NEWS: Sri Lanka
The most sacred elephant has died at the age of 68.

On Mon­day, a pro­ces­sion of mourn­ers — includ­ing school­child­ren, priests in saf­fron robes and an elder­ly woman with a Zim­mer frame — paid trib­ute to Raja, pray­ing and touch­ing his pow­er­ful tusks with reverence.

Pres­i­dent Gotabaya Rajapak­sa declared Raja a “nation­al trea­sure” and ordered that his remains be pre­served “for future gen­er­a­tions to wit­ness,” his office said.

Nadunga­muwa Raja was the largest of the 100 ele­phants that par­tic­i­pat­ed in an annu­al show, sur­round­ed by fire-eaters and drummers.

Decked out in lights, Raja car­ried the gold­en cas­ket of Bud­dhist relics in the annu­al Esala Per­a­hera pageant, a major tourist attrac­tion in the cen­tral city of Kandy — almost every year from 2006 to 2021.

He even had an armed escort of elite com­man­dos after an inci­dent in 2015 when a motor­cy­clist almost hit him on an out­ing to attend a tem­ple ceremony.

One of Raja’s pre­de­ces­sors, also known as Raja, car­ried the gold­en cas­ket of 34 relics for exact­ly 34 years between 1953 and 1986.

When the for­mer Raja passed away in 1988 at the age of 72, there was a huge wave of grief and the gov­ern­ment declared a nation­al day of mourning.

The old Raja has also been pre­served and has his own muse­um with­in the walls of the Kandy Tooth Tem­ple, which con­tains a sup­posed tooth of the Buddha.

The ele­phant cho­sen must belong to a par­tic­u­lar caste with par­tic­u­lar phys­i­cal char­ac­ter­is­tics to qualify.

When the ele­phant stands, sev­en points — the four legs, trunk, penis and tail — must all touch the ground.

The ani­mal must also have a flat back, the tusks must be in the shape of a tra­di­tion­al van, and its height must be about 3.7 meters (12 feet).

An excep­tion was made for Raja, who was only 3.2 meters (10.5 feet) tall, as he was the tallest in the coun­try at the time.

Raja was born in India and was giv­en to Sri Lan­ka by an Indi­an prince.

Ele­phants are a pro­tect­ed species in Sri Lan­ka, but many are kept as pets because they are con­sid­ered sta­tus symbols.

Laws have been tight­ened in recent years to pro­hib­it the cap­ture of wild ele­phants, which car­ries the death penalty.

Ani­mal rights activists say cap­tive ele­phants are often mis­treat­ed, a charge denied by tem­ples and domes­tic ele­phant owners.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.