June 2017

On the Banks of the Magnificent Kala Wewa
June 2017

A tusker and little one enjoying the evening

In the North Central district of Anuradhapura, the ancient Kala Wewa has provided water to the surrounding land for centuries. As evening approaches, the banks of this great reservoir becomes the playground for elephants.

Words: Udeshi Amarasinghe
Photography: Menaka Aravinda and Vishwathan Tharmakulasingham

Kala Wewa was declared a protected wildlife national park as recently as 2015. However, for years, the surrounding villages and elephants have led a peaceful coexistence. As the waters of the Kala Wewa recede during the dry season, herds of elephants emerge. They move together in a leisurely pace while crunching on leafy greens towards the open plains.

We entered the national park in the afternoon and waited patiently for the elephant herd to arrive. We soon got news that the elephants were on the move and we headed in that direction. Covered by trees we could just make out the giant feet moving and trunks swaying. Suddenly there was a great trumpeting sound, twigs snapping and feet stepping on dry leaves. We were on alert. As the herd moved farther, we followed them until we reached a small rock outcrop.

We observed the elephants as they played and relaxed in the evening light. It was interesting to note that there were males including tuskers within the herd. This was because it was the mating season and partners were being sought to ensure the longevity of the Kala Wewa elephants.

Among the elders, little ones played. While we watched these giants congregate, just a short distance away there was a rustling sound and to all of our amazement a majestic elephant emerged from the forest cover. He was bigger than the rest and had an impressive presence. Our attention was drawn to him.

We observed the elephants as they played and relaxed in the evening light.

News of a second herd took us to an open plain surrounded by the forest and bordered by a canal. This herd had a greater number of little elephants and a glimpse of a friendly canine running through agitated the entire herd. Some glistened in the sun having cooled themselves in the water. It was family time for these elephants.

As the sun began its descend to signify the end of the day we returned to the banks of the Kala Wewa, where elephants were still playing and relaxing, aware of our presence but undisturbed.

Having observed the majestic elephants of Kala Wewa, we bid adieu for these gentle giants to enjoy their evening.

King Dathusena

Kala Wewa was constructed by King Dathusena in 5th Century AD and is connected to Balalu Wewa. This twin reservoir complex, has a capacity of 100,000 acft and supplies water via a 40ft canal to the surrounding paddy fields in the Anuradhapura district.