Daily Mirror - Print Edition

Continuing with the tradition of providing elephant attire

14 Aug 2019 - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}      

An attire worn by elephants

I hold no brief for Kandy City Centre Chairman Tusitha Wijesena, but what he has done for the Kandy Esala Perahera should be praised, so that those who fatten their purse during the time of the Kandy pageant could henceforth remind themselves what should be done to continue with this historic ritual.

Wijesena has been donating attire for the elephants who are at Sri Dalada Maligawa and the four Devales for a quarter of a century.  Such a contribution is worth mention in a national newspaper.

There were times when elephant dresses were donated by Thadani brothers, who were Hindu merchants engaged in the batik trade.  They stamped their identity with a tag on the border of the elephant dresses. Some looked upon this as an advertisement. But the Maligawa authorities continued to accept these donations for sheer want of costumes for the elephants. The Maligawa officials needed such attire and it goes without telling that they were made at a cost.  There were those who were finding fault with the business name being imprinted on the border of the dresses. But such critics would not donate these dresses. The temple authorities continued to use these dresses during the pageants.

Tusitha Wijesena was once invited to view the pageant from the Octagon, which is the preserve of the Sangha; serving at the Temple of the Tooth.  He was invited by the Mahanayke of Malwatte Chapter the Late Ven. Rambukwelle Vipassi Thera. Wijesena wasn’t a member of the Kandy community at that time.  During the pageant he told the Mahanayake that there should be more colourful dresses. He had added that they should be nicer than what was draped on the elephants. 

  • During the pageant he told the Mahanayake that there should be more colourful dresses
  • According to Wijesena it was underscored in the discussion that there was a dearth of elephant dresses
  • There were times when elephant dresses were donated by Thadani brothers

The Mahanyake consulted the Diyawadana Nilame Niranjan Wijerathne. According to Wijesena it was underscored in the discussion that there was a dearth of elephant dresses. Wijesena offered to provide the dresses for the following year’s pageant.  He made arrangements for this without using advertising material on the dresses.  This was how Wijesena came to offer dresses to the Temple of the Tooth initially and later to the four Devales (shrines for deities) thereafter.

It is no easy task to sew these dresses for the elephants because this endeavor demands finances and months of labour. 

We should question ourselves as to what we have done for the Temple of the Tooth? When the LTTE exploded bombs who paid for the renovations? The poor and middle-class devotees bore the costs for this endeavor. The then Government did not. The Kandy Municipality, under whose purview falls this temple, did nothing, according to the former Diyawadana Nilame.

When this anomaly was brought before the newly formed Government led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, the Cabinet approved to reimburse the money spent on rehabilitation work of the temple. Such facts were confirmed by the former Diyawadana Nilame Wijeyaratne. It must be mentioned that the armed service, especially the Navy, helped to rebuild this historic temple.  

During the pageant, the Municipality does the cleaning and provides the people with various facilities. Sit back and think whether we have done enough for this ancient shrine which houses the Sacred Relics of Gautama Buddha. The Municipality calls for tenders regarding the seating gallery at Queens’ Hotel. But the Police had second thoughts about security this year; the plans for the tender were shelved.

Diyawadana  Nilame Pradeep Nilanga Dela at a meeting with officials

The Municipality officials, at the last meeting, pointed out that they would be loosing rupees 90 lakhs due to the absence of the tender regarding seating for the pageant. They also said that this amount was included in the budget covering expenses for the Perahera. In the past monies needed for the pageant were collected using this method. 

When the Bombs were exploded at Kochikade, Mayor Rosy Senanayake set an example by offering the finances for renovation activities. This was through the Colombo Municipality budget.  The Kandy Municipality must take a cue from the generosity extended by the Colombo Municipality.  The Kandy authorities must know that the historic Temple of the Tooth is located in their territory and they have a right to see to the welfare of this temple.  The tourists who visit Kandy and spend money have one purpose and that is to view this historic shrine. The monies they spend within Kandy is indirect tax charged by the Municipality. 

It isn’t for the Kandy Municipality to say “We have lost money this year because we could not sell the Queens’ corridor seats “  They are duty bound to help continue with this national ritual.  
On the other hand, the Hotels in Kandy, banks and other commercial establishments earn money from this historic ritual. 

The British administrators also played an important role in maintaining this shrine

Some hotels price their rooms at rupees sixty-five thousand per day and these earnings surfies for the the rest of the year. The Commercial establishments rent out their shops and earn an income by providing seating accommodation.  What has all these establishments given the Sri Dalada Maligawa in terms of sustenance?

We, in Kandy have to sit back and think ‘what have we done for this historic shrine which enshrines the Sacred Relic of Buddha - which was once the property of the ancient Kings.

Whatever is said there is no doubt about what KCC Chairman Thusitha Wijesena has done. He has set an example as to what to do with the money someone like he earns. By giving financial backing to this annual pageant he has set an example.

One would argue that the Temple of the Tooth possesses lands and monies. But it is no east task to maintain this shrine. 

It is those who have treasured connections who know the amount of labour and money needed to maintain standards.

So let all who are earning money in the name of this national and religious ritual during the time of this pageant offer one’s help to continue this national event akin to ancient Kings. 

The British administrators also played an important role in maintaining this shrine. This they did whether it was conventional or not. They also kept a continuous military guard of the shrine until the Administration was handed over to the present custodians.  So the British also had a history of protecting the shrine, which other invaders did not do. There were foreign forces who vandalized such ancient shrines in this island.

An act of donating these elephant dresses for a period of twenty-five years sans acknowledgment should not go unnoticed.