The Kandy Esala Perahera is an astounding festival celebrated by Buddhists in Sri Lanka. Traditionally, the festival began as a celebration of the Gods but was later incorporated with the sacred Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha that was brought into the country once upon a time. In essence, the Kandy Perahera is a procession whereby several beautifully decorated elephants, major officials, talents such as dancers, drummers and whip crackers all get together and parade around the city of Kandy whilst carrying a replica of the casket containing the Sacred Tooth Relic.
The lovely colors and lights displayed throughout this procession is a stunning sight that has attracted tourists and religious devotees from around Sri Lanka and the rest of the world. If you are able to time your holiday in Sri Lanka during the months of July/August, which is when the Perahera takes place, be sure to schedule at least a couple of nights in Kandy so you can experience the feeling of this – much spoken about – grand procession. Blue Lanka Tours would be glad to organize your holiday in Sri Lanka and arrange your transport, accommodation and seating for this one of a kind experience.
Let us discuss what a typical experience of the Kandy Perahera would be like…
Getting around the Kandy Perahera
The Kandy Perahera begins after the full moon day in the month of July. It is a ten day procession which begins every night at an auspicious time given by the Temple. If you wish to see the procession, it is best to take your seats by 5.00 p.m. and be well equipped with food and water and any other requirements for about 3-5 hours. Once the procession begins, you will not be able to move from your seat and look around for refreshments. If you do get up, don’t be surprised if you come back only to find your seat taken by another. The duration of the procession increases with each passing day, the last day being the longest.
The Kandy Perahera has an official website which you can keep checking for updates on the exact dates of the Perahera. You can also book your seats on this website in comfortable viewing galleries made in buildings alongside which the procession will pass. It is best to reserve your seats and accommodation for this season months in advance because this is the peak period for tourism in Kandy.
Participants of the procession
Whip Crackers: The procession begins with these talented people who crack their whips in an effort to announce the approach of the Perahera. Their gigantic snake-like whips are moved in a circular motion while hitting the ground. Getting this right requires art, skill and a lot of experience.
Flag Bearers: They carry flags of an assortment of Temples from different provinces. These individuals walk in a single file; one behind the other.
Kandyan Officials: With great dignity and pride, Kandyan chiefs walk in their traditional white colored court dresses.
Peramunerala: This is the official who is mounted on the first elephant that appears in the procession.
Drummers: Martial music is played on a wide range of drums. They have a unique skill of coordinating their own body movement with the sound of the drums to create a vibrant atmosphere.
Gajanayake Nilame: The second official on the elephant. This official holds a silver goad to symbolize his authority.
Kariyakorale: The official who is the main organizer of the Esala Perahera. He is responsible for all the ceremonies that take place. Beside him walk the subordinate temple officials along with drummers and dancers.
Maligawa Tusker: This elephant is the main highlight of the procession. It carries a replica of the golden casket containing the Tooth Relic. All effort is taken in decorating this elephant in an incredible manner using different costumes and lights. A canopy is held over the elephant and it walks on a path directed with a special white cloth.
Kandyan Dancers: Lined up on either side of the road, facing each other are the lovely Kandyan dancers. In the middle of these dancers are the drummers who provide the music to which the dancers can move. The combination of the two talents makes an awe-inspiring sight.
Diyawadane Nilame: An official who walks in royal surroundings at the end of the procession. With him are umbrells bearers, sunshade bearers, umbrella bearers and temple headmen.
Apart from these important participants of the Esala Perahera, you will see additional talents such as fireball dancers, fire breathers, jugglers, stilt walkers, musicians and many more who get together from all over the island to partake in this great cultural event.