The Shoat Statements

Random musings by the multiple voices inside my head.

The kidnapping of two baby elephants by the DN for two temples in Kandy reminded me of something that happened about three years ago, during the Gangarama temple perehara.

I was driving about near the Vihara Maha Devi Park, and it about 3 p.m. I knew that the perehara was to start in the evening, but as always, the Colombo traffic plan was something known only to the traffic police. No sooner had I turned the car onto Green Path, I was stopped by the cops, and told to wait on the side of the road till those who were taking part in the perehara had passed.

To see, I wasn't the only one parked by the side of the road. True, there were other vehicles, but what caught my eye were the elephants. All dressed up to take part in the perahera, they too had been requested to stand aside and wait till it was their turn to assume positions.

At first, they just seemed like over decorated animals, like poodles in a dog show. But the longer I waited in my car, disturbing thoughts kept going through my head. Surely, these animals are feeling the heat as much as I am? Add to that, they had covered the poor elephant in layers of cloth, which is not part of the animals nature. Surely - elephants have been on this planet for longer than humans. If they really wanted to wear clothes, they would've figured out a way to do so, without us having to drape them with uncomfortable, garish fabric in the height of summer.

There they were, draped with cloth, painted for added benefit, soaking in the sun, twitching uncomfortably to and fro. And that's when I noticed why they were twitching. All four of their feet had been chained, leaving very little room for either comfort or movement (much like in the image).

No wonder they were twitching! Doubtless they had been chained so that they wouldn't run amok and disturb the perahera, but again, it is not in an elephants nature to enjoy being paraded around streets, garishly decked out, for the sole amusement of us humans, and to satisfy some outdated religious myth.

I cannot put to words what a tragic sight it was, to see these elephants straining against their chains, only to be chided and hit by their mahouts.

It is cruel and inhuman to use these noble beasts in these parades. I don't care if these peraheras are culturally or religiously important to us. Why can't we have the perahera without elephants? Is our momentary enjoyment in seeing them paraded around so much more important than their suffering? Is torturing animals the cost of keeping Buddhist culture alive?

I swore to myself that I would never, ever watch or support these perahera, so long as it used animals. But I'm just one person, and I doubt any of this would matter to most people who throng to watch these.

Now, we have two baby elephants kidnapped, and practically speaking, that is the best word to describe what has happened. Despite the public outcry, our esteemed president has decided to legitimize the kidnapping ( ).

What a life these poor babies will have - separated from their mothers even before they're five years, made to live in a garage and beaten into docility. And what joys they have to look forward to when they grow older - make-up & costumes in 30 degree weather, all while being chained like a prisoner. And all this, again, in the name of Buddhist culture.

Tell me, can you ever watch a perahera again?

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