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.


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