Allewathegomme Pallegiddere Puncha , Sinhalese circus elephant trainer in
Born 1890 in Sri Lanka
dead ? in Germany
"Epi Vidane" was born 1890 in Kandy, Ceylon (present Sri Lanka)
At an event hosted for King George V in Ceylon in 1925, Epi performed a trick with an elephant that caught the attention of Mr. Hagenbeck, the owner of one of the greatest Animal Parks (zoos) at the time. Epi’s trick, where the elephant lifted and carried Epi around while his head was in the elephant’s mouth, was an instant success. It marked the beginning of Epi’s career where Epi embarked on a journey that would change his life forever.
Impressed, Mr. Hagenbeck paid Epi to perform his trick in Hamburg at a show called Wonders of South India. Soon, Epi was on his way to Germany by boat, with his elephant as his companion.
Circus Hagenbeck in Berlin, 1926. (The first elephant ridden by Epi Vidane) Photo: Bundesarchiv.
According to Banda Vidane,
Epi claimed to have made himself 10 years older than the date of birth (1890) registered in his passport and said that he came from a wealthy Kandyan family, although Bandas daughter Ganesha doubts this assertion. While working with Mr. Hagenbeck, Epi was offered to train elephants for Circus Busch.
From 1928 – 1930, Epi was in America working with Ringling Bros and Barn & Bailey Circus but disliked America. “That was a time of racial segregation in America. He felt very uncomfortable there. In Europe he was a star, the exotic elephant man, and was treated with respect. In America, he was just a non-white-male worker,” Ganesha explained.
The dangers and excitement of circus life was also peppered by a few tragedies. Epi sold the elephant he brought from Sri Lanka, which he had taken with him to Hamburg and America, to buy his way out of his contract and finance his travels back to Europe. Unfortunately, his elephant did not perform the head trick with the new owner. The result was that the new owner’s head was crushed and the elephant was shot.
Epi returned to Circus Busch and stayed on until he retired in 1969.
Epi, Elisabeth and a young Banda Vidane
Epi Vidane and his son Banda Vidane,
on circus tour in Germany 1953.
Family Total: 1 children Banda Vidane. Born: 1937.