Sri Lanka’s most prominent festival is the magnificent Kandy Esala Perahera, held in the hill capital of Kandy over 10 days from late July to early August and climaxing on Esala Poya day. The origin of this pageant dates back to the third century BC, but the modern event originated in the mid-18th century when the Kandyan king decreed that once a year the sacred tooth relic of the Buddha, kept at the Dalada Maligawa, or Temple of the Tooth, should be displayed for public veneration.
Today, thousands – including many visitors – flock to Kandy during this dazzling ten-day festival, where the streets of the city seem to be on fire as caparisoned Elephants, brightly dressed Kandyan dancers ands thousands of spectators glow in hues of red, gold, blue, green and a score of other colours as the oil-soaked torches move frantically in the hands of the dancers. The pageant is led by the temple Tusker on whose back the golden tooth-relic casket is firmly attached as it’s taken round the streets for public veneration.
The air is filled with the pulsating throb of a multitude of drums, the ethereal-sounding wail of wind instruments, the wicked crack of whips, even the occasional trumpeting of an elephant. There is quieter participation too, from stilt walkers, acrobats, and the most aesthetically pleasing and traditionally important of all the performers, the dancers.
The festival is unequalled in grandeur as a national attraction every year and one sees vast droves of tourists jostling with locals at the fantastic street parades of caparisoned elephants, brightly accoutered dancers and vast throngs of sight-seers and devotees which come to this festival from all parts of the country. Many travelers from all parts of the globe visit this city especially to have a glimpse of the annual pageant that is held there. Hundreds of drummers, dancers, well disciplined mammoth tusked elephants take majestically to the streets at night, monitored by elegantly dressed chieftains following the procession. Thousands of locals throng the streets waiting impatiently for hours for the arrival of the procession known as the Perahara. It’s a showcasing of perhaps the most vital essence of the Sri Lankan Heritage and Culture. The whole city is lit up and it takes a carnival atmosphere. The Royal complex which has the King’s and Queen’s palaces, abuts the temple and the Kandy lake. Then come the Audience Hall, The Royal Boat House and The Royal Summer Residence. There are many other places of interest in the vicinity worth a visit. Star class, average or budget accommodation is there aplenty while craft villages such as Embekke and Kalapura well merit a call for souvenir hunters.
KANDYAN DRUM DANCING
There isn’t a single day when we are not woken up early morning by the sound of drums. Kandy is famous for its drummers and dancing troupes. On any full moon night visit a temple in the island and you could witness drumming and dancing, a special ritual that is performed. In the city of Kandy there are special auditoriums where drumming and dancing are performed on a commercial basis. Diverse varieties of drums are used in the land and ach beat has a theme. So are the sequences. The hill country drumming and dancing is quite different to the low country and Sabaragamuwa art forms. Though it is serious cultural performance its fun and entertainment to watch.
Kandy Esala Perahara
Sri Dalada Maligawa (Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha)