Volunteers with the elephants
My trip is half over now, must say the time went by quickly. I have been busy taking pics. – lots of them.The heat is well into the 30 degree range with rain sometimes. It’s really too hot to do anything. I have enjoyed my stay in Prashanthi Nilayam and so enjoy the Vedas and the bhajans, also other chants. Oh! how sublime it is here, away from the daily drudge of cleaning, washing and doing the shopping. I have many stories to share with you all, but they will have to wait until my return. My most pleasant surprise has been the superb food, not usually what I expect on my trips here to Puttaparthi.
- love eve xxxx
I’ve dragged out another old document with a travel story from long ago. I can’t remember just what year I visited Pinnawela? I guess it was at least 12 years back. I’d forgotten I’d written this yarn. This adventure, is one worth sharing, although not really in keeping with my blog. I could blog it under Ganesha, I suppose, the Hindu Elephant God Ganesha – the remover of obstacles. I love reading myths about Ganesha, still there’s nothing like a real elephant. To see them is to love them dearly.
Ganesh wood carving. Japan. Early Buddhist brought Ganesh to Japan.
Such A Perfect Day at Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage – Sri Lanka
Although the mini-bus was fully air-conditioned and comfortable our three-hour drive from Kandy to Pinnawela proved exhausting.
The boiling sun roasted the countryside making the air thick with dust. Also the war had taken its toll on the roads where we encountered numerous pot-holes and rough patches that caused our stomachs to roll over. Our driver manoeuvred our vehicle to avoid them but it was an “un-perrrrrfect” skill on his part.
My friend Karon who lives in Sri Lanka, helped to make the drive interesting by pointing out favourite landmarks along the way, telling me their history. She also insisted that our driver play her favourite cassette tape. The cassette had only one song – “A Perfect Day,” by Eric Clapton. The song amused me with its endless repetitions of the same four words – dare I repeat them, “Just A Perfect Day.” But after an hour or so our poor driver sighed and pulled at his hair,
“Enough!” he wailed. “Enough, enough, enough.”
I nodded quietly agreeing with him.
We continued our journey to the steady rhythm of Enya singing “In Memory of Trees”.
Our driver gave a mischievous grin, “Wonderful!” he exclaimed and began to sing along, but horribly out of tune.
At exactly 11.40 a.m. the driver informed us we were entering the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage. He hurriedly parked the mini-bus and urged us to go quickly because at noon the baby elephants were to be fed.
We rushed to the entrance paid our 50-rupee each fee, then sped to the enclosure where the babies were kept. Oh! What a beautiful sight met our eyes. Miniature elephants of varying size stood eagerly waiting their morning meal. Several really small ones, stomped their feet anxiously as they waited.
Others moved their heads up and down in an attempt to draw attention to their hungry bellies. The older ones trumpeted with undisguised impatience; they had to wait until last. We struggled to get nearer to the orphans but there was a large crowd.
Eventually we managed a front row spot, where I could stretch out my hand to stroke one of the smallest babies. The infant still covered with baby hair felt like a brillo pad! I continued to stroke him/her, but he/she wasn’t having it. He/she roared at me, until I withdrew my hand. The infant although appealing still looked dangerous. The keeper seeing my concern came over and began to feed the baby elephant, who took the bottle greedily. The little thing closed her eyes, her long lashes looked almost like false ones. They were long and thick.
We tried to find out more about the orphans but the keepers were too busy. Our friendly bus driver joined us and offered intriguing details about the orphans. He had been bringing people here for years and had a wealth of knowledge he could share. He told us that most of the orphans had lost their parents in the continuing war in Northern Sri Lanka. We heard that one youngster had been found wandering with a group of wild buffalo and was eventually rescued and brought to the centre only a few days earlier. Another teenager elephant, crippled by a land mine, had been saved by soldiers and brought to the orphanage where the vets had amputated a back leg. The injury had taken three years to heal. The injured elephant had little trouble following the rest of the herd to the river, even on three legs.
After the baby orphans had been fed we made our way down to the river, where the joyful trumpeting of the adults was heard as they wallowed in the water. The elephants were divided into groups to aid them in establishing new family herds. They rubbed and trunk-hosed each other fondly, trying to keep cool in the soaring temperatures. Several youngsters caught my eye as they stood heaving their trunks over their backs splattering mud and water everywhere.
Fascinated by these gentle beasts, I wanted a closer view. I removed my shoes and with Karon’s help, climbed down the steep incline to the riverside. From my new vantage point, I could see that the river run deep in the middle, while flanked on both sides by a steamy jungle. A perfect setting for the wild elephants. Directly in front of me two huge adults, were lying on their sides in the river, being lovingly scrubbed by their keepers. Being within hearing range, I could hear the keepers giving commands to the great beasts who followed them attentively.
“Come closer,” one of the keepers shouted to me.
“Oh! no,” I cried. “It’s too muddy and I may slip.” Being close to the elephants was treat enough but I didn’t want to push my luck.
“Beautiful creatures,” I yelled. “What’s their names?
“This one is Lila.” The keeper nearest to me shouted back while pointing to the beast lying in the water beside him. “I’m the mahout.” (keeper)
Lila eyed me curiously, rolled over, and stood up. He was of gargantuan size!
“Oh!” I exclaimed, gingerly stepped backwards. “Is Lila dangerous?”
The keeper laughed and called a command to Lila who trudged towards him through the thick mud.
He can be dangerous but not with me in charge.” Assured the mahout with a chuckle.
From the rocks. A good vantage point for seeing the elephants in the river
Karon stretched out her hand, “Here take your camera,” she said. “And be careful.” I took several photos of Lila until he came a tad too close. At which time I made a speedy retreat through the rocks. From the safely on the riverbank, I waved to the mahout who continued to brush and wash the elephant.
“Now you’ve been close to a wild elephant,” Karon joked, her eyes twinkling with mischief. “Maybe you will be brave enough to ride one.”
Wiping the sweat from my face, I answered that I only might consider it. Karon took several more photos then we made our way to the cafe overlooking the river. We remained there sipping our ice-cold cola for sometime, watching the elephants. The younger ones as they played with each other, provided us with a glimpse of how elephants inter-act in the wild. The older ones explored the far side of the river, trumpeting as they went. The babies, farther down the river, enjoyed lessons in “elephant hygiene” given by their keepers.
One sad looking male stood chained to a rock. We were told he was ready to mate. He stood in the water, roaring ominously. Very upset with the hoards of tourist. We felt sorry for him as he stood there looking at the females, who flirted outrageously with him. Several of the elephants appeared to be sick, due to the terrible ordeals they had been through. We could only hope that with time and care they would recover and lead normal elephant lives.
At four p.m. the elephants were rounded up and led in a single file back to the orphanage. We stood captivated as each one filed past. Last but not the least; the three-legged teenager strolled by lapping up all the extra attention tourist gave him.
“Ah,” we cried, ” he’s so sweet.”
Sweet, yes, but powerful and majestic beyond measure.
From my travels…………
Properly taken from the Cafe – overlooking the river.
I have no idea what Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage is like today. I hear different reports, some suggesting the elephants are not treated too well. On my visit The elephants looked very well cared for considering a cruel war was waging. the orphanage lacked funds, often relying on volunteers to help out. Might add the photos are not mine. They come from the Internet. My photos are on film.
Ganesh wood carving. Japan. Early Buddhist brought Ganesh to Japan.
The Meaning of Ganesh in Japan
Ganesha assumes 30 distinctive forms in Japanese iconography, often as a dual entity. One erotic form, specific to Shingon Buddhism, features two embracing male and female forms with elephant heads and human bodies. These are rare idols, worshipped with secret rituals inside temples. Typically, they are made of metal as they must be immersed in oil during worship. Gumyo-ji, an 8th century temple in Minami, Yokohama has one such image. Often, Japanese temple doors feature two long-robed, elephant-headed figures in an embrace.
Young Japanese popularly worship Kangiten as a symbol of conjugal bliss. Many entrepreneurs, especially those whose business involves food and drink, worship Ganesha as Shou Ten, a benevolent obstacle-remover and enhancer of wealth.
Many thanks to the Ganesh blog for details.
Have you made it to the end of this epic read? Need a break? Here’s Lou Reed with “SUCH A PERFECT DAY..” ~ Karon, if you are still reading my blog, this one is for you and Sam!
And it was a perfect day – as Lou Reed describes !