President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said that he strongly believed that the country needed a herd of tamed elephants as it is part of our culture of Perahera tradition and instructed the officials to hold discussions with the owners of the tamed elephants in formulating conditions for the regulation and conservation of tamed elephants.
This had come to light during a discussion with regard to the difficulties that have arisen due to the shortage of tamed elephants for the Peraheras, chaired by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the Presidential Secretariat yesterday.
The Maha Sangha has drawn the President’s attention to the issues that have emerged due to the shortage of tamed elephants for Perahera ceremonies and stressed the requirement of a short term and long term plan to address the issue.
The tradition of Perahera is an indigenous, religious and cultural heritage that has been inherited since ancient times. Maha Sangha highlighted that both Maha Sangha, as well as the government, are responsible in upholding and preserving the Buddhist cultural heritage.
Maha Sangha and the representatives of the Tamed Elephant Owners’ Association were present at the discussion.
The difficulty of finding adequate number of tamed elephants for the Eselea Perehara of the Sacred Temple of Tooth Relic and other historical perahera festivals were discussed in depth.
By the 1980s, the number of tamed elephants in Sri Lanka was between 300 and 350. About 80 of them are now over 50 years of age. It was revealed about a substantial shortage of elephants for the perahera festivals during the discussion.
The owners of the tamed elephants noted that it takes about 3 years to train an elephant or a tusker to take part in a perahera.
Since ancient times, every Head of State has gifted elephants to temples. The Maha Sangha also stated that it is a tradition in countries such as Myanmar, Burma and Thailand to gift elephants to temples as diplomatic gifts for that respective country.
The Thero pointed out that the care, welfare and maintenance of elephants should be executed well and even the tradition of conducting religious rites after the death of elephants still exists today.
The Maha Sangha including the Anunayake of the Asgiriya Chapter, Most Ven. Anamaduwe Dhammadassi Thero, Chief Incumbent of Tissamaharama Raja Maha Vihara Ven. Dewalegama Dhammasena Thera, Chief Incumbent of the Kelaniya Rajamaha Viharaya Prof. Ven. Kollupitiya Mahinda Sangharakkitha Nayaka Thero and the Chief Incumbent of the Gangarama Temple, Ven. Dr. Kirinde Assaji Thero, Principal Advisor to President Mr. Lalith Weeratunga, President of the Tamed Elephant Owners Association Mr. Nilanga Dela, the Secretaries to the Line Ministries and officials participated in this meeting.