Premadasa "Banda" Puncha , circus elephant trainer in Germany
Born 1937 in Germany
, son of elephant trainer Epi Vidane and wife Elisabeth Puncha .
1937: Premadasa Puncha Vidane, also known as Banda, was born in Frankfurt. Banda was soon part of Epi’s act, making his first appearance in the ring at the age of 5. At 14, he was fully integrated into the act.
Epi, Elisabeth and a young Banda Vidane
1956: Circus Busch had 8 elephants and an ever growing demand for their act in many countries outside Germany. The father and son duo split in two, with 4 elephants remaining at Busch with Banda while Epi went abroad with the other elephants to countries like Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary.
He met his wife Dagmar at Zirkus Busch where Banda trained elephants. It was instant love. She grew up in East Berlin and joined the National Circus School and trained as a horse rider. Her act was toe dancing on horse-back in a tutu. In 1956, her Group
Truppe Case was contracted to the same circus Banda worked in. In 1958, Bodidasa Suwaneris, Ganesha’s brother was born. Dagmar’s family was not too happy – the couple just had a child out of wedlock and what’s more, they disapproved of the dark skinned Banda. “It all changed when my father helped her flee East Germany and helped support her family stranded behind the wall,” Ganesha explained, adding that their wedding was delayed because Epi was still touring and was unable to take time off. They finally married in 1959.
1962: Banda had decided to move on. He got his chance to train a baby elephant at the Swedish circus Trolle Rhodin but the tide was against him. “He had quite a difficult time,” Ganesha explains. “There weren’t that many circuses with elephants to begin with for there to be a shortage of trainers.”
Banda worked in many circuses after that. He trained 30 horses at Franz Althoff’s circus in West Germany in 1965, then worked with the Italian circus Royal Americano in 1967 and in 1971 he was hired by the Italian circus owner’s cousin and began training 25 elephants at Circo Americano with Banda’s son, Bodidasa, as his apprentice. There, father and son worked in two groups with Bodidasa staying with a Group
of 12 elephants in Italy while Banda worked away from home, mostly at Circus Scott in Sweden or Bouglione in Belgium/France.
1982: Banda’s big break came in 1982. Circus Krone was having trouble with their trainer – this was just the chance Banda had been dreaming of. It was also where he met the tall, lean, African beauty Layla, who helped him with the Herd.
Soon, the largest Group
of elephants performing in the same ring in Europe was born. Banda’s performance included 15 elephants.
Krone Parade 1980-1984. Troupe Larible, Flying Bels, Claus Lehnert, Banda Vidane, Enrico Caroli - Family, Dieter and Monica Farell, Les Franc Esco, Suzanne and Fudi, Christel Sembach-Krone.
Banda Vidane and son Bodidasa. First elephant Layla. 1993.
1997: On Banda’s 60th birthday, in 1997, he retired, saying goodbye to his fairy tale life in grand style: in a circus ring with his wife of over 40 years, presenting his last show. They took their last bow to Andrea Bocelli’s “Time to Say Goodbye” and in a frenzy of camera flashes, their fans ran into the ring with flowers and gifts.
He ended his career having trained 75 elephants in total and Fighting
for more humane treatment of elephants. When Banda retired in 1997, one of his most valuable elephants, an African cow named Layla, became untameable.
Both Banda and his wife Dagmar now live in retirement in Hannover, Germany, with their son Bodidasa, and often visit their daughter Ganesha in Berlin.
Banda VidaneBorn: 1937
Father:Allewathegomme PallegiddereBorn: 1890