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Thirikkal Races

It’s not every day that one witnesses an elephant race in the middle of Colombo. An elephant race and a bullock cart race, also known as thirikkal races, were the primary attraction at the Sinhala and Tamil Avurudu festival that took place in Maradana on 23 April (Sunday). 

Even though thirikkal races, where a cart is drawn by a bull, were once a commonly practised sporting event in the past, the race is a rare occurrence in the streets of Colombo. In comparison, elephant races have been practically unheard of; two mahouts accompanied the racing elephant during this event. Our reporter noticed five elephants taking part in the race, running down Deans Road, Maradana, amidst cheering crowds. 

Both races have become unpopular in recent years due to the cruel and inhumane treatment the animals have to face, both during the event and in preparation for it. 

The annual event was organised by multiple community organisations based in the area and claimed that it was held after a lapse of two years. The New Year festivities also included a magic show for the children as well as several traditional Avurudu games such as kotta pora (pillow-fighting).

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