‘Dandu Monara’ to Flying Peacock


We were all reminded of the Ramayana and the "Dandu Monara" with the opening of the Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport.

For those who may not be familiar with the story of the Dandu Monara, it will be good to know that it was a flying machine in use in prehistoric days, and the best  record of its use was for a very romantic purpose, as described in the Ramayana.

Sri Lanka’s ruler at that time, Ravana, who counted the operation of a flying machine among his skills, was a competent Dandu Monara pilot, and the most memorable use he made of this flying machine and his skill was to abduct the beautiful Sita, the wife of King Rama in the ancient Bharatha, or what is now India, and bring her to Sri Lanka, where it is believed she was kept at Sita Eliya in the cool hills of this country. 

The battle waged by Rama to rescue Sita, the role played by his brother Lakshamana, and his simian ally Hanuman, are all part of legend in Sri Lanka and India today.  

The opening of the Mattala Airport has brought new focus on the Monara or peacock of the South of Sri Lanka.  Hambantota is the traditional home of the peacock, which is an important tourist attraction, and there are many who believe that the Monara or Mayura, known as the vehicle of the Skanda the deity at Kataragama, will be glad or even proud to see SriLankan air hostesses, clad in saris that depict its colourful tail as its design, flying down to Mattala.

There are others who worry about the fear that all of this will cause to the Monaras in the South, who are not used to flying machine of today moving about so freely in what is known as their terrain of the skies, and according to tradition is part of the Deity’s own skies - in what is known as "Deiyanne Rata" - or the domain of the gods.

The peacock is not a bird that flies very high.  One learns that there are plans to use the peacock, with its low flying capabilities, to escort the aircraft that many say will be coming in large numbers to Mattala, despite the criticism of it made by those who are said to know little of the facts of Sri Lankan aviation.

The idea is to use robotics to have electronic chips inserted in the heads of peacocks that can be   directed by personnel in the control tower, to guide the aircraft to a perfect and colourful landing at Mattala.

Another interesting proposal is to train the peacocks at Mattala and thereabouts to be special welcome teams to greet the tourists who are expected to arrive in their thousands to this new international gateway to and from Sri Lanka.  Those who support this plan say it will cut down on the expenditure of having to drive or fly special personnel from the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau to greet regular or special tourists on arrival at Mattala, as they could be   received and escorted to immigration counters by the well- trained peacocks, who will be doing a special display of their feathers.  This will indeed be a great first for Sri Lankan tourism. What will be very special is to train a peacock to garland special visitors, as done so far by the ladies in tourism promotion. The people in tourism marketing are said to be working hard on these ideas.

So if you have any fears about the safety of the peacock population in the South and in Deiyanne Rata due to the opening of this new aerial gateway at Mattala, it seems time to put such fears to rest.

Another   interesting proposal made by tourism promoters who seem to know a mighty lot about wild life and tourism these days,  is  the use of elephants for service at the airport, instead of their being frightened away by the sound of regular flights in what was their quiet domain for   centuries.  This thinking is based on the well known intelligence and memory of the elephant.

There are people   in tourism planning, supported by economic development, and possibly assisted by wildlife conservation too, who see a great possibility in getting elephants trained to guide aircraft that have landed or about to take off when they taxi down the runway.

We may soon come to a time when those humans, with earphones and waving signboards directing the aircraft taxiing on runways being a thing of the past,  with all of this work being done by elephants specially trained for the task . Just imagine what a great tourist attraction this will be.

I have been assured that all of this is being planned to drive away any fears people may have about the threats and dangers to wildlife, especially, birds, peafowl and elephants due to the opening of this second international airport in the country.  On the contrary,  it will need much more  peacocks and elephants to do this work, which will mean that steps will be taken to protect these and other species useful for  modern trends in aviation.

To get back to the Dandu Monara and its  original use for every romantic purpose by Ravana, with his infatuation with Sita,  there are also many who say that Mattala can be  a very special  place for lovers to have an unforgettable holiday in  Sri Lanka, by promoting  special flights that will bring lovers to celebrate Valentine’s Day - February 14 each, year  commemorating the romance of the Dandu Monara, complete with peacock and elephant escorts and all the pleasures of Yala and the southern beaches laid out.

The Dandu Monara has returned to the romantic skies of Sri Lanka.

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