The Pinnawala elephant herd is known to be the largest permanent concentration of captive Asian elephants in the world. This blind tusker was a significant attraction to the visitors at the orphanage.
A 12th Century inscription on a stone seat at Polonnaruwa records that King Nissanka Malla sat upon it while watching elephant fights. These fights were staged for the sole entertainment of nobles. Elephants were used for all the important ceremonial occasions, especially where pomp and pageantry were required. The annual Perahera in Kandy, which dates back nearly 220 years, brings together well over a hundred elephants that parade the streets during the nights on certain pre-determined days in July-August each year. New Year festivities in Sri Lanka featured elephants in various sports and competitive combat. Elephant fights were a popular form of sport in early times called ‘Gaja Keliya,’ in the vernacular. The Sri Lankan elephant population is now largely restricted to the dry zone in the North, East and Southeast of Sri Lanka. A significant number of elephants are found in the main national parks of Sri Lanka, namely Udawalawe, Yala, Lunugamwehera, Wilpattu & Minneriya apart from a few who live outside protected areas.
The Pinnawala elephant herd is known to be the largest permanent concentration of captive Asian elephants in the world. This blind tusker was a significant attraction to the visitors at the orphanage. He was not blind from birth but became so due to gun- shot wounds. He was brought to Pinnawala orphanage from Galenbidunuwewa in North Central province on March 29, 1994 at the age of 40 years and named Raja but was commonly known as the ‘Blind Tusker’. The blindness did not restrict the attraction of visitors; with time, this elephant’s fame grew and it became a prominent figure at the orphanage. He was not just the blind elephant at the orphanage but also had a reputation of being the biggest tusker at the orphanage. The world famous traveler, Tony Giles, who was known as the ‘blind traveler’, visited Sri Lanka in year 2007 and did not forego a visit to the Pinnawala elephant orphanage to meet Raja. That special incident was an extraordinary moment, since they both were blind but had great respect.
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