The Kandy Esala Perahera  

If you are planning your holiday within the months of July/August, you may be fortunate enough to witness one of the worlds greatest pageants. “The Kandy Esala Perahera”

An unique event of great historical and cultural significance and one of Asia’s most remarkable spectacles takes place annually in the charming hill capital of Sri Lanka during the lunar month of July/August. This event popularly known world over as the Kandy Perahera is not only a religious ritual but also a folk festival which provides an occasion for local artists and multi-racial populace to exhibit their reverence and devotion to the enlightened one – The Buddha. There are several theories and interpretations regarding the origin of the pageant but the general belief is that the pageant in Kandy commenced in the reign of King Kirthi Sri Rajasinghe (1747-1781 A.D) Originally a ritual invoking the blessings of the Gods to bring rainfall during the dry months, later the Sinhala King who possessed the sacred tooth relic coupled the event with the procession in honour of the sacred tooth relic, thus becoming a fusion of two separate but interconnected peraheras. During these times, the Tooth Relic was considered private property of the King and the public never got a chance to worship it. However, King Rajasinghe decreed that the Relic be taken in procession for the masses to see and venerate. After the Kandyan Kingdom fell to the British in 1815, the custody of the Relic was handed over to the Maha Sanga (the Buddhist Clergy). In the absence of the king, a lay custodian called the "Diyawadana Nilame" was appointed to handle routine administrative matters, a custom which is still followed. The rituals connected with the Tooth Relic are conducted by Monks of the Malwatte and Asgiriya Chapters of the Buddhist clergy in Sri Lanka while It is the duly of the Diyawadana Nilame to organize the Perahera. He first gets the auspicious time from an advisor on astrological matters and then summons a large number of officials of the Sri Dalada Maligawa, Custodians of the Devalas etc and entrusts them with various ceremonial duties connected with the conducting of the Perahera.

This stunning ten day pageant which takes place at night is when the replica of the relic casket is taken in procession led by at least a 100 majestic Elephants, almost entirely covered with richly embroided colourful cloth illuminated with brilliant bright lights, accompanied by thousands of exotically costumed dancers, drummers, and stilt walkers etc, the sound is electrifying with thousands of drums beating and the cracking of whips against the tarred streets. The first 5 nights known as the Kumbal Perahera is relatively modest, but from the sixth night onwards, known as the Randoli Perahera the procession becomes more and more grander. The festival finally ends on day 11 with the traditional 'diya-kepeema' which is the water cutting ceremony at the Mahaweli River atGetambe, a town a few miles from Kandy. A Day Perahera is held to mark the ceremony.

The exact dates of the Esala Perahera change from year to year as they depend on lunar or solar phases,

Tickets need to be purchased in advance in order to view this great spectacle in convenient arranged locations along the streets of Kandy, or else balcony room bookings at the Queens hotel will allow you to enjoy the procession with privacy.