Elephants of Kandy Perahera

Thadhani, the elephant dressmaker of Kandy passed away

Ajith Perakum Jayasinghe

Translations by Creative Content Consultants

Kishinchand Chadiram Thadhani, the official outfitter to the elephants participating in Kandy Perahera passed away on 27 April 2020 due to a heart attack at the age of 81.

Kandy Perahera is a magnificent pageant held each year in Sri Lanka with the participation of scores of elephants wearing subtly decorated colourful costumes.

Thadhani, who entered into the business cum art of making elephant caparisons in the early 1960s possessed experience of making over 2500 elephant dresses.

Thadhani at work. Photo by Joanna Sugden (Thanks to Wall Street Journal)

He takes measurements with his experienced eye and uses over 50 meters of cloth, padding, lining, beads and sequins to make the six-piece costume with intricate traditional Kandyan patterns embedded to it. The finished caparison weighs about 100 kilos. The price of the outfit ranges between Rs. 75,000 to 200,000 ($400 to 1,000$). Around 50 seamstresses work in cottage industries to produce over three dozens of elephant costumes per year, including export orders.

Before he entered into the trade, only the Neththimalaya, or the cover for the forehead and trunk were crafted beautifully. The body cover was a shabby bedspread which was tied to the torso with ropes. Thadhani invented the coat-like caparison for elephants, which does not need horrible ropes to fit on, in 1964 and offered the first product to the sacred Temple of the Tooth of Kandy.

Thadhani’s father Motumal Thadhani migrated to Ceylon from Hyderabad of India which now belongs to Pakistan as a 19-year-old businessman. He migrated to Kandy and established Chandra Dye Works. He had 16 children and Kishinchand Chadiram Thadhani was the 13th who became Motumal’s successor. Kishinchand Chadiram Thadhani studied in St. Sylvester’s College, Kandy. He married Rita from Bombay in 1973 and lived in a house close to Asgiri Maha Pirivena, school of Buddhist monks in Kandy. He was a born Hindu who was passionate about Buddhism. “I will breathe my last breath here,” he said to The Island newspaper on 30 July 2016.

Thanks to www.travelkandycity.com for the cover photo

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