Video of dancers in elephant costume falsely shared as real animal performing in India

  • Published on February 16, 2024 at 03:38
  • Updated on February 16, 2024 at 03:41
  • 3 min read
  • By Sachin BAGHEL, AFP India
A video of artists dancing in an elephant costume has been shared thousands of times across social media posts and news reports that falsely claim it shows a real animal performing in Hindu-majority India. The artist who designed the costume confirmed the video shows his creation worn by two people during a temple celebration, not a genuine elephant.

The video was shared on X on February 2, 2024, where it has been reposted 4,000 times. 

The one-minute clip appears to show a decorated elephant and a group of people dancing along to music. 

"Only Sanatan Culture can keep animals happy," reads the caption.

Screenshot of the false post taken on February 9, 2024

"Sanatan dharma" is a term used to describe the absolute set of duties imposed on all Hindus, but has more recently been used by Hindu leaders and nationalists to refer to Hinduism as a unified world religion (archived link). 

Elephants are considered sacred in Hindu mythology (archived link).

The video was shared repeatedly alongside similar false claims on Facebook here, Instagram here and here, as well as on X here.

It was also published by major Hindi-language news sites under headlines suggesting it was a real dancing elephant, such as here, here and here.

Users left comments suggesting they believed the animal was real.

"How do you know he is happy? If it were any other country, RSPCA officials would have charged high penalties for animal cruelty," commented one user.

Another wrote: "In Sanatan every living being has a part to play. All races are an integral part of Sanatan. Sanatan is Cosmic."

In fact, the video shows two people dancing in an elephant costume made by a Kerala-based artist.

Elephant costume

AFP carried out a combination of reverse image and keyword searches using the word "Elevenz" seen in the background of the video, which led to the same clip uploaded by an Instagram account called Anil Arts on January 23, 2024 (archived link).

Anil Kumar, who manages the Anil Arts Instagram page, confirmed the video shows two artists dancing in the elephant costume.

"This costume was designed by me," Kumar, who is based in the southern Indian state of Kerala, told AFP on February 9, 2024.

"This video is from a performance at a temple festival in Kunnamkulam area of Thrissur district in Kerala," he added.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the clip shared in the false posts (left) and the video shared on Instagram by Anil Arts (right):

Screenshot comparison of the clip shared in the false posts (left) and the video shared on Instagram by Anil Arts (right)

Another Instagram account called Elevenz Kadavallur, which states it is a social club established in 2011, is tagged in the post showing the elephant costume (archived link).

Both the Instagram accounts have repeatedly shared videos of the elephant costume, such as here and here, as well as videos and photos of the elephant alongside other costumes of Hindu gods (archived links herehere, here and here).


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