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Kandy Esala Perahera: A Spectacular Display of Sri Lankan Culture

A colorful procession of elephants, dancers, and musicians at the 2023 Kandy Esala Perahera festival in Sri Lanka celebrating the Temple of the Tooth Relic.

The Kandy Esala Perahera is an annual festival held in Kandy, Sri Lanka, and is considered one of the most magnificent cultural events in the country. The festival is celebrated in July or August and is a procession of musicians, dancers, and elephants, all adorned in colorful attire and traditional costumes. The festival is a celebration of the Buddha’s tooth relic, which is believed to have been brought to Sri Lanka during the 4th century.

The Kandy Esala Perahera festival begins with the Kap Situveema, where a young jackfruit tree is planted at the four Devales (temples) dedicated to the four guardian gods of Sri Lanka. The main event of the festival is the Randoli Perahera, a grand procession that parades through the streets of Kandy for ten consecutive nights.

The procession features a range of cultural performances, including Kandyan drumming, dancing, and acrobatics. The highlight of the festival is the majestic tusker elephants, which are beautifully adorned with colorful lights, ornaments, and majestic dressings. The elephants are accompanied by their mahouts, who skillfully guide them through the streets.

Another significant aspect of the Kandy Esala Perahera festival is the participation of traditional dancers, who perform various cultural dances, including the Kandyan dance, which is known for its intricate footwork and vibrant costumes. The dancers are accompanied by musicians playing traditional instruments such as the thammattama (a type of drum), and the flute.

The Kandy Esala Perahera festival also features a range of food and craft stalls, where visitors can sample local delicacies and purchase souvenirs. The festival is a vibrant celebration of Sri Lankan culture and traditions, providing visitors with an unforgettable experience of the country’s rich cultural heritage.

Aside from being a spectacle of cultural performances and a celebration of Sri Lankan traditions, the Kandy Esala Perahera festival also has significant religious importance. The festival is dedicated to the sacred tooth relic of the Buddha, which is believed to have been enshrined at the Temple of the Tooth (Sri Dalada Maligawa) in Kandy since the 4th century.

The temple is one of the most revered and sacred Buddhist sites in Sri Lanka and is visited by thousands of pilgrims every year. During the Kandy Esala Perahera festival, the sacred tooth relic is carried in a casket atop the main tusker elephant, which leads the grand procession. The procession also stops at the Temple of the Tooth, where the casket is taken inside for a special religious ceremony.

In conclusion, the Kandy Esala Perahera festival is a spectacular celebration of Sri Lankan culture and traditions. The festival is a vibrant display of traditional music, dance, and dress, as well as a significant religious event that honors the sacred tooth relic of the Buddha. The festival provides visitors with a unique opportunity to experience the rich cultural heritage of Sri Lanka and is not to be missed.

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Sanjeewa Uderathne