Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Religious Use of Elephants in Ancient Sri Lanka (Research Paper)

Citation: Wisumperuma, D. 2012, Religious Use of Elephants in Ancient Sri Lanka, Gajah, 37, pp. 16-21.


The religious use of elephants in Sri Lanka has its origins in the early period of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. The oldest record of the use of elephants in Buddhist religious processions and festivals in Sri Lanka dates back to 3rd century BCE, when Buddhism was introduced to the Island. The oldest record of the use of elephants to draw a chariot with the Tooth Relic in a procession is from early 14th century CE, centuries prior to the commencement of the Kandy Esala Perahera in the 18th century. Elephants used for religious purposes during the early periods were mostly state elephants belonging to the king and in some cases the royal or Mangala elephant. However a number of elephants were used in religious festivals later and that perhaps required more elephants from other sources. The first recorded donation of an elephant to a temple took place in the early 1st century CE. This could be a continuation of a former tradition. Offering of elephants to temples are frequently mentioned in historical sources since 14th century CE.

Full paper (PDF): http://www.asesg.org/PDFfiles/2013/Gajah%2037/37-16-Wisumperuma.pdf

Contents page: http://www.asesg.org/gajah37.htm

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