Fast Facts

  • Location: Kandy, Sri Lanka
  • Significance: Religious and Cultural Festival
  • Attraction Type: Festivities, Processions, Dance, Music, Relics, Elephant Procession, Fireworks
  • How to Reach: Reach the Kandy Airport that is well connected to a number of international destinations.
  • Nearest Airport: Victoria Reservoir Kandy Airport

The Esala Perahera is the most colorful and major festival of Kandy in Sri Lanka that has attained international fame because of its mind-blowing spectacles and sheer vibrancy. Originally, a ritual of purely religious nature, it has now incorporated many ritualistic, cultural and political overtones over the years. However, even now, during the middle of July and August, the whole of Kandy comes down to celebrate the festival in style and pomp.

History of the Esala Perahera

The festival of the Esala Perahera is integrally linked with the bringing of the Tooth Relic of Buddha in Sri Lanka from India in the 4th century AD. It is said that this historic event was accompanied by a great degree of festivities and fanfare. This sacred tooth relic, the tooth of Buddha Gautama, was kept in a specially made casket and access to it was granted only to Royal personages. The common people were denied of this privilege. However, in the eighteenth century, King Kirthi Sri Rajasinghe changed it all, as he designated a day in the year when the common people can see this relic and venerate it. During the onset of the British rule in Sri Lanka, the relic stopped being the private property of the royalty and was donated to the Maha Sangha for conservation. Traditionally, the procession of Perahera is believed to please to nature gods to ensure rainfall, avoidance of natural calamities as well as protection from infections and other illnesses.

Festivities in the Esala Perahera

Esala Perahera is basically a combination of two different Peraheras or processions — the Esala and the Dalada. Esala predates the Buddhist ritual and has clear pagan overtones, while Dalada is the strictly Buddhist ritual associated with the relic. Modern Perahera is a syncretism of these two trends. The festivities begin at Kandy with the cutting of the Jack Tree into four parts and planting them in the temples of the four guardian deities, Natha, Vishnu, Katharagama, and goddess Pattini. Then the actual procession, the Devala Perahera begins which continues for five days. The main priests of the four main devices or temples of the guardian goddess lead the processions with poles, followed by a pageant marked by dances, singing, drumming, spearmen, sacred flags and canopy bearers.

On the sixth day of the beginning of the celebration, the Kumbal Perahera begins. The procession begins from Sri Dalada Mailgawa, or the ‘Temple of the Tooth Relic’, with the ascension of the Buddha’s Tooth Relic on the ceremonial Maligawa elephant, usually a tusker. The relic is usually replaced by the casket which bore it in the present days. The Maligawa procession then joins the Devala Procession, leading it. An elephant enters carrying the First Official on its back. Great fireworks take place, as the main elephant is followed by other elephants extremely beautifully decorated. The Diyawadana Nilame tries everything in his power to ensure rain in the right season. The Maligawas procession is followed by the Natha Devala, the Vishnu Devala, the Katharagama Devale, and the Pattini Devale in that order. Altogether, the crowds, vibrancy, color, music, drums, along with the cannonballs announcing the important events resounding all across Kandy, this becomes an event that is interesting as it is overwhelming. Nobody should miss an opportunity to witness it.

Accommodation in Kandy
There are quite a few cheap as well as luxury hotels in Kandy. Some of the family-friendly budget accommodations in Kandy are Beebopbeedoobi, Blinkbonnie Tourist Inn, Kandy View Hotel, Majestic Tourist hotel and Hill Way Tour Inn.

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