had problems getting on to him; the thought of making him take part in a fight was unthinkable. And that was a challenge Akbar simply could not refuse.
One day, Hawai was at the polo ground outside Akbar’s palace, the Agra Fort. That’s when Akbar got the idea to ride him. Not only that, he had made up his mind to make Hawai compete against another experienced elephant, Ran Bagha. By the time the royal servants and attendants realised what was happening, Akbar was onto the elephant’s back, urging him along. The viewers felt their hearts come to their mouths. Knowing Hawai’s nature, they feared for the emperor’s life. And at that moment the elephant was at the peak of his excitement.
When Akbar’s minister Atka Khan came to them polo ground, he felt faint with shock. All he could do was to raise his hands to the sky and cry loudly for God’s help. That angered Akbar. He told his minister to stop shouting or he would jump off Hawai. The minister fell silent and watched Hawai play against Ran Bagha.
Ran Bagha was strong, but he was no match for Hawai. He lost and ran. Hawai followed him in hot pursuit. Ran Bagha reached the side of river Yamuna and ran across the bridge made by bobbing boats. Hawai chased him. Akbar was still seated on him.
As the two mighty beasts ran across the bridge, it seemed as if there was a minor earthquake in that area. The bridge bobbed up and down in agitation. Akbar’s attendants jumped into the river to swim and keep pace with the elephants. As the elephants reached the other other, Akbar finally stopped Hawai. Ran Bagha ran away fast. Akbar was mighty pleased and the servants? Well, they felt a great sense of relief that their emperor was safe and sound, hale and hearty.