Esala Perahera – Sri Lanka’s tooth festival!

Esala Perahera – Sri Lanka’s tooth festival!

Sri Lanka’s Kandy Esala Perehara is a grand, colorful and the famous festival, that happens in Kandy and lasts for ten days. It is believed that this celebration began as early as the fourth Century AD. According to the legend, one of Buddha’s followers took his tooth from the pyre during the cremation and smuggled it to Sri Lanka. Then King, Megavanna was thrilled to have the relic in his island and had it showcased during a parade. This became an annual event and the Esala Perahera in Kandy became a celebration to honor the sacred tooth relic during the month of Jul/Aug every year.

Esala Perahera festival in Kandy, Sri Lanka

There is a parade every night, for all ten nights, a spectacle by itself, with dancers, incessant drumming, colorful costumes and decked up elephants. As days goes by, the procession becomes longer, more intense and vibrant.

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During the start of the festival, an Esala tree or a Jak tree is cut and ‘Kap’ that represents a token of a vow, is planted in each Devale that the Perahera will be held. For the first five nights, processions are conducted around the Esala tree in all four Devale’s with flag, drums and torches. The official of the temple walks in the procession carrying a weapon that is supposed to be used by him in a battle.

Kumbal Perahera starts on the sixth night of the procession. This is the night when the Perahera is taken outside the Devales. You will see the temple official wearing the traditional kandyan court dress and walk in the procession. The number of elephants in the procession are increased everyday, making the celebration grander, ostentatious and more colourful.

Esala Perahera festival in Kandy, Sri Lanka

The last night of the festival on the full moon, has the most lively parade ever. During the end of the celebration on this night, the temple tusker brings a replica of the buddhas tooth in a carriage.  All of this accompanied with acrobats on stilts, dancing elephants in glittering silk costumes and kandyan dancers performing alongside with drums beating away. The next morning, is the ‘water cutting’ ceremony. A temple official runs a sword through the Mahaweli Ganga River, a ritual said to separate the pure and the impure and bless the island with water.

Wheel on Fire at Kandy Esala Perahera 
The procession can be overwhelming, but the ones who witness agree that it’s the most splendid visual feast they’ve ever experienced. The best time to see the Esala Perahera procession is on the last two nights, practically anywhere along the parade route. Arrive early before the action begins to secure a good place.

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