Tag Archives: Temple Elephants

The Long Fight For Ganga Continues…

THE COURT ORDER for Ganga’s release into safe custody from illegal captivity by religious institutions has been openly and flagrantly defied for well over a year. The ruling in favor of moving Ganga into Protective Custody has repeatedly been ignored as her keepers not only deny her compassionate care, but also continue to exploit her in the name of religion and social status in a blatant display of political maneuvering.

NEXT COURT DATE: Ganga’s case will be heard in court, again, in Colombo, Sri Lanka on Monday, December 11th, at 10:00 AM..

WHAT YOU CAN DO: 
1. Send the consistent message, “The World Is Watching. Release Ganga into Protective Custody Now” to the following addresses:
administration@attorneygeneral.gov.lk
pm@pmoffice.gov.lk
secpm@pmoffice.gov.lk
meegasmulla@yahoo.com

2. Submit a grievance form to the President of Sri Lanka, respectfully demanding that Ganga be taken into Protective Custody per the Court Order from 2016: 
https://tell.president.gov.lk/grievance/showAddGrievance.mvc

Within the form, click:
Organization Type: Top Government
Organiztion: Presidential Secretariet 
District: Colombo

Even if you have written to the above people during our past campaigns, please write again (and again and again)over the next couple of weeks.

At great cost in all ways, the Legal Counsel from the Centre for EcoCultural Studies continue to intervene in court on Ganga’s behalf as the depth of governmental corruption continues to be revealed. Ongoing work has become dramatically more challenging as systemic corruption and invasive manipulation of court proceedings continues unabated.

Someone asked me why everyone is “doing all that work for just one elephant”. Yes she is one. One of many hundreds of Temple Elephants, all who need protection from the ways of abject cruelty. She is an innocent sentient being, worthy of kindness for no other reason than that. But if more reasons are necessary, then we see how changing the Story of One can change the Story of Many.

Outrage alone is futile. Action is Everything.


Witnessing the Kandy Esala Perahera for the first time

It is our pleasure to introduce guest blogger and Heart of Ganesh volunteer Louise Chester who recounts what she felt when she saw, and documented, elephants in perahera for the first time last month in Kandy…. 

As part of my volunteer work for Heart of Ganesh I took photos at the annual “perahera” festival in the city Kandy, Sri Lanka a couple of weeks ago.

During the event, Buddha’s tooth relic is paraded through the city accompanied by drummers and dancers who come from all over Sri Lanka and elephants of all sizes, draped in colourful material and LED lights.Elephants of all sizes take part in the Kandy PeraheraHonestly, it was like watching a nightmare unfold in front of my eyes…. Even if I had seen photos of this festival before online, its just not the same as witnessing it in real life!

Picture the scene…exhausted elephants swaying in chains being shuffled through the streets for 4 hours every day for 10 days, jabbed with bull horns by their “mahout” (their keeper) if they veered off course by a cm or two. Their eyes were wet with tears and filled with fear and their trunks coiled up around their tusks as they endured just another day in the life of a captive elephant in Sri Lanka….Elephant trunk at Kandy PeraheraThe terrible reality is that these elephants are never without their chains. I saw them the next day at the temple, unable to move or even lay down with their ever present mahout and his bull horn lurking a meter or so away, telling unsuspecting tourists that the elephants compulsive sways was quite simply his “happy dance”….Watermarked-temple-3Surely there are ways to honor and celebrate cultural and religious traditions without inflicting such pain and torment on these beautiful creatures??

 

Thanks to your growing international support and to volunteers like Louise coming together to help us tell, and then alter, the Elephant Story, one day we will look back on what seemed impossible to change—and know that we did.

Find out more about temple elephants and how we can do more to help these wonderful, majestic animals.


When You Can’t Turn Away

When I finally found the elephant I had traveled half way around the world to meet, she really wasn’t much of an elephant any more.

That little Temple Elephant swaying and straining against her chains slid into that scarred space behind my heart and would not let me forget what I’d seen.

Ganga WalkingThe first day I met her I got good and lost walking to the temple through the noisy, disorienting city streets of Colombo. The birdsong and soft wild sounds of my previous few weeks in the rural villages of central Sri Lanka were replaced with what I’m pretty sure are the loudest horns on the most buses in the smallest area possible, and I couldn’t imagine how a holy Temple Elephant could live in the cacophony and feel it was holy from her point of view.

I smelled the incense steps before I turned the corner that finally brought me eye to eye with Ganga. Smoke from lanterns reverently lit spiraled upward, and flowers bathed the warm air in breezy sweetness as people on their way to pray for compassion streamed past the head-bobbing, empty-eyed little elephant.

Tourists from all over the world walked past her too, but usually after looking around the courtyard uncomfortably, willing themselves to make sense of the Temple’s reverential beauty juxtaposed against the forlorn little creature on display and the trash and refuse all around her. Not only did the emperor have no clothes on, but the elephant in the room seemed utterly invisible.

What to do?

In the village when I asked about a problem, the soft-spoken women would reply, “What to do?” and for the 3 days I watched people watch Ganga it became a mantra of sorts:  What to do? What to do?  When you implore “why isn’t anybody doing something about this” and still you don’t turn away, then you realize that “anybody” is you, and into the fire of transformation you go.

What do you do when you can’t turn away? You turn toward. You get off your couch or your cushion or your pew or your knees and you turn toward the very thing you wish you didn’t know.

The push I felt from Ganga was less of a request to “turn toward” and more of a sort of hurtling into the bubbling froth of grassroots activism, nonprofit start-ups, and a tip-to-tail tumbling into the stories about where the lives of people and elephants touch.

It’s a humbling practice as I try to work with a necessary patience that I never, ever feel, knowing each moment of every day she is still there, tied up in cultural servitude.

It’s been over a year now since I first learned about her, and half as long since I watched her repeatedly touch the tip of her trunk to the chain that shackled her front leg as she listlessly swayed toward some refuge in her memory.

Trumpeting and Charging Forward

TrunksUpA friend and I spoke to an enthusiastic group of 4th graders about an elephant at their local zoo who has lived in the exhibit for over 50 years, sharing how it is up to all of us to decide how to care for one another in the most merciful, humane way possible.

As the bell sounded for their next class, they were glowing with excitement, trumpeting and charging about, not unlike the small elephants whose future they had decided they would change. Hugging them and loving their conviction, I assured them “We can do it! We can do it!”

And then as we were leaving, a hopeful 9 year old girl excitedly asked me how many elephants I’ve saved so far. It was all I could do to answer her.  Not one.

Not Yet…


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