Last night we got the word that a MVU was scheduled to leave later that day, so we gathered our things, and we were off! First we had to go to Kandy to pick up the veterinarian and a few of his students. Once we arrived in Maranella, the doctor told us there would be a parahara, and we’d see about 10-15 elephants! The parade wasn’t due to start for a while, so we went for a bite to eat.
As the beginning of the parade neared closer, we saw children dressed in brightly colored costumes, and a young elephant in an elaborate robe. The parade beagn with teenage boys cracking whips to signal the procession was about to start. Traditionally this symbolized the sounds of a rainstorm, and it was very loud. Following the cracking whips were drums. The men playing the drums, were also dancing around in traditional Kandy costumes. The purpose for this dancing parade was to bring the rain to the rice fields.
As the elephants went by, there were children of all ages dressed up dancing to the rhythm of the drums. Some girls were dressed up as peacocks, while some of the boys were dressed up like warriors, and were fighting in a choreographed dance to the drums. Sitting atop the elephants were men holding up some sort of offering. Since the parade took place at night, there were men holding up baskets on long sticks with a type of coal burning inside it to provide light for everyone.
We got back in the van about halfway through the parade, and drove up to the front of the procession. During the slow ride, the veterinarian received a call that one of the elephants was misbehaving, so he jumped out and ran to the back to further investigate. Once we neared the end of the parade route, he returned to inform us that a male elephant had just gone into musth, and had to stop. They held the elephant off to the side of the procession until the end, where he was then picked up and returned to his home.
We watched as the full parade came to a close, and the elephants went to the temple to await their transportation back to their homes. It was an amazing cultural event filled with unique sounds and colors, lots of elephants, and children smiling. I’m thrilled I had the opportunity to witness this annual event!