Esala Perahera

One of the longest standing Buddhist festivals in Sri Lanka, the hill capital Kandy comes alive in celebration of ‘Esala Perahera’: a pageant held to pay homage to the Sacred Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha. Held in July or August, the ‘Festival of the Tooth’ starts several days after the ‘Esala Full Moon Poya’ and ends with the ‘Nikini Full Moon Poya’.

The 10-day festival comprises 4 sub-processions; the ‘Kumbal Perahera’, ‘Randoli Perahera’, ‘Maha Randoli Perahera’ and the ‘Day Perahera’, all of which carry the Sacred Tooth Relic through the streets of Kandy. The perahera has a total of 4000-5000 participants complete with 50-80 tuskers and is held as a request to the gods for rainfall.

Cannon shots ring out signifying the pageant’s start of the pageant followed by 30 whip crackers and fire dancers. With the dancers clad in traditional red and white which hints of Sri Lanka’s royal past, the night comes alive in a blaze of colour. Cue the drummers: generations of drum beaters, beating away with renewed fervor.

You haven’t seen the best yet. Clad in a resplendent fusion of colourful silk and fairy lights, ceremonial tuskers sway to the beat of the drum, silent yet awe-inspiring. A parade of flag bearers carry a number of Buddhist flags, symbolic of the very religion.

Acrobats whirl past and stilt walkers tower over the masses, taking the exuberant spectacle to new heights. In a blast of Sri Lankan culture, devil dancers gyrate wildly to the beat of the drum. With an explosion of fireworks illuminating the night sky, Kandyan dancers dance away to a synchronized routine whilst the haunting melody of the trumpet entices every man, woman and child to encounter the event in all its splendour.

Should you wish to have an unobstructed view of the perahera, tourist offices or neighboring hotels or shops in Kandy facilitate ticketed seating areas. Best book your tickets months in advance for, due to the prestige of the event, the tickets are likely to be sold out fast. Tickets would not be available at the ‘Temple of the Tooth’, however they can be reserved online via tour operators. The norm is to book as early as 5 or 6 months in advance. The earlier you book, the more able you are to find a better viewing spot.

Free viewing is possible; locals generally crowd on the streets and sit for hours on the pavements to witness the pageant. Should you leave your chosen spot however, it’s likely to be filled soon. In addition, one can purchase VIP seats from ‘galleries’ at prices ranging from $50-70 and seats in front of shops and cafés on the sidewalk. Get advice from shopkeepers and people in the vicinity as to what the best viewing places might be. Should you be claustrophobic, owing to the large turnout as is the norm, a hotel room or a balcony with a view of the pageant might be ideal.

It’s difficult to move around when the perahera starts so make sure to bring your own food or get something a bit earlier on from nearby vendors and shops. Ensure you pack a sufficient quantity of your own food and drink, for the pageant has a duration of over 3 hours.

With hotel bookings skyrocketing during this time, make your reservations months in advance. If you don’t mind a 30-40 minute drive to the pageant, rates are lower in hotels located just outside Kandy city limits (take note, however, parking might be a problem). The closer the perahera draws near, the higher the rates in hotels (located in Kandy) tend to be, so make sure that you book early.

Title image by: Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau The information displayed is provided by Esala Perahera

Event info

‘Kap’ Planting Ceremony

Aug 01, 2019

1st Kumbal Perahera

Aug 05, 2019

2nd Kumbal Perahera

Aug 06, 2019

3rd Kumbal Perahera

Aug 07, 2019

4th Kumbal Perahera

Aug 08, 2019

5th Kumbal Perahera

Aug 09, 2019

1st Randoli Perahera

Aug 10, 2019

2nd Randoli Perahera

Aug 11, 2019

3rd Randoli Perahera

Aug 12, 2019

4th Randoli Perahera

Aug 13, 2019

Final Randoli Perahera

Aug 14, 2019

Day Perahera

Aug 15, 2019


Cultural and Religious

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