Ecstasy at Minneriya; a Walk to Remember
By Ama H. Vanniarachchy
“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”
– John Muir
Every little thing in nature is precious. Even the tiniest creature and the tiniest sapling, no matter of its size, are vital to maintaining the delicate balance of nature. There is an invisible string that connects all living beings together. Through this string flow the forces of nature, making us all one. This is why everything of nature should be treated with the utmost love, respect, and care. Also, this is the reason that we feel and see ourselves in nature.
Utmost bliss and harmony can only be achieved by those who feel ‘oneness’s with nature.
My recent travels to Minneriya are one of the most memorable moments of my life. The serine forest, the majestic gentle giants, the lake, and the starry nights mesmerized me and touched my soul. I will take you to what I experienced, but I cannot guarantee that neither my words nor the pictures will do justice to the ecstasy I experienced.
Minneriya National Park is a paradise on earth. The serenity of the forest, the blissful sight of the majestic gentle giants living in harmony in their natural habitat, and the enormous Minneriya tank all surrounded by the Blue Mountains is surely a haven. The ancient legends and folk beliefs surrounding Minneriya add an essence of culture and mystery to this forest heaven.
Minneriya National Park is the only place where you can witness the largest number of elephants gathering together. To see hundreds and hundreds of elephants of all sizes and shapes thriving in their natural habitat is a sight one must not miss. The best time to visit the park is during July – October as the natural phenomenon called the Great Elephant Gathering of Minneriya occurs. Lonely Planet has classified this as one of the ten great wildlife wonders of the world and the only natural wonder from Sri Lanka.
This happens as the fresh grass that grows on the grasslands of the Minneriya reservoir bed gradually exposes, and the elephants start coming to Minneriya starting from March/April. The fresh grass that grows in abundance at the tank bed is what attracts these giants. The climax of the elephant gathering reaches in August – October and towards the end of October, these giants leave Minneriya and return in April. I learned that this natural cycle has been in operation, uninterrupted, for centuries.
The great elephant gathering
Many baby elephants were playing with each other. The sight of caring elephant moms and elder sister elephants who were attending to their little ones is a wonderful sight. I was fortunate enough to witness the famous ‘thunpath raana’.
The bathing elephants reminded me of the carvings at Isurumuniya and Ranmasu uyana.
There were few ‘thaniya’ or a loner roaming around the plain with pride. One she elephant, probably a leader of a herd, was not so happy to be disturbed by us humans; therefore she openly showed her arrogance.
The bank of the reservoir was occupied by flocks of birds. As I am not a keen observer of birds I do not know the names of each species. However, it does not hinder to enjoy the grace and beauty of these wonderful creatures.
The massive nest on a tree close to the reservoir bank left me awestruck. That was the biggest birds nest I have seen in my life. It was untidy, messy, and enormous. I learned that it was a nest of an eagle.
Nature thrives in its fullest bliss, harmony, and peace when there is no interference or interruption of humans.
Minneriya tank was built during the 3rd century AD by the Sinhalese king Mahasen who ruled in Anuradhapura. There are few islands in the tank where wildlife thrives freely. The playful monkeys were having a feast enjoying their time on the trees, not distracted or threatened by humans.
I was lucky to encounter a bull elephant, prime at his youth and proudly bearing two tusks, enjoying a feast of fresh grass at the banks of one of these islands. He was gently removing grass using his trunk and munching it calmly.
The sunset by the tank
The sunset I witnessed at the bund of the Minneriya tank was an out of the world experience. The sky changed its colours ranging from shades of purple, blues, golden pink and peach, a dull blue-grey, golden yellow-orange, and then finally a bloody red. The sun appeared like a ball of fire and finally was submerged in the Minneriya tank. It was like you are in midst of giant palate of watercoulors witnessing hundred of hues and tones of colours.
God of the tank, Minneriya
The temple is believed to have been first built by King Mahasen, who was later known as Minneri deviyo, as a tribute to his enormous contribution towards agriculture, irrigation, and the country’s economy.
My heart was in pain when it was time to leave Minneriya. I was thinking how Satyacharan must have felt when he was leaving the mesmerizing forest land in Bhagalpur after living there for six long years; I couldn’t even bear the separation from this forest heaven where I spent only a couple of days.
“And into the forest I go to lose my mind and find my soul.” – John Muir
Special thanks to
-Dr. Sumith Pilapitiya, Former DG, DWC
- Bhathiya Madugalle, Park Warden, MNP
- Ranjith Wijitha, Deputy Warden, MNP