The Illustrious Kandy Esala Perahera
The epitome of Sri Lanka’s cultural celebrations, the Kandy Esala Procession (or commonly known as Perahara in Sri Lanka) is arguably one of the most vivacious celebrations that someone could experience in Sri Lanka. This flamboyant pageant is held in reverence to the sacred Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha which is contained at the palace of Kandy known as the “Dalada Maligawa” and occurs annually in the full-moon month of “Esala” (July or August). The month of Esala is special because it is fabled to memorialise the first teaching given by the Buddha after he attained enlightenment.
Incorporating various aspects of Sri Lankas rich culture, this procession features numerous traditional local dances such as Kandyan dances Whip-dances, fire dances and many any other folk-lore inspired dances. Thousands of Kandyan drummers and eastern percussionists along with singers, acrobats and performers enliven the procession with authentic Sri Lankan music. All performers are lavishly dressed in festive garments, paying tribute to the procession and the streets of Kandy are decorated with a million or so lights that are synchronized with the procession itself.
This resplendent festivity was traditionally held with the intension of receiving blessings for a good harvest from the divinities as well as an intercession to shower blessings on the King and the people. This ten-day long festival begins with the KapSituveema – a sanctified young jackfruit tree is cut and planted in the premises of each of the four Devales (Shrines of God) dedicated to the four guardian gods Natha, Vishnu, Katharagama, the goddess Pattini and ends with the traditional “diya-kepeema” ritual, a water cutting ceremony which is held at the Mahaweli River at Getambe, Kandy.
Locals and foreigners alike, hog the illuminous streets of Kandy early and excitedly from the wee hours of the ceremony day, marking their territories in the hopes of reserving for themselves a good vantage point to observe this magical experience that harmonises history and culture with music, colour and vivacity that truly leaves the beholder breathless and awe-inspired.
If you are a first-timer to this magnificent celebration (whether local or foreign), here are some tips to follow:
- Book your accommodation in Kandy well in advance as the accommodation fills up quickly
- Get to the location early for a good seat - There will be people from all over the country (and world) coming to observe the Kandy procession and it will be packed
- There will be heavy Security and a plethora of officers on duty. Thus, expect to pass through a screening before you can partake in the festivities.
- Take plenty of refreshments as the procession lasts for about 3-4hours!
This year’s Kandy Esala Perahara is tentatively scheduled to transpire from the 17th August to the 27th August 2018. If you are in Sri Lanka during this time around, this is a must-have, life enriching experience and travelling to Kandy will not be a hassle either since Cinnamon Air operates daily scheduled flights and charter flights to Kandy from various locations in the country.