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Sri Lanka’s beautiful spectacle of culture and tradition

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What is it?

The Dalada Perahera, or as it is called today, “Esala Maha Perahera” is the island’s grand procession that illuminates the heritage city of Kandy with golden hues. The Esala Maha Perahera parades the streets of Kandy in a wonderful pageantry of color, culture and pomp. This annual event is organized by the Dalada Maligawa (Temple of the Tooth Relic) in honor of the Sacred Tooth Relic and the guardian deities: gods Natha, Vishnu, Kataragama and the goddess Paththini.

Bit of history

Although the origin of the Esala Maha Perahera traces its roots back to the third century BC, the procession that we see today has been held annually since the kingdom of King Kirthi Sri Rajasinghe (1741-1781). The Perahera was pioneered with the objective of enabling the general public to pay homage to the sacred tooth relic of Buddha, which is akin to living Buddha for Buddhists. Based on the auspicious times, the inaugural custom of planting the ceremonious Kap is done in the four Devalas. The ‘Kumbal Perahera’ then parades the streets for five nights in a row, followed by another five nights of the ‘Randoli Perahera’ which is an even grander version of the former and the final Perahera, a day procession, marks the end of the event.

Why go?

You wouldn’t get to witness a cultural extravaganza of this magnitude in many places of the world. The procession exemplifies the majestic ancient culture of the island. Whip crackers announcing the arrival of the procession, drummers in vibrant costumes, an eclectic collection of dancers who blow off the crowds with stunning performances, stilt walkers, regally cloaked elephants, temple chiefs and finally, the chief tusker in elaborate caparisons carrying the golden casket that encases the sacred tooth relic: a display of the exuberant unison of Sri Lankan identity. This is a great opportunity to witness Sri Lanka’s cultural identity and its intricate elements.

Safe to go?

The answer is “Yes”. But we understand that you might have security concerns on visiting Kandy during this period of time. We’re glad to inform you that strict security measures have been taken by the authorities to ensure a smooth flow of the procession. You also would have to adhere with security protocols as a spectator.

Take note

The colonial Queens Hotel nestled in the heart of Kandy, is one of the ideal places to watch the Perahera. The hotel is one of the oldest in the area, and provides rooms with a private balcony through which you can watch the Perahera with no trouble. However, you can also watch the Perahera for free from the streets if you make sure to reach the streets on which the procession will proceed, well in advance of a couple of hours (this isn’t the easiest way to secure you a spot as locals throngs the streets early in the morning to lock a space on the pavement). If you wish to guarantee yourself of a seat, please make a gallery reservation beforehand to avoid disappointments.

Perahera schedule

August 5-9, 2019 Kumbal Perahera (night) 

August 10-13, 2019 Randoli Perahera (night) 

August 14, 2019 Maha Randholi Perahera (night) 

August 15, 2019 Day Perahera (Water Cutting Ceremony "Diya Kepeema")

How to make this experience a part of your itinerary?

Our vision for our blog is to build an invaluable resource for independent inquisitive travelers wanting to travel to Sri Lanka in a way that goes beyond the conventional and takes people further and deeper both physically and emotionally. It’s about having a fuller, richer, more meaningful trip. We also want to be a practical resource. Every article is ‘actionable’, you are able to make it part of your itinerary in some way. For tips on how to make any of these tips part of your journey send us an enquiry

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