The famous Kandy Perahara (Esala Perahara / the festival of the tooth) is one of the most important annual Buddhist celebrations takes place in Sri Lanka and it is also considered as one of the most spectacular religious processions in Asia. Sri Lankans from all over the country and an ever increasing number of foreign visitors annually gather in Kandy to witness this colourful pageantry.
The highlight of Kandy Perahera is got to be the colourful and multi-faceted processions that feature traditional dancers, drummers in colourful traditional costumes, fire jugglers, whip crackers, torch bearers, hundreds of well decorated elephants and thousands of pilgrims. The elephants are usually adorned with lavish garments. Elephants have always played a prominent role in Sri Lankan psyche. During in procession, on the back of the largest elephant, a golden casket carries a replica of one of the teeth of Lord Buddha that was brought to Sri Lanka after his salvation (The relic is kept in the Temple of the Tooth and a replica is displayed in a Golden Casket on top of a brightly decorated elephant).
This is an experience not to be missed. It is held in every July/August during Esala full moon, so the perahara is also referred to as the Kandy Esala Perahera (after the lunar month in which it is held). Though celebrated as a whole, the main Perahera procession is an amalgamation of five separate ones with different names and identity.
Sri Lanka hotels and especially the hotels in Kandy are chock full of tourists and local visitors during this time and usually help organise tickets and other essentials for the event.
Brief History of the Kandy Esala Perahera
Legend has it that the Buddha’s tooth was brought to Sri Lanka in the 3rd century AD, hidden in the tresses of a princess. The ceremony has happened every year since around 300 AD. The pomp and pageantry that surrounds the perahera today was initiated by King Kirthi Sri Rajasinha in the 18th-century.Today, pilgrims visit the golden temple, Sri Dalada Maligawa, throughout the year to catch a glimpse of the golden casket which holds the venerated relic.
Getting a seat for Kandy Perahera
There are several ways.
- Book in advance: expensive, but a good place. The Queens hotel is a good example
- Go looking around town on the day. For this you need to be sure of the route and how to get a good price. Nearly all the shops on route rent out chairs, balcony space, or shop windows for visitors from both abroad and other towns.
- Sit on the pavement all day, and guard a place. Free, but it must be hard work sitting for so long.