Monday, August 11, 2014

Fires & Faces from the Kandy Esala Perahera Sri Lanka 2014

With over a 100 elephants, even more dancers, drummers, whip-crackers, fire-dancers and chieftains in traditional garb, the beautiful annual Kandy Esala Perahera is believed to be the oldest in the world. Some stunning moments, fires & faces from the final day at the World Heritage Site of Kandy 10 August 2014 (All images (c) Ayu in the Wild Safaris Sri Lanka)

The Sacred Tooth Relic was brought to Sri Lanka in 303 A.D - five centuries after the sapling of the Sacred Bo Tree - under which the Lord Buddha was enlightened, was brought to the island.  King Kithsirimewan built a beautiful palace to enshrine the Tooth relic and began the annual perahera (procession) in honour of it.

 The entire Perahera is lit by the fires of torch-carriers who line the streets

The magnificent tusks of the chief Elephant (Maaligawa Tusker) that carries the Golden Casket at the Kandy Esala Perahera, Sri Lanka

 The dancers and drummers fill the streets with colour, rhythm and grace
Dance and movements passed down from fathers to sons -several generations participate in the rituals of the procession - ensuring continuity of this magnificent pageant.

The climax -  The 'Maaligawa Tusker' (Chief Elephant) carrying the golden casket in the centre is traditionally flanked by two smaller Tuskers on either side.

No one rides on the lead Tusker as a mark of respect for the Relic . Two elephants accompany it on either side with men who ride the two elephants showering the casket with flowers. The families of these men have been traditionally carrying out these functions and no one else can perform them.

In the times of our Kings....

The Kandy Perahera reflects the glory of the days that are no more, the days of the pomp and splendour of the Kandyan monarchy when the King personally directed the arrangements for the great event. It then served the further purpose of a royal levee, at which were present the two Adigars, (Governors of Provinces) and all the other chiefs. The King took his stand at the Octagon of the Dalada Maligawa—termed the Pattiruppuwa, and presented himself to the view of his assembled subjects in the square below, who eagerly awaited a sight of his Royal Majesty. The procession being duly formed and marshalled in the temple square, the King with all ceremony brought the Karanduwa, or the relic casket containing the Tooth Relic which he placed within the ransivige on the howdah upon the Maligawa Tusker. 

The perahera was once banned under the British rule for about a decade and a severe drought befell the country. It is widely believed that the Sacred Tooth Relic has the power to bring rains to the island. After much persuasion, the British then allowed the Perahera to recommence and the country was blessed with rains.  

The Perahera climaxes with the dancing and drumming

 Past midnight - and another Esala Perahera ends....Dancers walk past the Temple of the Tooth Relic - beautifully lit in all its glory.

Ayu in the Wild Safaris Sri Lanka


Monday, June 9, 2014

Give Leopards their territory!

Planning on a big cat safari in Sri Lanka? Here's what you need to be mindful of...

The wilds of the Sri Lankan jungles, belong to the wildlife

Untrained safari drivers in Sri Lanka are known to overcrowd an animals territory
The Sri Lanka Leopard (Panthera Pardus Kotiya) is the largest carnivore in the island and the top most predator with no competition from other predators such as tigers or lions. (Although reference to Lions in Sri Lanka's history, the flag, stories of legend & folklore point to their likely existence thousands of years ago). As a result, the Sri Lankan Leopard is  much bolder than in other habitats across Asia or Africa. Spending more time on open roads and jeep tracks, on the ground, stalking without much cover and in daylight.

Think before you book your safari holiday in Sri Lanka....
  • Book your safari through respected agents that offer professional Guides & jeep drivers - not only will you enjoy learning about the wildlife in Sri Lanka but your Guide will ensure the territory of an animal is respected.
  • Ask for experienced Trackers. Be aware that Trackers allocated to your jeep from the Wildlife Department may not be the most trained and knowledgeable Guides - you may need to remind them of Park Rules - especially of not speeding towards an animal sighting.
  • Don't get too close! Be aware that Jeep drivers who tout for work are not trained to respect wildlife and more often than not, will overcrowd an animal - please give wildlife their space and zoom in for the best images.
  • Ask for a 4WD safari vehicle. Although the traditional Land Rover jeeps with seating to the sides may not look as comfortable as the newer jeeps with raised seating - they are much safer to travel in and more often than not driven by experienced safari drivers who know the terrain well. The old fashioned Land Rover jeeps can also handle rougher terrain than the new jeeps so you get to explore the more unexplored habitats.

Sri Lankan Leopard has adapted well to different habitats

The Sri Lankan cat has adapted well to different habitats - from the riverine ecosystems in Wilpattu National Park to the more scrub jungles and open plains of Yala and Kumana National Parks. With many small lakes making up their 'home-range' the Sri Lankan Leopard roams freely around the perimeters of each lake to feed on the resident animals of deer, sambhur, wildboar, grey langurs and the occasional buffalo calf. This 'roaming' from one lake to another also provides great opportunities for safari-goers to get their one-great-big-cat photo! 

Be a responsible wildlife tourist  - zoom in from a distance to get that top shot..

Do remember, that the wilds belong to the wildlife. We're merely visitors in their territory.

Give Leopards their territory - Yala Sri Lanka