“THEIR MAJESTIES” – By Des Kelly
Let us make this one (three items). As far as I am concerned, and as far as ANY Lankan/Aussie should know, the first “King of Our Public Librarians in Australia”, is undoubtedly Victor Melder, a good friend, Patriot, & Walking
Encyclopaedia on all things Sri Lankan. Victor has his own “little library” connected to his residence, spends hours in it, sorting out books, magazines, newspapers, etc., etc., to ensure that all of us, lucky readers, are kept fully aware of everything to do with the Country that both of us were privileged to be born in, before, reluctantly having to leave.
I am happy to say that Victor Melder has been duly recognised by the City of Melbourne, for his honorary work, and, take my chance to wish him, his dear wife Esther, & his family, all the very best. Victor is also a valued member of eLanka, the leading website for Sri Lankans everywhere, and we are very proud indeed, that he is..
Secondly, the real Majesty of the “Dalada Maaligawa”, or the “Temple of the Tooth”, meaning, the home of the Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha, former Prince Siddhartha Gautama, the Founder of Buddhist Philosophy, known Worldwide for His doctrines on Peace & Prosperity for everybody, no matter which Religion they followed. If Buddhism, as the BUDDHA wanted it, was strictly adhered to, our World would be a much better place to live in, The same goes, of course, for every other Religion that mankind follows. Unfortunately, unscrupulous Human Beings USE their Religions, and Philosophies as a “Front” for all the dastardly deeds THEY wish to commit on unsuspecting people. Anyway, getting back to the “Maaligawa”, August is the month that all Tourists should choose, IF they wish to see the huge celebrations of the Tooth-Relic being proudly paraded in Sri Lanka. Proud to say that I have recorded a song about it.
Thirdly, & finally, a very brief, yet interesting introduction to Bevis Bawa, a man I met, also very briefly, as I was on a “Show-biz” tour in Ceylon, many many years ago. I was in my hotel room, before going on–stage, and it appears that Bevis was also temporarily resident at the same hotel, where I first saw this 6 foot, 12 inch man in the foyer . He was a huge man, obviously, and went on to be one of the most influential people in the Hotels-Industry over there.
To date, the name is very well known in Sri Lanka, but now, I’ll let you read all about it.
Tales from the majestic giants – Text and pix Mahil Wijesinghe
The magnificent pachyderms of Kandy’s Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic and the bustling life around it
The Source:Sunday Observer
THE MAJESTIC GUARDIANS: Pilgrims enter the Sri Dalada Maligawa near the stone walls of the temple which bear bas-relief testament to the elephants’ centuries of service
Annually, during a ten-day period in July or August, elephants from all parts of the country flock to the premises of the Sri Dalada Maligawa (Temple of the Sacred Tooth) in Kandy to perform specific duties in the religious procession and to venerate the Sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha. Every evening elephants walk through the streets of Kandy in a series of great magnificent processions collectively called the Kandy Esala Perahera, one of the greatest cultural and religious pageants in the world.
It is impossible to imagine life in Sri Lanka without the elephant. It is so intricately woven to the work and worship of the island and its people and the image of the elephant is everywhere. It is the elephant that takes pride of place, has the holiest of tasks and it is the elephant that unquestionably steals the show in Kandy.
I often find myself spending a day in Kandy, especially, at the premises of the Sri Dalada Maligawa photographing the elephants. During the festival period the streets of Kandy are filled with people from across the island. Pilgrims come to venerate and pray at the Temple of the Tooth and the adjoining Hindu devales. Foreign tourists take pictures with elephants. Drummers and performers, both young and old, gather during the day in preparation for the evening’s procession. Elephants can be seen walking along the streets with their mahouts. The entire city of Kandy bustles with activity.
About an hour after sundown, a large sound is heard throughout the town. It signals the beginning of the Perahera. People along the route toss coins on the street that are collected for the Temple. They are followed by hundreds of costumed drummers, performers, and elephants that dazzle the crowd.
The highlight of the entire evening is the sight of the Golden Casket that holds the Sacred Tooth Relic. It is ceremoniously placed inside a specially designed casket that is mounted on the shoulders of the grandest elephant in the procession. As the tusker moves along the Perahera route, pilgrims fold their hands and bow in prayer and reverence to the Buddha.
Unfortunately, from time to time, we get news of an elephant running amok or goring a mahout to death before or during the processions. This is because of musth, a violent development in the adult male elephant. This is caused by over activity of the male sex hormone. The secretion from the musth gland triggers the violent mood of the tusker and it runs out of control. Prolonged exposure to light during processions works as a catalyst for musth and this explains the reason for elephants running amok during festival processions.
When I was a little boy, my grandfather told me a story from the Kandy Perahera in 1959. A tusker named Raja ran amok and created a stampede in which several people were killed and many others injured. Since then, such incidents have been minimal.
The pageantry of the festival, the devotion of the pilgrims, and the elegant behaviour of the amazing elephants make the entire event astonishing to behold.
Sunday Observer, August 11, 2019
BRIEF: for a brief split of escapism – Text and Pix by Indusara Pathirana
One of the most famous landscape architects in Sri Lanka, Bevis Bawa, having had to take over the management of his family rubber plantation at the age of 20, gets away to this place near Aluthgama and decides to have his home there for the rest of his life. Thereafter, this captivating showpiece of nature has just happened over the years. At a glance, it doesn’t look much like a typical Sri Lankan garden
landscape with its touch of English and Japanese gardens. But, one wouldn’t be guilty feeling that way now, entering the garden, climbing a half-circular staircase and walking through the main reception area. “Mr. Bawa was a person who couldn’t stay doing nothing, so he had been breaking and making structures whenever he thought things should look better” said Dooland De Silva, the former Assistant Manager of Bevis Bawa and the present owner of the garden. ‘BRIEF’ had been one of the fictional houses in a book of three isolated houses read by Bevis Bawa to whom ‘BRIEF’ sounded the best to call his garden.
In 1969, the hotels designed by his brother Geoffrey Bawa came in and on the request of somebody, BRIEF was also open to the public since 1970. When the hotels and resorts came up, there had been many tourists. The marvel of BRIEF lies in its phenomenalistic nature of being the first tourist attraction of its kind at a time when there were no other tourist attractions in the area except the religious places; and BRIEF bears the grace of becoming the ‘most-talked-about private garden in Sri Lanka open to the public’.
“So, I’ve been the owner since Mr. Bawa died 26 years ago. Before he passed away, he persuaded me to have my own nursery. People came asking me to landscape their properties, obviously because of Mr. Bawa’s name. Over the years, I became a landscape designer myself. My guru was Mr. Bawa” said Dooland De Silva gratefully.
BRIEF by Bawa has tourists and other local visitors dropping by. Each day, they get 15-18 visitors and the expenses are moderately high. At the time theSunday Observer paid a visit to the garden, a couple of months after the Easter Sunday attacks, the garden came off idyllically tranquil that not a single soul had shown up until we stepped in. We noted that Dooland De Silva was delighted by our presence. He had two craftsmen working there “after the New Year, we had much to repair. We have now built a private toilet for visitors, a pavilion and a special place for drivers”. Dooland wishes to see the unprecedented architectural artifice of Bevis Bawa as long as BRIEF exists and therefore he has not changed anything there, being a designer himself. “Because, if I change anything, it won’t be BRIEF anymore” he said.
Bevis Bawa had not got through any examinations, nor had he studied architecture. In school, he had once been promoted to a class called ‘the removed’ and asked to choose between learning and departing. Since then he had not attended school and that had been the happiest day in his life, as he mentioned in an article. Thereafter, he had taken to planting at the age of 16 or so and that’s why he had been sent here by his mother. Bawa had served the last four British Governors in the army as the ADC” added Dooland De Silva. Gazing at the walls we could catch up with pictures that show 6’7 tall Bawa in his Aide-De-Camp costume standing snappy and smart. Bawa had chosen to enjoy his aesthetics living in his garden where we could also feel nudged and touched by the intrinsic vibrations of the unperturbed nature. Even if he had built his home there, the pastoral richness has not got dried up, instead, the place has grown to be a dramatic hideaway where one can be all ears to his inner conversations getting away from the everyday hullabaloos.
Strolling through the garden may make the visitors ponder about the sway of sculptures upon the architectural buds of Bevis Bawa that some significant sculpture such as Hanuman the monkey king, the stone sculpture- horse and a sculpture of a nude man, many of them done by Bawa himself can be spotted whatever side they turn to. The synopsis of Sri Lanka covering all of its cities punctuated with what they are renowned for serves the wishes of any foreigner to know about the nooks and crannies of the country. When walking in the corridors inside his house one would try reading between the photos that hang close to each other making a sequence out of the junctures of Bawa’s life. Those framed photographs could speak to us louder than what our guide had to say.
Even though he had not passed any examination, Bawa had been used to painting, writing to the newspapers, sculpting plus being a garden designer, and all his work still gets applauded for being so exceptional. He had travelled often to get fresh ideas to upgrade his home-garden. Bawa had distributed about 18 or 19 acres among his personal staff and had been left with this house and the garden. Towards the end of his life, he went blind and had remained a bachelor until death came to him in 1992 at the age of 84.
“Now we have a registered landscape design company called ‘Brief Garden Designs’. We have our office in Nawala. We have seven landscape architects and have larger projects like Havelock City apartments and the Altair building project” added Dooland De Silva.