The Month of July is the beginning of rainy season in Sri Lanka. And it is time for the celebrations of prosperity that comes with the rain. Celebrations of rainy season started a long time ago, no one knows exactly when, but they were there even in 6th century BC. These festivals were celebrated not just in Sri Lanka but in India as well. In Sinhalese July are called ‘Esala’, so these celebrations are called ‘Esala Perahera’.
In 4th centaury CE, 800 years after the passing away of lord Buddha, a sacred tooth relic was bought to Sri Lanka from India, and since then it became the symbol of throne. Sinhalese kings started a new range of festivals to pay tribute to the sacred tooth relic. These festivals were called ‘Dalada Perahera’ (Dalada means sacred tooth relic)
In the reign of King Keerti Sri Rajasinghe (1747-1781) these two festivals were consolidated and modern day ‘Esala Perahera’ was born.
Esala Perahera is a magnificent festival celebrated with elegantly costumed tuskers and various traditional and cultural dancers. It is held in Kandy – a world heritage city and an ancient capital of Sri Lanka. There are three stages of perahera as
- Kumbal Perahera – First 5 days of celebration. Parade of sacred tooth relic, tuskers in costumes and traditional dancers
- Randoli Perahera – In old days chief Queen was paraded in this procession in a golden palanquin (In Sinhalese Randoli). Randoli perahera is held for whole 5 days just as Kumbal Perahera, but is grander than kumbal perahera.
- Maha randoli perahera – Last day of the celebrations and grandest of all.
Tuskers come with garlands and their ceremonial
Esala perahera is one of the most important festivals in Sri Lanka and it executes according to the traditional customs and rituals. Although the astonishing number of drummers gives the impression that most of the Kandy’s citizens are here, there is no spectator participation here. Each drummer, dancer and tusker is carefully selected to participate this grand pageant.
Among many Tuskers who participate in this great event, the center of the attraction is Maligawa Tusker – A caparisoned, robed and illuminated tusker, who walks in supreme grace and pride carrying the resplendent golden casket. The golden casket contains a replica of sacred tooth relic of lord Buddha.
Photo credit – ©Sri Dalada maligawa
This colorful event is rich in cultural heritage and is considered as one of the most beautiful festivals in Asia and a must see event once in your life time.