All over India, elephants show up unexpectedly. Elephants the animals and elephants the idea permeate Indian culture: religion, history, natural history, folklore, daily life. It started over 4000 years ago when elephants were first captured and trained. Elephants have served in armies as living tanks and troop carriers. They have done hard labor; carried great burdens, lent dignity to official functions, and even helped level the very forests on which their lives depended. They are the living embodiment of the god Ganesh, and are an essential part of Hindu temple festivals. In short, elephants are pillars of Indian life and culture.