Posted on June 7th, 2017


12.9.18 , rev   5.11.18, 23.11.18

The elephants in the Esala Perahera got star billing in an entertaining piece published by two animal rights NGOs in August 2016.  The essay is full of howlers and is probably the silliest piece ever written on the subject.

Are you planning to go and see the Kandy Esala perahera, the NGOs wrote, if so, think of the poor elephants in it. They usually reside in the jungles and only come to Kandy once a year, to take part in the Esala perahera. They have to walk miles to get to Kandy on searing tar roads in the blazing heat, with crazed motorists coming at them all the time. Coming straight from the jungle, it was very unpleasant to be dressed up in robes and battery powered lights, for the perahera, especially with the ears covered.

Taking part in the perahera year after year is an absolute night mare. The noise is awful with drums, whips, trumpets, loud speakers and ice cream vendors.  The mahouts either climb on and sit on the neck and spine (sic) poking and prodding or walk by the side jabbing away with their ankus. Sometimes three people get on an elephant’s back for a ride. ‘Even a horse only carries one.’ It is difficult for an elephant to like the crowds on the pavements because  they are the same ones who cultivate chenas in the jungles, chasing  elephants away from their homeland.

The tradition of including elephants in processions needs to be rethought, continued  the NGOs. Elephants must be wild and free (sic) not sent on parades to please watching crowds. Sri Lankans living in other countries have begun to celebrate such traditions using artificially constructed, beautifully decorated elephants on wheels. That is much better than real elephants. The NGO ended their song with a plea. When you go to the Perahera, please,  If you observe any cruel treatment of the elephants before, during, or after the Kandy Esala Perahera,  take photos and report such instances to  the Department of Wildlife Conservation and also tell us,  Concerned Citizens of Sri Lanka”  and the Sentinels Against Wildlife Crime” (Island 8.8.16)

Instead of sending  photos of cruelly treated elephants in the Esala perahera, as the NGOs hoped, readers offered to send photos of the slaughter of the pigs, cows and chickens. Why  are these animal rights people  not concerned about the daily slaughter of lambs, cattle, pigs, goats, chickens for food, they asked. This was said by every person who responded to this essay . They particularly noted that pig rearing for pork in Sri Lanka was not mentioned by these two NGOs. They    also drew attention to horse racing, greyhound racing, bull fighting, bear baiting, cockfighting,   fox hunting, deer hunting, and camel rides. They pointed out that in horse racing,  horses are made to run with a human rider three quarter its weight. The horses are whipped to make them run faster and  put down when they are  of no further use.

Rohana Wasala, Cecil Dharmasena and Palitha Kohona  responded to this NGO statement.  The elephants used in the perahera are not wild animals, they pointed out. They are tame elephants. Not every domesticated elephant can be used in a perahera either. They are trained for the task. The elephants are familiar with the perahera drill and they only need a few verbal commands. The mahout is rarely called on to use the ankus. The elephants are conditioned to flashing lights, deafening sounds, crowds and copra torches.  An elephant can march with two, three or more on his back very easily. Elephants walk over 20 to 30 km per day in the wild.  In a  perahera elephants only walk about 2 kilometers.

Elephants used in the perahera are looked after very well by their owners and keepers, they said. Perahera elephants are fed with fruits and sweets, offered by spectators,  even while they are marching. They are washed daily. The inconveniences caused to these animals before, during, and after perahera are minimized as far as possible. They are rewarded with special treats at the end the event. The temple elephant enjoyed an elevated status in Sri Lanka. Without the elephants the perahera will not be the same,   and  a decorated  elephant looking truck carrying the relic is absurd, they   said.

The difference between the ‘wild’ elephant and the  tame one,  were outlined by these writers,   so that these elephant loving NGOS could get it  right in their next essay. They pointed out that ‘wild’ elephants are ‘wana ali’ not ‘wal ali’. One ‘wild’ elephant , after being rescued from a water hole, turned toward the people who saved her, curled her trunk in salute, before leaving. Wild elephants find it difficult to find food in the jungle. The dry and hard jungle surfaces are worse than the tarred roads. ‘Idealists who think jungle life is romantic should try it for themselves’,  said Kohona. The three hour slow walk in the cool climate of  Kandy at  night is a cakewalk in comparison. And there are delicious eats at the end of it.

Domestic  elephants are prized possessions of their owners and are cared for meticulously, continued Kohona. Today domesticated elephants are kept more for prestige than for any useful work. The domestic elephants rarely do heavy work. Once tamed an elephant is as affectionate as a large dog.   Those who are familiar with elephants know how affectionate they can be.  They are well looked after. An elephant in captivity gets more opportunity to walk than a dog in a backyard.  They do not remain tied to trees all the time. They walk reasonable distance each day for the bath, and to collect half a ton of edible leaves for its food. They enjoy the bath and being scrubbed by the mahout.

We who grew up among these animals know that animal abuse is kept to a minimum, said Rohana Wasala.  The elephant goad(ankus)   is used by the mahout to apply strong, clear pressure to  particular control points to make the elephant respond  to commands, stop, turn left, turn right, kneel, stand still,  and so on. An ankus jab causes little or no actual pain. Elephants are huge pachyderms. In some places their skin is about 4 centimeters thick. They hardly feel a mild ankus jab from a tiny human. Causing pain can be lethal for the mahout. Elephant minders know this and rarely treat their charges unkindly.  Maintaining full control over elephants is a key part of the mahout’s job. Full control ensures the safety of the mahout, the safety of other humans nearby, and even the safety of the elephant itself.

S.A.Abeyratne  who also thought like the NGOs, wrote from USA  in June 2016,   saying, as a veterinarian I am aware of the importance of elephant feet care. All their huge weight rests on this. In USA the feet of  an elephant are cleaned and washed twice daily. All four feet should be provided  with pad trim and nails filed once in two weeks. Also they need to wag their ears, to get rid of sweat. When the ears are covered with sheath,  as in the perahera,  they cannot do this.  At festivals they are not given proper care or food, in the wild they eat small amounts of grass all day long. When domesticated they get only one meal a day. That too is a small amount of leaves.

Elephants must be registered and  annually examined, he advised. There must be rules on care of elephants, including cleaning and care of elephant feet, worming, vaccinations. The mahouts must be trained, they  must pass an exam, be registered as mahouts,  and  tested for liquor at perahera.  Veterinarians must be present at perahera and they must be trained in elephant control.

Another anti-perahera   NGO  said  in August 2016 that the Diyawadana  Nilame, had  forcibly removed two  elephant calves from the Pinnawela elephant orphanage. They were still on their mother’s milk, and were removed  despite protest from the officials and veterinarians at  Pinnawela. This was a very wrong move,  said the NGO, the babies were too young to be separated from the mother. Mother was also grieving and put through an enormous amount of stress.

‘As reasonable Sri Lankans’ we did what we could, said the NGO. We e-mailed the authorities, and we called people all over the island in hopes of putting an end to this cruelty and release the two calves. There is even a Supreme Court case filed by an organization in Sri Lanka called ‘Friends of Animals. ‘If you are visiting Sri Lanka,’  the NGO advised, ‘there is a lot more to do than the Kandy Perahera. It would grossly irresponsible of us to patronize that event’.

Sagarika Rajakarunanayake, President of ‘Sathva mithra’ wants mahouts to be tested for liquor. Most mahouts are drunk during perahera seasons, she said. Festival organizers gave them liquor since intoxicated mahouts ‘gave the best performances.’ This is unlikely. Peraheras, such as those in Kandy and Ratnapura are ritual events. It is unlikely that liquor will be consumed at the start. One Diyawadana Nilame in the 1950s   had  got drunk even  before the perahera started, but this is probably an exception.

Another  question asked was  whether  a  perahera was a requirement of Buddhism. Abeyratne  said that he learnt that Buddhist monks are requesting to allow domestication of more elephants in order to make Buddhist processions more attractive. Did the Buddha ask for this, he inquired. It is only a custom which started in the 14th century.  Also    do the monks know how to manage elephants. Don’t confuse Buddhism with the Perahera said a blogger. The Buddha never asked for perahera.  He never spoke of a Kandy Perahera, or [said to treat elephants cruelly] in his name.

The obvious reply to these rather rhetorical questions is that Buddhists   know the difference between the Dhamma and cultural practices like perahera. They do not confuse the two. Further, elephants are  looked after by the mahouts, not monks. Mahouts learnt their trade very young, as apprentices. Mahouts develop very strong bonds with their elephants, said Kohona and  elephants remain very attached to their mahouts. An  elephant from Ratnapura who saw his old mahout at the Esala perahera, remained without moving until the mahout came and told him to move on.

The  training and care of  elephants is a specialized art. Even today, there is a lot of traditional lore regarding   veterinary treatment of elephants among descendant of families who have been looking after and working with elephants for many generations observed Rohana Wasala.  Elephant training and elephant management were   respected professions in traditional times. Manuscripts such as Gajashastra and Nilashastra contain information on training elephants.

The campaign against perahera elephants was not confined to mere utterances. There was action too. There were several incidents of elephants running amok at peraheras in 2016.  My recall of the last sixty years or so,  is that elephants rarely ran amok at perahera. Therefore this was most unusual. Rajakarunanayake said  that the elephant  at    Saman Devale perahera  ran amok because the drunken  mahout had hit the elephant with the goad. What we saw the elephant happily doing on TV, to another elephant does not support this. Perhaps something had been given to the elephant instead.

In July 2018 elephants had run amok at the Kahawatte Perahera, Ratnapura, with32 injured one seriously. Ven Magalkande Sudantha said these elephants are not perahera trained elephants in temples or privately owned elephants. They are from Pinnawela and the government says they are Perahera trained. They are sent with untrained mahouts. This is a plot to destroy the Perahera tradition.

Buddhist temples have traditionally looked after baby elephants gifted to them.   John Amaratunga, Minister for Christian affairs ,gifted a baby elephant to Purana vihara of Hendala in 2003 to mark his 25 years in Politics. But from 2009, all elephants and their calves had to be registered with the  Department of Wildlife Conservation under  the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance. Further, Section 22 (a) said In the event of a pregnancy of a registered she elephant, the owner shall inform the Director-General DWC of such pregnancy together with details of its father.”   Section 23 (a) (9)   said It is the duty of the elephant owner to inform the Director-General DWC or any authorized officer of the fact of any birth, miscarriage or still birth of elephants within seven days from the date of occurrence.” Some had failed to follow these regulations.

Among those charged with having un-registered  baby  elephants were  Mahinda,  Gotabhaya, Namal and Gaandhanee Rajapakse , Magistrate Thilina Gamage, Pradeep Mivanapalana who was the owner of the Sri Dalada Maligawa Tusker , Wasana Bakers of Horana and the   Basnayake Nilame of Kataragama  devale,   The monks charged with holding baby  elephants without permits included Kolonnawe Siri Sumangala Thera of Dewram Vehera, Pannipitiya, Uduwe Dhammaloka Thera of Alan Methiniyaramaya, Polhengoda, Dharanagama Kusaladhamma Thera of Sri Sambodhi Vihara ,Colombo 7 and Ven. Bellanwila Wimalaratana of Bellanwila Raja Maha Vihara.

The Wildlife Department officials had taken into custody a two and half year-old elephant calf found inside the Alan Mathiniyaramaya Temple in Polhengoda in January  2016. Ven. Uduwe Dhammaloka Thera it is alleged had kept this calf in his temple knowing, that it had been stolen.. He was charged   under Fauna and Flora Protection (Amendment) Act, No.22 of 2009 and Public Property Act. .  Uduwe Dhammaloka Thera had said the elephant calf  had  been left in the   temple by an unknown person.  Uduwe Dhammaloka was arrested and remanded in March  and released on bail in June 2016.  19 persons have been named as witnesses in the case and three documents will be presented as production items in the case, sources said.

The   baby elephant sold to Ven. Dharanagama Kusaladhamma  has not been properly registered. The previous owner had not submitted a sworn affidavit or  Grama Niladhari’s letter. The elephant’s height does not tally with its age and the owner had not paid the registration fee either. The initial ownership and the subsequent ownership were also incorrectly mentioned in the registration file.

The adult elephants did not excape the law either. The provisions of the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance (FFPO)  were  used to keep  adult elephants   out of the perahera by locking them up. From 2009, all elephants had to be registered under the  Department of Wildlife Conservation. Those who had elephants legally in their possession got their elephants registered  but most didn’t, as they did not have the information needed. Also, there seems to have been some barrier to registration in the  Act itself.

Using  the FFPO  the Wildlife department started arresting elephants from temples in 2016. They also started to arrest registered  temple elephants  used for other purposes such as tourism. Temples must ensure that elephants are only being used for religious purposes, the department said. thanks to this in 2016  there were less elephants available for the processions.

Sambodhi Vihara, Colombo said  it could not hold their perahera, in May 2016,  because elephants trained for the  perahera were in the custody of the Wildlife Department. They had been seized from temples, because they did not have the necessary permits. These elephants  have ownership permits and registration but the Wildlife Department had not issued permits for 2016.

NGOs and the recently appointed Director of Wild life Department  were  wielding ‘a heavy hand of authority  on the elephants’  the Vihara complained.  Elephants in this country have been well looked after and cared for by the Buddhist monks for  many centuries before the NGOs came here with their foreign funds, said Sambodhi.  The NGOs are not interested in protecting the fowls, pigs and cows that are killed each day.

The Colombo Chief Magistrate  had issued an order to Wildlife Department  in 2016,directing the that 15 elephants taken into its custody following CID investigations be temporarily released to take part in the upcoming Kandy Esala Perahera and several other peraheras. Each elephant was to be  released on a bond of Rs. 30 million consequent to requests by several elephant owners. However,  Senior State Counsel ,appearing on behalf of the Attorney General and several civil society organizations raised objections to the  release of  the elephants on bond. And the elephants have not been released, complained Sambodhi vihara.

The Diyawadana Nilame said in July 2016 that around 20 of the elephants used in the Esala Perahera in 2015 were now in court custody due to permit issues. Basnayake Nilame of Kataragama devale said in 2017 that around 45 perahera elephants were now in custody in elephant orphanages.  38 tamed elephants are at Pinnawela and Uda Walawe pending investigations by state authorities said a third informant in 2017. The figures differ but the complaint is the same. There aren’t enough elephants for the perahera.

Diyawadana Nilame said  there were 105  elephants in the Esala perahera in 2015, but there will only be 71  for  2016 perahera. Of the 132 domesticated elephants in the island, 52 cannot take part in the procession due to various reasons, such as, illness, musth, aggressiveness or other problems. In 2017, he said  that only about 65 tamed elephants and tuskers were available. They were with their owners.  But that was not sufficient to meet the requirements of the Esala Perahera in 2017. If this continues, the Kandy Perahera will have to be held without  the elephants that have graced the procession for hundreds of years.

How is  there is a dearth of elephants for the peraheras  today, when  till now there have been sufficient elephants, brought from different parts of the country for the Esala Perahera in Kandy, Gangarama Perahera, the Bellanwila Perahera and so on, asked observers.

In April 2017,  the Basnayake Nilames of devales,  urged the government, to release 38 tamed elephants presently held in state orphanages, since this would affect the annual Esala Perahera of  principal devales.  They pointed out that  around  40 elephants each  are needed  for the Kandy and Kataragama peraheras, but  only around 30 tamed elephants were available in 2017. Usually each Perahera is held at a different time, but  in 2017 the dates for  Esala Perahera, Kataragama and Devundara  coincide.  President  Sirisena  had directed the Wild Life Department to release the elephants but  there had been a delay in carrying out this order. Some officials and interest groups were objecting to the release, the  temples complained.

Buddhists have taken note of these NGO activities and have reacted strongly. Bellanwila Wimalaratne said that the perahera culture is an integral part of the Sri Lanka Buddhist heritage and it could not be terminated just because animal rights are against using elephants in procession.  Those who claim to defend the rights of elephants do nothing for the welfare of these animals. They have not spent a cent to feed them.

Ven. Deranagama Kusaladamma chief incumbent of Sri Sambodhi vihara, Gregory’s rod Colombo said that several NGOs were trying to discourage the perahera. The pastime of these NGOs is to protest anything that forms part of our cultural tradition, why don’t they resist sale of cattle for slaughter, also horses used in racing.

This is  an  open, ‘not  so subtle’,  campaign to  obstruct the Kandy Esala Perahera on the grounds of  violation of animal rights and harassment of elephants taking part, said the Buddhists. It is a sinister, politically motivated move’  by several NGOs, masquerading as protectors of elephants.  It is  yet another indication of the deep animosity towards Buddhism harbored by  non-Buddhists in Sri Lanka . But this is the first time that  peraheras, specially, the Esala Perahera has been targeted.

The annual Esala  Perahera in Kandy,  brings together well over a hundred elephants. During the Esala period there are similar peraheras in many provincial towns, where elephants  are an indispensable feature. The Kandy Perahera is also a major tourist attraction.  If this is taken away the whole tourist industry and its jobs will suffer,  they  declared.

In July 2017  lawyers presented to court, letters from the Diyawadana Nilame and the Basnayake Nilames of the four Devalas, asking  for  elephants to be deployed in the Perahera. Colombo Magistrate ordered the release of 15 elephants to be paraded in the Kandy Sri Dalada Perahera, after considering these letters. The release order was  valid from July 27 to August 15. These elephants had been ordered to be taken into the custody of the Wildlife Department, from the owners who had not possessed valid licenses to keep them.

The donation of mature male elephants to selected temples had met with loud protests from  NGOs in 2004  but the  anti-perahera campaign  became openly active under Yahapalana rule. Most of the action took place in 2016. Since  Yahapalana  came to power,  Buddhist priests have been remanded in custody for possessing elephants. The     authorities are hunting for any one owning an elephant on the pretext of animal welfare. Their agenda is  to prevent elephants participating in Buddhist ceremonies, the Buddhists declared angrily.

Removing elephants from  ‘peraheras’  did not  turn out the way the NGOs hoped.  In July 2016, Cabinet approved  the maintaining of  a pool of elephants, for  participation in cultural activities. ’The perahera culture of Sri Lanka has a great history and has attracted the world’s attention. It is essential to use elephants in peraheras” Cabinet said. A pool of about 35 elephants consisting of about 35 tuskers, and female elephants will be  created under the Zoological Department with elephants obtained from Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage and from Udawalawe Eth Athuru Sevana, with the objective of training for perahera purposes. Mahouts too will be trained at the facility on how ‘to treat the animals in the correct manner.”

The government of Sri Lanka has  also requested an elephant calf from Myanmar to help the breeding progamme. Diyawadana Nilame however said tuskers from countries such as Myanmar and Thailand  were too short. “We need tall tuskers to bear the sacred casket and currently there are only four in the island,”

The Cabinet   also decided to withdraw its ban on the adoption of baby elephants. Cabinet granted approval for the adoption of baby elephants by individuals and religious places under specific conditions. They could be used in Perahera and religious processions. Individuals wishing to adopt an elephant will have to pay  10 million rupees while temples will get them for free. The reason was that it has become  impossible to  look after the 88 elephants at Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage. Lastly,  the Wildlife department announced that permits of  elephant owners were to be renewed  in July 2016, rectifying a long drawn issue faced by them since 2014.

This essay concludes with a brief overview of the status of  elephants in pre-modern  Sri Lanka . In   pre-modern Sri Lanka elephants   were respected and there was a strong elephant culture. Elephants played a role in ceremonial occasions, state and royal. The elephant on which the king rode was known Mangalahasthi. This elephant was always a tusker and had a special stable called the hasthisala. Elephants were regularly  used in temple ceremonies including Peraheras.

Elephants were a valuable export as well. there had been a significant demand for Sri Lankan elephants, from other countries. The elephants from Sri Lanka were considered better than those from  India. Elephants were  also used in battle. They were used to ram barricades. in time of war, they now and then fix a heavy iron chain to the end of their trunks, which they whirl around with such agility, as to make it impossible for an enemy to approach them at that time” said the ancient records.

Elephants were used  for logging operations to clear jungles, for transport, building construction, and haulage. Photographs taken when the chapel of Trinity College, Kandy was built  in the 1900s show elephants hauling three ton granite pillars  for the building. Elephant fights were a popular form of Sinhala sport in early times and was called Gaja Keliya. New Year festivities in Sri Lanka feature elephants in various sports and competitive combat.

In 2018 too, foreign journalists, continue to be concerned about the sufferings of the perahera elephant.  Kelsey Ables, recently graduated from Colombia University, USA, is in Sri Lanka as a reporter. There is work to be done in Sri Lanka, she tweeted.”

That work included observing the perahera elephant. Kelsey went to Kandy in 2018 , to report on the Esala perahera. ’Spending the weekend in Kandy reporting on the elephants of the Perahera festival,’ she tweeted.  ‘Can’t exactly get a quote from the elephants, so I’m keeping an eye out for elephant distress signals and chatting with the mahouts’.

Kelsey commented on the awful conditions perahera elephants face at the Esala Perahera in Kandy. To start with they were chained. She heard the loud, rhythmic sound of chains clashing together as the elephants joined the procession. The perahera is a nightmare for elephants, she said. They are tied up for 10 days with limited exercise and ridden by humans in a way that can cause irreparable damage to the spine. Also, the elephants ‘stopped sleeping’ for the full duration of the perahera. They usually sleep in water.

Many elephant experts agree that for cultural reasons, it would be impossible to remove the elephants from festivals, she conceded. Instead, they argue, we should focus on improving conditions of elephants which participate in pageants. There should be daily health monitoring of the perahera elephant. Also the costume must be altered, so that the ears are free and ‘thereby enable the elephants to better regulate their temperature.’

Elephants recognize their owners and trainers, admitted Kelsey. At the Esala Perahera, one elephant seeing his owner, had stepped out of line.    The owner, standing by the side of the temple, reached out and touched his trunk in a fond greeting.

But elephants live in constant fear of mahouts,who scare them into obedience. There are videos of mahouts hitting elephants, footage of elephants storming the streets, images of elephants with wounds from being poked with the ankus. All this gives mahouts a reputation of being irresponsible and uneducated, said Kelsey. Such reports have led NGOs and animal rights groups to call for the removal of elephants from festivals. The cruelty, captivity, deprivation, restraint and regimentation suffered by these young animals cannot be justified in a Buddhist context.”

Wildlife and Nature Protection Society of Sri Lanka  issued a statement condemning the mahouts’ treatment of elephants, said Kelsey. The mahouts have moved away from traditional practices. The centuries-old knowledge of caring for elephants has been largely lost.  Mahouts now base their methods of control on fear and cruelty towards their wards. Train the mahouts so that they are kinder to the elephants, you don’t have to frighten the animal to make it listen to you. If you are kind, it will respond to you kindly,” said an elephant expert to Kelsey.

In 2018 too, there are several incidents of  perahera elephants running amok during the perahera. In July 2018, an elephant ran amok during a perahera in Kahawatta. In September 2018, television news showed the tusker carrying the relic at Galewela Budugehinna raja maha vihara, running amok at the annual perahera. Television news camera  showed, at some length, the elephant running down several streets. This was  also shown on social media.

The anti-Buddhist nature of this bogus concern for the perahera elephant is very clear. But the sangha are determined to continue with the peraheras. Temples which never held major peraheras are doing so now. The Esala perahera of the Walukarama temple on Duplication Road, Colombo is relatively new and still fairly small. For the first time I saw a member of the Maha sangha go in the procession. There were three, four or five elephants, ( the perahera had started before I got there). They proceeded along Galle Road, Colombo and Duplication Road.  It is possible therefore, that one day we will see a doctored perahera elephant,  running amok  in  fashionable downtown Colombo. The story of the perahera elephant is not over.

Here is an edited version of yet another piece on Perahera elephants. The writer candidly admits that these ideas ‘have not gone down well with some Buddhist monks in UK’.

Keeping elephants in temples should be examined in relation to what this ancient cultural practice entails in the light of the Buddha’s noble teachings of Ahimsa or Loving Kindness and Compassion, says the writer.  It brings us to the inevitable conclusion that the practice is at complete odds with the essence of Buddhism.

Elephants are majestic wild animals who love the freedom to roam freely. We have no right to keep them in captivity in Buddhist temples of all places. I challenge any erudite Buddhist scholar or a learned monk, to show where the Buddha had asked his disciples to use caparisoned elephants to carry his relics in processions. This is where one has to separate Buddhism from time honoured cultural practices,  he continues.

Buddhist monks and lay people must question the wisdom of continuing with an archaic ceremonial pageantry, with tom-tom and fanfare in the name of Buddhism, putting these wild animals through the paces for a “successful” annual event that draws in hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of life not least foreigners.

These are successful events, bringing in vast sums of money for the organizers, but do they justify the obvious torture the poor animals are subject to. The foreigners who view the perahera, and who dwell deeper into questioning its compatibility to Buddhist philosophy” return home disillusioned. Their deep sense of injustice and the cruelty they witnessed compel them to set up on line petitions. The rest of us turn a blind eye, says the writer.

Temples should not have a “God given licence” to perpetuate and perpetrate these ungodly and unholy rituals.  Monks turn belligerent and rambunctious when challenged on this matter. They know they would feel deflated” without temple elephants. Rich temples boast of the number of elephants they have.

We owe it to the Buddha’s fundamental teachings, and to those long suffering elephants, to take a decisive and firm stand. Show your disapproval by boycotting such temples. You will not go to Hell, my fellow Buddhists.  Our monks live in the lap of luxury being driven around in style. Most churches in Sri Lanka look run down. The clergy have to make do with mopeds to get about in their day to day activities of administering Christian blessings to the poor,  concludes the writer. (Island 3.3.18 p 9)


  1. helaya Says:

    Kamalika, Who was this dumb a—-s wrote this nonsense? Must be a paid Sinhala guy who is licking butt of Christian Evangelical puppet.

  2. Lorenzo Says:


    I have to DISAGREE with you on this one.

    IF anyone consciously says LET ALL BEINGS BE FREE FROM SUFFERING as Buddhists say you CANNOT separate elephants from their HERDS for YEARS and get them to do HUMAN RELIGIOUS work.

    Elephants are FAMILY creatures. They live with their mother, father, siblings, cousins, uncles and aunts. LONG TIME AGO there were NO vehicles so we used elephants. But now we have vehicles.

    It is MORE MERITORIOUS to leave them HAPPY than get them to do religious work.

    I also CONDEMN killing chicken, turkey, goats, etc. for Christmas, Ramadan, etc.

    Animals are DIGNIFIED LIVING BEINGS. They have CHOICE. Just because we can OVERPOWER them we should not.


  3. dingiri bandara Says:

    The NGOs should be concerned the slaughter of the elephants, rhinoceros for the the tusks and horns and the other animals for their hides bones antlers etc and organize actions against the Why are they not protesting the mass murder humans by the armies of mostly Western countries. Why are they not concerned about the millions of goats, cattle, sheep and other animals at the end of pilgrimage to Mecca and at other religious ceremonies.
    Sri Lankan Perahera elephants live another day after perahera where as the above mentioned are gone for ever. Some to extinction.
    Are the NGOs in the county to monitor the treatment of perahera elephants ?

  4. Fran Diaz Says:

    Our thanks to Kamalika for this article.


    We agree with dingiri bandara’s comments here.


    The Elephants used for Perahera purposes lend awesome & colorful dignity to the procession honoring the Teachings of the Buddha and Buddha relics.
    What is the harm in this ancient and glorious practice if the Elephants are well treated by the Temple people ?
    The Perahera is a great local & tourist attraction too.

    If tame Elephants are released into the wild, will the wild Elephants accept them or chase them away or even kill them ?

    I for one would vote for a certain number of Elephants in each of the Peraheras !!
    Private ownership of Elephants for work in hauling loads etc should also be allowed, with the animals well treated.

    What needs to be done, perhaps by the Wild Life Dept (?) is to see that all the Elephants in captivity are well treated ?

    We suspect that there is also some envy & jealousy re the Elephants in the Perahera glory …. ?

  5. Ananda-USA Says:

    I AGREE with both Kamalika and Fran Diaz: Keeping tame elephants, whether temple or privately owned, should be allowed as long as they are HUMANELY TREATED under regular govt oversight, as an ESSENTIAL ASPECT of Sri Lanka’s hallowed Sinhala Buddhist culture that is ESSENTIAL for the SURVIVAL of the Sri Lankan elephant.

    The pageants and peraheras with elephants, and even the sight of elephants walking along the streets with their mahouts, ENDEAR them to the Sri Lankan people, thus ENSURING their SURVIVAL as honoured FELLOW CITIZENS of Sri Lanka.

    Far from threatening their survival, it ENSURES their SURVIVAL in Sri Lanka in the wild as well.

    Without that CLOSE CONNECTION to our CULTURE as a people, the GROWING DEMAND of LAND for residential and business purposes, will ENCROACH on their habitat. The attempt by Muzzamil, who does not have that link to the Sinhala Buddhist culture, attempting to seize Wilpattu land for his Muslim settlers, is a CLEAR example of this threat. This is a wider process that in the fullness of time will eradicate ALL ELEPHANTS from Sri Lanka.

    The use of ELEPHANTS in Sri Lankan pageantry, will HELP TO SECURE their place in our society, FAR MORE THAN their use as tourist attractions in national parks. The connection between trained elephants, wild elephants, and the people of the majority Sinhala Buddhist community of Sri Lanka is SYMBIOTIC; it BENEFITS both man and elephant.

    That link MUST NOT BE SEVERED, no matter what foreign NGO pundits with suspect agendas say!

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