tears of an elephant
Shackled and injured a baby elephant at the
Kataragama Devale is subject to daily abuse:
Many are blind to the pain and agony of a baby elephant at the
Kataragama Devale. While there are other such places, with the crusade
against cruelty to animals rampant, who should take responsibility of
caring for these innocents, or at least the vulnerable elephants?
August 29: The day was ideal for a journey with the family, but what
wretched spectacle awaited me I hadn’t the slightest clue. My family had
long planned the trip to the pilgrimage town sacred to many - Kataragama
- as it was the Kataragama Devale season.
Having stayed over at Tissamaharama, we left early the next day to
take part in the special morning poojas despite the milling crowds that
were gathering. There were queues virtually miles long, carrying
offerings - ‘pooja vatti’ - to the Gods.
In the vicinity of the Devale was an elephant calf that would have
been freely running and playing along with other baby elephants under
the care of its herd if it was in the jungle. But sadly it wasn’t.
The reality was different, callous and near brutal. The elephant,
barely 15 years, was tightly manacled on both front and hind legs.
It had deep painful looking gashes on all four legs due to being
chained over a long period. It was fanning the wounds with the trunk,
trying perhaps to soothe the burning sensation and keep out the flies.
could fault the temple authorities for neglect and disregard for the
But what kind of inhumanity drives them to abuse the already
traumatised and hurting animal to cash in on the superstitious beliefs
of the hoards? For, the real tragedy here is both the cruelty of the
temple officials, who keep the elephant shackled and charge Rs 100 to
grope it and crawl under it, and the god fearing, loving, kind and
caring devotees who pay the Rs 100 and don’t give a second thought to
abusing and even hurting the hapless animal in their quest to appease
the gods, invoke their blessing and receive their bounties. Compounding
the cruelty is the many photo opportunities they create out of these
inhuman moments, posing in front, under and behind the elephant for that
I just stood there, stunned, appalled, unable to believe how the god
fearing, loving and caring devotees could be so blind to the anguish the
poor elephant calf was going through, chained and traumatised.
There were pregnant women, elderly people and parents kneeling,
rolling or trying to roll from under the elephant to achieve happiness,
while the elephant was visibly in tears, either because of the pain
caused by the tight shackles, or at the sight of how blind humans can
Pix and story by Mahinda Vithanachchi