Download a PDF of the Sri Lanka Festival of Elephants Lesson

Grade: 1st

New York State Visual Art Standards:

  • Standard 1: Creating, Performing and Participating in the Arts: Students will actively engage in the process that constitute creation and performance in the arts and participate in various roles in the arts.
  • Standard 2: Knowing and Using Arts Materials and Resources: Students will be knowledgeable about and make use of the materials and resources available for participation in the arts in various roles.
  • Standard 4: Understanding the Cultural Dimensions and Contributions of the Arts: Students will develop an understanding of the personal and cultural forces that shape artistic communication and how the arts in turn shape the diverse cultures of past and present societies.

Art Production: Students will be able to create an elephant out of cardstock based on the elephants, which lead in the festivals in Sri Lanka. Students will decorate their elephant by gluing jewels and using bright colors to demonstrate the lavish elephants in the Perahera festivals.

Art Perception: Students will look at pictures of the elephants from the Perahera festivals in Sri Lanka.  The students will decorate their elephant with lavish designs.

Visual References:

  • Images from the Internet and books from the “Perahera” festivals
  • Map of the country Sri Lanka
  • Map of the world to point out the location of Sri Lanka
  • Pictures of elephants

Other Motivational Strategies, References and Materials:

Materials and Supplies:

  • Previously cut out elephants for tracing
  • 8×10 gray cardstock or construction paper
  • Drawing pencils
  • Erasers
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Washable markers
  • Sequins, jewels, or other embellishments
  • Various colors of cardstock or construction paper

Ideas to Emphasize:

  • Explain how the people of Sri Lanka used colors, jewels, and lights
  • Talk about the materials used
  • Talk about how the elephant is sacred and is an animal of good fortune
  • Talk about where Sri Lanka is in comparison to other countries such as India

Techniques to Demonstrate:

  • Show how to cut the elephant out neatly
  • Demonstrate how to use the glue with the tiny jewels and sequins – Show what happens if you use too much glue
  • Demonstrate (to those that need help) of how to cut the border out

Topics to Discuss while Working:

  • Has anyone ever been to the circus and seen elephants dressed in clothe, lights, beads, and jewels?
  • Does anyone know anything about India? Sri Lanka has many of the same religions and customs. Talk about why these are similar (the countries are very close together)
  • Talk about what kinds of materials the people of Sri Lanka might use to decorate these elephants

Topics to Discuss when Work is Complete:

  • Have students think about why they would use elephants as a sacred animal
  • Refer back the pictures and ask students if they can see their own decorated and embellished elephant in a festival


Day One:

1.) We will talk about the festivals if Sri Lanka:

“The Esala Perahera (A-suh-luh peh-ruh-ha-ruh) is the grand festival of Esala held in Kandy. It’s one of the largest festivals and is believed to be a fusion of two separate but interconnected ‘Perahera’ (Processions) – The Esala and Dalada. The Esala Perahera which is thought to date back to the 3rd century BC, was a ritual enacted to request the gods for rainfall. The Dalada Perahera is believed to have begun when the Sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha was brought to Sri Lanka from India during the 4th Century AD.

The Perahera is a 10 day festival that happens over July or August and it has become a unique symbol of Sri Lanka. It is a Buddhist festival consisting of dances and richly-decorated elephants with the highlight being the relic casket, which is a substitute for the Tooth Relic, placed inside the ransivige (a dome-like structure) affixed to the largest of Elephants, (always a tusker).

The procession consists of hundreds of dancers and drummers and the elephants usually number near a hundred. There are fire-dances, whip-dances, Kandian dances and various other cultural dances. Each elephant is usually adorned with lavish garments and covered in a tailor-made, embroidered cloth which has been created by a specific tailor, flown in from the Indian mainland. The festival ends with the traditional ‘diya-kepeema’.”

2.) I will demonstrate to the students how to trace the elephant templates with the pencils on gray construction paper. The students will trace the templates and then will cut out the elephant.

3.) The students will be shown how to glue the elephant on a colored background.

4.) I will show the students pictures of the Sri Lankan elephants and the embellishments and costumes worn by the elephants. The students will be shown that they should place the embellishments on the feet, head, face, and body of the elephant. The elephant should be decorated with many bright colors.

Day Two:

1.) The students will continue to use markers and sequins to create decorations for the elephants.

2.) The students will be shown how to put a pattered border around the elephant.

Possible Follow-up Lesson Idea:
Students will be shown a variety of images from the other festivals in Sri Lanka. Students will learn about a variety of festivals and how they use sacred symbols. Students will create their own sacred symbol conveying an animal on construction paper.

Leave a Reply