Esala Perahara -Image Courtesy |Richard Shaw

The power of the elephants and is susceptibility to learning made the elephant an excellent ‘workhorse’ for Man and over the years it has been used extensively on various projects. It has also resulted in its use in religious processions and nothing illustrates this better than the Kandy Esala Perahera in July or August each year.

Perahera is a festival in homage to the Sacred Tooth Relic of Buddha which is housed in the Sri Dalada Maligawa in Kandy. The highly colourful procession has dancers and musicians; without elephants adorned in garments the procession would lose much of its impact. Its early origins date back to 3rd Century BC when the Tooth Relic came from India. In the 18th Century the tooth was seen as the property of the King but it was agreed that the public could see it in a procession. Subsequently in colonial times, the Relic was placed under the guardianship of the Buddhist clergy. The Festival lasts several days and on the 6th day a casket, a substitute of the Tooth Relic, is carried by the Maligawa Elephant at the head of a procession. This is the major event of the year in Kandy and shows how closely man and elephant have become linked.