Photos showed the bewildered animal wandering around Siliguri, about 577 kilometres (360 miles) north of Kolkata, crashing into structures, as people scurried out of the way.
“The elephant strayed from its herd and lost its way from a nearby forest into Siliguri, creating panic in the town for nearly five hours,” West Bengal state forest minister Binay Krishna Barman told AFP by phone.
“The animal knocked down nearly 100 houses and vehicles as it ran loose on the streets,” he said.
People threw stones to try to drive away the elephant, before forest officials fired tranquillizer darts to bring it under control.
“It was transported to Sukna forest bordering Siliguri town,” the minister added.
Siliguri, gateway to the hill station of Darjeeling, is teeming with elephants and some have been killed by trains while crossing tracks running alongside forests.
Wildlife experts say the destruction of elephant habitats is a major reason for encounters between humans and the animals mostly in India’s rural areas.