Elephants in Sri Lanka.

Elephant is the star of Sri Lanka's wild life and the largest land animal in the island. among the two verities of African elephants (elephas coxenda) and Indian elephants (elephas maximize maximize), in Sri Lanka you find Indian elephants and considered to be intelligent than their African counterparts hence domesticated.

Although there have been about 36000 elephants with the start of this century it has reduced up to about 2000 due to pouching. according to the recent records about 2000 of them scattered all over the country in small pockets and about 500 of them are domesticated.
 
Elephants in Sri Lanka                
Elephants in Sri Lanka
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Elephants Highlights

Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage

 Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage is the home for about 60 elephants, out of which many are baby elephants found, abandoned or orphaned in the wild. They are being cared, fed and trained by the wild life authorities. The best time to visit is during the feeding times, when one will have the opportunity of seeing the baby elephants being bottle-fed. Also could accompany the elephants to a river close-by and see the elephants having their daily bath.

It was started in 1975 by the Department of Wildlife on a twenty five acre coconut property on the Maha Oya river at Rambukkana. The orphanage was primarily designed to afford care and protection to the many baby elephants found in the jungle without their mothers. In most of these cases the mother had either died or been killed. In some instances the baby had fallen into a pit and in others the mother had fallen in and died.

Initially this orphanage was at the Wilpattu National Park, then shifted to the tourist complex at Bentota and then to the Dehiwala Zoo. From the Zoo it was shifted to Pinnawela. At the time it was shifted the orphanage had five baby elephants which formed its nucleus. It was hoped that this facility would attract both local and foreign visitors, the income from which would help to maintain the orphanage.

In 1978 the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage was taken over by the National Zoological Gardens from the Department of Wildlife and a captive breeding program launched in 1982. At Pinnawela an attempt was made to simulate, in a limited way, the conditions in the wild. Animals are allowed to roam freely during the day and a herd structure allowed to form.

The Department of National Zoological Gardens has set up an orphanage for baby elephants at Pinnawela which is about 13 Km. from Kegalle Town. on the Kegalle- Rambukkana Road.

Kegalle is 77 Km. from Colombo on the Colombo- Kandy road and the turn off to the orphanage is at the Karandupona Junction.

The orphanage was established to feed, nurse and house young elephants found abandoned by their mothers. Often the young ones fall into pits and ravines in their quest for water during drought period. Other inmates at the orphanage are those displaced from their natural environs by development projects or those found diseased or wounded.

The orphanage is 16 years old. The animals that were brought during the initial years are now capable of breeding and have in fact bred.
Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage

Yala (Ruhuna) National Park

Situated 309 km. south of ColomboYala is approximately 1,259 sq.km. in extent and is located in the southeastern corner of the island. Its northern boundaries border on the Lahugala Elephant Sanctuary and it has the added bonus of a scenic ocean frontage.

The terrain is varied flat plains alternating with rocky outcrops. The vegetation ranges from open parkland to dense jungle. Water holes, small lakes, lagoons and streams provide water for the animals and birds. The specialty here is the large numbers of elephants.
Yala (Ruhuna) National Park

Life Style of Elephants

Elephant is the star of Sri Lanka's wild life and the largest land animal in the island. among the two verities of African elephants (elephas coxenda) and Indian elephants (elephas maximize maximize), in Sri Lanka you find Indian elephants and considered to be intelligent than their African counterparts hence domesticated.

Although there have been about 36000 elephants with the start of this century it has reduced up to about 2000 due to pouching. according to the recent records about 2000 of them scattered all over the country in small pockets and about 500 of them are domesticated.

Pinnawala Elephant orphanage is dedicated to help these endangered species and has sofa become a success. Also few National Parks like Udawalawe, Lahugala are mainly reserved for wild elephants. Major attraction of Yala National Park is wild elephants.

Any given time you can see large number of baby elephants and female elephants. In a herd you always find female elephants and sometimes herds of male elephants too could be seen. in case babies are looked after by mother, aunt or another female elephants and male elephants are loners and never live in a group and are attracted in to a group during the mating season (from September to October) only and most of the parks are closed for visitors during this period.Their average height (height is measured to the shoulder) goes to about 8 feet (2.5m) and 1800 Kg in weight and consume about 200 kg of foliage and grass per day and plenty of water for drinking and bathing.

Female elephants give a birth once in 4 years and 2-3 babies in their life span. get 4 sets of teeth and every 10 years a new set of teeth is coming to get the last set when they are about 40 years old. walk about 20 miles per day and young female elephants are reedy for mating when they are 13 years old. very active in the night and most of them sleep under large trees in the day time. only a few tuskers can be seen in Sri Lanka due to brutal killings to get their tusks due to high value. However new laws has introduced to protect them and let tomorrow's people too see them.

Some people believe that they have grave yards and come near to a water resource when they are about to die some do not believe it and say when they are old their teeth are wasted and difficulty of consuming heavy branches of trees made them come to a place where there is grass and water.
Life Style of Elephants

Esala Perahera

Elephant is the star of Sri Lanka?s wild life and the largest land animal in the island. among the two verities of African elephants (elephas coxenda) and Indian elephants (elephas maximize maximize), in Sri Lanka you find Indian elephants and considered to be intelligent than their African counterparts hence domesticated.

Although there have been about 36000 elephants with the start of this century it has reduced up to about 2000 due to pouching. according to the recent records about 2000 of them scattered all over the country in small pockets and about 500 of them are domesticated.

» Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage
» Elephants in Yala
» Life Style of Elephants
» Elephants and Festivals

Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage


Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage is the home for about 60 elephants, out of which many are baby elephants found, abandoned or orphaned in the wild. They are being cared, fed and trained by the wild life authorities. The best time to visit is during the feeding times, when one will have the opportunity of seeing the baby elephants being bottle-fed. Also could accompany the elephants to a river close-by and see the elephants having their daily bath.

It was started in 1975 by the Department of Wildlife on a twenty five acre coconut property on the Maha Oya river at Rambukkana. The orphanage was primarily designed to afford care and protection to the many baby elephants found in the jungle without their mothers. In most of these cases the mother had either died or been killed. In some instances the baby had fallen into a pit and in others the mother had fallen in and died.

Initially this orphanage was at the Wilpattu National Park, then shifted to the tourist complex at Bentota and then to the Dehiwala Zoo. From the Zoo it was shifted to Pinnawela. At the time it was shifted the orphanage had five baby elephants which formed its nucleus. It was hoped that this facility would attract both local and foreign visitors, the income from which would help to maintain the orphanage.

In 1978 the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage was taken over by the National Zoological Gardens from the Department of Wildlife and a captive breeding program launched in 1982. At Pinnawela an attempt was made to simulate, in a limited way, the conditions in the wild. Animals are allowed to roam freely during the day and a herd structure allowed to form.

The Department of National Zoological Gardens has set up an orphanage for baby elephants at Pinnawela which is about 13 Km. from Kegalle Town. on the Kegalle- Rambukkana Road.

Kegalle is 77 Km. from Colombo on the Colombo- Kandy road and the turn off to the orphanage is at the Karandupona Junction.

The orphanage was established to feed, nurse and house young elephants found abandoned by their mothers. Often the young ones fall into pits and ravines in their quest for water during drought period. Other inmates at the orphanage are those displaced from their natural environs by development projects or those found diseased or wounded.

The orphanage is 16 years old. The animals that were brought during the initial years are now capable of breeding and have in fact bred.

Yala (Ruhuna) National Park


Situated 309 km. south of Colombo, Yala is approximately 1,259 sq.km. in extent and is located in the southeastern corner of the island. Its northern boundaries border on the Lahugala Elephant Sanctuary and it has the added bonus of a scenic ocean frontage.

The terrain is varied flat plains alternating with rocky outcrops. The vegetation ranges from open parkland to dense jungle. Water holes, small lakes, lagoons and streams provide water for the animals and birds. The specialty here is the large numbers of elephants.

Life Style of Elephants


Elephant is the star of Sri Lanka's wild life and the largest land animal in the island. among the two verities of African elephants (elephas coxenda) and Indian elephants (elephas maximize maximize), in Sri Lanka you find Indian elephants and considered to be intelligent than their African counterparts hence domesticated.

Although there have been about 36000 elephants with the start of this century it has reduced up to about 2000 due to pouching. according to the recent records about 2000 of them scattered all over the country in small pockets and about 500 of them are domesticated.

Pinnawala Elephant orphanage is dedicated to help these endangered species and has sofa become a success. Also few National Parks like Udawalawe, Lahugala are mainly reserved for wild elephants. Major attraction of Yala National Park is wild elephants.

Any given time you can see large number of baby elephants and female elephants. In a herd you always find female elephants and sometimes herds of male elephants too could be seen. in case babies are looked after by mother, aunt or another female elephants and male elephants are loners and never live in a group and are attracted in to a group during the mating season (from September to October) only and most of the parks are closed for visitors during this period.Their average height (height is measured to the shoulder) goes to about 8 feet (2.5m) and 1800 Kg in weight and consume about 200 kg of foliage and grass per day and plenty of water for drinking and bathing.

Female elephants give a birth once in 4 years and 2-3 babies in their life span. get 4 sets of teeth and every 10 years a new set of teeth is coming to get the last set when they are about 40 years old. walk about 20 miles per day and young female elephants are reedy for mating when they are 13 years old. very active in the night and most of them sleep under large trees in the day time. only a few tuskers can be seen in Sri Lanka due to brutal killings to get their tusks due to high value. However new laws has introduced to protect them and let tomorrow's people too see them.

Some people believe that they have grave yards and come near to a water resource when they are about to die some do not believe it and say when they are old their teeth are wasted and difficulty of consuming heavy branches of trees made them come to a place where there is grass and water.

Esala Perahera


For two weeks at the end of July and in to the first few day's of august, the hill own of Kandy is transformed to the way it was before it fell to the British in 815. Elephants parade the street at night, officials and chieftains wear traditional costume and dancers leap to the timeless rhythm of the drums. It is known as one of the world's grandest and most spectacular street parades.

It is the time of the Kandy Esala Perahera when people give thanks in song, dance and pageantry for a bountiful harvest. Esala also signifies man's strength and velour in having conquered and tamed the wild elephant.

The significance of this perahera dates to 310 AD when the tooth relic was brought from India. Before then there was an annual procession to pay tribute for the harvest and to ask the gods for sufficient water for the next crop. Asking for water is still the main reason for the Esala Perahera and is way the chief lay official of the temple of the Tooth is called the Diyawadana Nilame for diya is the sinhala for water. the last ritual of the perahera is the water cutting ceremony.

On the night before the perahera begins, the dancers and drummers gather together and rehearse. In ancient times it was the barber, or pannikaya, who show to the costumes of each participant. While the title remain, the pannikya who personally checks everything. From the sending of the postcards asking the dancers and drummers to come, to seeing them off after the celebrations, Chief Pannikya and the four other pannikyas from the four devales (shrines) are responsible for all the arrangements, under the Diyawadana Nilame. The perahera itself begins only after the tooth temple astrologer has charted the coures of the planets and determined the Nekath Welawa. the auspicious time. When studying the course of the planets, he bears in mind that it is customary to end the perahera on Nikini poya day, the full moon day of August.Before the perahera start there is the kap hituweema ceremony. A kap ruka is a celestial tree that bestows anything wished for. only a few are witness to the ceremony when a 45cm - long piece of wood obtained from a jak tree is planted according to custom in the ground of each of the four shrines. jak is a tree whose fruit is sometimes used as a substitute for rice in a villager's diet.

The ceremony is conducted by the Kapu Mahattaya, the link between man and got who is traditionally the person who arranges marriages in Sri Lanka. He takes the kap and wraps it in white cloth, after it has been sharpened to a point. It is then planted in the grounds of the devale (shrine).

In earlier times the Gaskapanna,or tree cutter, used to cut the tree and the vannakurala, or keeper of the forest, used to plant the kap.Legend has it that the kap represents the god of the shrine and that the drummers and the Kodikarayas (flag carriers) used to venerate it by circling it in procession on five consecutive days.

Today five distinct processions form the kandy Esala perahera. They are the Dalada Maligawa (or temple of the Tooth) procession, and the Natha Devale( dedicated to god vishnu) the Kataragama devale(dedicated to the warrior god Skanda), and the pattini (dedicated to goddess Pattini)Devale processions.

The Kandy Esala Perahera itself is divided into two events, the Kubal perahera dedicated to the potter, and the Randoli perahera dedicated to a golden queen. Kumbal means pot in sinhala; ran means gold and doli for queen.

There are four palanquins in the Randoli perahera formerly used by royalty as litters. They are richly embroidered couches boxed in with curtains and attached to long poles which act as supports for the bearers who carry them on their shoulders. The significance of their presence in the Randoli perahera is that the gods of the four shrines are supposed to ride in the palanquins as they are carried in the procession. This accounts for the crowds reaching out to put money in to the palanquins as they are temporary places dedicated to the gods. It is the duty of the Diyawadana Nilame, the chief lay of the Temple of the Tooth, to inform the Mahanayaka Theros or high priests of the Malwatta and Asgiriya chapter , of the dates of the perahera. The official also informs the priest in charge of the Thevava, which is the ritual offering of meals to the gods.

On the day of the procession, one hour prior to its commencement, a cracker is lit in the grounds of the Tooth. Those who have come to witness the pageant run hither and thither to get a good view. The cracker is lit to inform the four other shrines that the Tooth Temple procession is ready to take to the street. The most important part of the Kandy Esala perahera is this, the Dalada Maligawa procession which leads the others.The cracker also means that it is time for the chief lay official, the Diyawadana Nilame, to start dressing. With the help of only one man it takes him 45 minutes to wrap the 30m of cloth around him and to put on the royal regalia required for the occasion. For the perahera, the Diyawadana Nilame has three outfits, two in varying shades of red and one in blue.

After he is dressed, the vidanaya, traditionally agricultural officers who used to surround him, request permission to start the perahera. The officials are generally the Kariya Korale (the astrologer who charts the auspicious time to start the perahera) and the Gajanayaka Nilame (the chief of the elephants).

The peramune rala, literally the man who walks in fronts,is given the scrol containing the history of the perahera while the one in charge of the elephants has the silver gourd for the Kumbal perahera and the golden gourd for the Randoli one.

Next,all the participants report officially for duty to the Diyawadana Nilame. He takes the key from the inner shrine room and walks into the inner courtyard of the temple of the Tooth, accompanied by two people carrying pandang, or hand lanterns, mura ayudha,or spears.They walk to the outer door of the main shrine where the Diyawadana Nilame offers the key to the priest in charge of the inner shrine.

The priest pays homege to the tooth relic and takes out the casket for carrying in the procession. This is placed inside the Dalada Karaduwa, a larger casket which is tied to the back of an elephant by the astrologer. When everything is ready a second cracker is lit and the procession leaves the temple grounds for the streets of Kandy.
The dalada Maligawa perahera is followed by the four others. Natha Devale takes first place owing to the belief that Natha, or Maithiri, is an incarnation of the budha in one of his many births on the way to enlightenment. Vishnu comes second as folklore has it that Sri Lanka and Buddhism come under his direct protection, in addition to the belief that he is an incarnation of the Buddha. Kataragamadevale takes third place as one of the most powerful gods in Sri Lanka, and pattini forms the rest being classified as a goddess.

The pageant is colorful and incorporates all aspects of our island culture and spectators never leave disappointed. Each player takes pride in playing the part assigned to him with a religious devotion seldom witnessed at other cultural displays.

Many in the crowd count the number of elephants taking part in the perahera, reasoning that the more elephants, the grander it is. The elephants are decorated with ornate regalia and battery operated light, adding to the spectacle. The main crowd disperses after the final night preacher since the day one which follows dose not have the magic of the illuminations dazzling in the tropical night.

On the last night of the Randoli preacher, the Dalada karaduwa (casket) is taken to the Adahana Maluwa, the crematorium of the kings and queens of kandy., and is kept there for 12 hours in honor of its first resting place in kandy which was the cemetery. The Adahana Maluwa is situated close to the Temple of the tooth. Hear the ornaments adorning the Dalada Karaduwa are counted and put away with the chief lay official's seal, to wait another year for the next kandy Esala perahera. The other perahera continues to Gatambe, a place outside kandy town, for the water cutting ceremony.
Esala Perahera

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