A significant cultural festival for Buddhists in Sri Lanka, the Kandy Esala Perahera is something visitors can enjoy too and here’s what you need to know.
What Is It?
Billed as the oldest religious pageant in the world, the Esala Perahera is held once a year on the island; it pays homage to the Sacred Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha and commemorates his teachings following his enlightenment. The festival additionally honours four guardian deities, namely the Goddess Pattini and the Kataragama, Vishnu and Natha Gods.
Where & When
The focal point of the Esala Perahera is Kandy, the nation’s hill capital, which is also home to the Sri Dalada Maligawa, the temple that houses the sacred tooth relic; those based at hotels like Hunas Falls can plan an excursion here even on non-festival days. That said, one of the best things to do in Kandy is to witness the Perahera first-hand; it takes place in the month of “Esala” in the Sinhalese calendar which is usually around July / August.
Interestingly, the festival does not feature one, but many processions that one can observe over a 10-day period; the first of these is the Kumbal Perahera, conducted for the first five nights. The last five nights are dedicated to the Randoli Perahera which is when the sacred tooth relic is paraded through the city with the last procession being the grandest spectacle of all.
What to Expect
One of the key cultural events in Sri Lanka, the Kandy Esala Perahera features a series of processions that take place along the city streets. Amongst the highlights is the sight of colourfully clothed elephants including a tusker that carries a golden casket inside which is a replica of the sacred tooth relic. You will also get to see dancers, drummers, jugglers, fire-eaters, acrobats, whip crackers, musicians and more that make this a pageant you won’t want to miss!