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Kandy Esala Perahera Festival, Sri Lanka

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What is the Kandy Esala Perahera Festival?

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The Kandy Esala Perahera or Buddha’s Tooth Festival is one of the largest annual Buddhist festivals, which is held in Kandy, Sri Lanka. This procession pays homage to one of the most sacred relics: The Sacred Tooth of Buddha. The festival is a large religious event that lasts for several days and goes through several temples in the city. In addition, the processions are accompanied bysacred rituals and a great spectacle for all the senses.

The entire festival is accompanied by processions, known as “Perahera”, which are replete with cultural manifestations such as traditional local dances, fire dances, whip dances, Kandyan dances and many other dances of great cultural significance. In addition, you can also see elephants adorned with largecolorful cloths and hundreds of lights covering them. The event also features some spiritual rituals of great vreligious value such as the Diya Kepima or the water ceremony andthe jackfruit tree planting ceremony.

 

 

The Kandy Esala Perahera is held between themonth of Esala, which is the periodbetween the month of July and August, this one also coinciding with the full moon. The festival has two well-established stages: The Kumbal Perahera and the Randoli Perahera, the former refers to the first 5 nights of the entire festival and the latter is celebrated from the sixth night onwards. The festival has the particularity of becoming much more elaborate and fervent as the nights go by.

 

Kandy Esala Perahera is a most important ceremony of the country

Kandy Esala Perahera is a most important ceremony of the country

 

When is the Kandy Esala Perahera Festival

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The Festival is held during the Sinhala month of the Sinhala calendar, which for the conventional Gregorian calendar used in most of the world would be between the month of July and August.

The Kandy Esala Perahera will be held from approximately August 14 to Monday, August 24.

 

 

History of the Kandy Esala Perahera Festivals

 

The Sacred Tooth of Buddha

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According to Sri Lankan legend regarding theBuddha’s Tooth, it is believed that when Buddha was cremated on a sandalwood pyre in Kushinagar, the only part of his body that was intact was his left canine tooth, which was found by his disciple. Thereupon, this personage gave it toKing Brahmadatte for his veneration. Since then, it became a royal possession in the country and was kept in the city of Dantapuri, present-day Puri, Odisha..

Since then, the belief was held that whoever possessed the Sacred Tooth of Buddha had the constitutional and divine right to rule that land, resulting in a long process of conflict, violence and war. Fortunately, the tooth is still preserved and was not damaged.

There is a legend that the tooth was brought to Sri Lanka 8 centuries after the death of Buddha by Princess Hemamala and Prince Dantha. The relic came to be regarded as a symbolic representation of the living Buddha and it is on this basis that a series of offerings, rituals and ceremonies grew up.



Kandy Esala Perahera

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The Esala is believed to be a fusion of two Peraheras or distinct but connected in essence processions:The Esala and Dalada. The Esala or Esala Perahera is believed to date back to the 3rd century BC and consisted of a ritual to petition the gods for the arrival of rains. While the Dalada Perahera is believed to have begun when the Sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha was brought to Sri Lanka from India during the 5th century AD. According to this belief, the Sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha was brought in procession to Sri Lanka by Princess Hemamala and Prince Dantha. This procession originally focused on honoring Hindu deities, particularly those embodied inSri Lankan Buddhism.

 

Modern festival

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The modern Perahera began with the fall of the Kandyan Kingdom into the hands of the British in 1815. Previously, the relic was part of the King, so it was considered private property. However, some ceremonies were performed so that the society had the opportunity to venerate theSacred Tooth of Buddha. After the fall, the tooth was given to the Buddhist clergy.

 

Where is the Kandy Esala Perahera Festival

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The Kandy Esala Perahera celebration is held in the city of Kandy, in the Central Province of Sri Lanka. The city has a total area of 28 square kilometers where about 125,000 people live.

 

Hundreds of dancers take part in the Kandy Esala Perahera

Hundreds of dancers take part in the Kandy Esala Perahera

 

How the Kandy Esala Perahera Festival is celebrated

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The Kandy Esala Perahera is an interesting celebration full of enigmatic and beautiful music and dances. The whole celebration takes place under a magical, colorful and religious atmosphere, which makes the festival a true veneration of Buddha. The days of celebration become much more energetic, colorful and important as it progresses. Thus, the celebration is mainly divided into two: Kumbal Perahera and Randoli Perahera, both consisting of several days and a final ceremony that culminates the stages.

 

Opening Ceremony

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The Kandy Esala Perahera begins with the Kap Situveema, Kappa or planting of the jackfruit tree. The ceremony involves cutting a Kappa tree and replanting it on the premises of each of the four Devals dedicated to the four guardian gods: Natha, Vishnu, Katharagama and the goddess Pattini. The tree is cut by the priest at the shrine of the god Vishnu. Then, the tree is watered with sandalwood scented water and nine types of flowers and oil lamps are offered.

Once the ritual is over, cannonballs are fired to mark the beginning of the first procession. In addition, the priest performs some prayers of protection.

 

Processions

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Kumbal Perahera

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The Kumbal Perahera processions last 5 nights, in which great shows, performances by singers and dancers, circus shows, fire shows and various people participate to pay honor to Buddha with golden ornaments. The whole spectacle is watched by an audience watching from both sides of the streets completely mesmerized by the sheer amount of colors, fire and dancing that takes place in the streets.

A replica of the Sacred Tooth of Buddha sits in a sort of coffin or altar on a large elephant, which usually wears a large colorful mat full of lights and crystals. Each of the parades is led by a representative of the temples to which each parade is commemorated.

The first procession is led byMaligawa Perahera and Basnayaka Nilame. The rest of the processions originate from the various temples that are located in the vicinity: The second from Natha, the third from Vishnu, the fourth from Katharagama and the fifth and last at Pattini..

The Katharagama Devale procession includes a dance known as Kavadi, a peacock dance where the dancers carry a semicircular feathered contraption on their shoulders. In addition, the last procession is the only procession that featuresfemale dancers, as women have limited participation in the entire event.

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Randoli Perahera

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After the 5 nights of Kumbal Peraheras, the Randoli Peraheras begin and continue for another 5 nights. The word “Randoli” refers to the palanquins on which the Queens of the ruling kings traditionally traveled. This is the largest event of the festival and is carried out to grand proportions, taking the glamour, the ornamentation, the commemorative costumes and the performances to another level. While the ceremonies used to start with great participation and excitement, during this last stage, all those emotions are intensified as well as the amount of performances and decoration.

 

Diya Kepima

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After the procession of Randoli or Randoli Perahera, the ceremony of Diya Kepima or the ceremony ofcutting the water takes place. During this day, the Kapuralas or temple heads, go down to the Mhaweli River on the outskirts of Kandy to cut the water with a golden sword while reciting prayers. Then they keep the water in chalices to be taken to each of the respective temples. Finally, a daytime Perahera is held to end the festivities.

 

Tips for going to the Kandy Esala Perahera

Festivals

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If you wish to see the Kandy Esala Perahera with your own eyes, we recommend planning your trip in advance, making a travel itinerary and booking your preferred accommodation in advance. Also, be sure to pack comfortable clothes and shoes so that you can fully enjoy the entire festival.

You can watch all the processions on the street as the locals do every year; however, the locals, restaurants, bars and hotels that are located in the vicinity where the processions take place offer some services, as well as seating. The average price of these seats or services is about 100 US dollars and up. We recommend you to buy some of these services, since the streets are completely full of people, so it can be a little uncomfortable.

No alcohol is sold or consumed during the festivities; however, restaurants and food establishments offer some drinks and food during the festivities so you can watch the processions. In addition, you are welcome to bring your own snacks and drinks.

Make yourself comfortable during the festivities, as the processions last between 3 and 4 hours, so you will be on the streets for quite a while. Also, we recommend you to attend the event in the last 2 days, as this is when the celebration reaches its peak.

 

Events at the Kandy Esala Perahera Festival

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The Kandy Esala Perahera celebration takes place over 10 days, which have well-defined schedules and activities. Every day of processions there is a great show with dancers, jugglers, fire performers and different personalities of the Devales. In addition, every day there is the presence of elephants, which are dressed with a large colorful mantle and full of lights and decorations.

 

Inauguration Ceremony

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It takes place on the first day of the festivities where a young jackfruit tree is sacrificed and then sprinkled with scented water. Then the first procession takes place, which is led by Maligawa Perahera and Basnayaka Nilame. In addition, they also have the other personalities of the devales.

 

 

Precessions

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Kumbal Perahera

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After the first parade, each of the nights a procession from the different davals: Natha, Vishnu, Kataragama and Pattini. Each of these processions features shows, dances and performances. The penultimate day features a special dance with peacock feathers and the last day features a performance by female dancers.

All processions take place after sunset, so they usually start from 6:30 to 7:00 pm and last about 4 to 5 hours each.

 

Randoli Perahera

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They start from night number 6 of the whole event. The processions from this day become a little more intense and elaborate. The processions continue for another 5 nights and feature palanquins with which the queens were carried by the kings who ruled at that time.

Likewise, all processions at this stage of the event take place after sunset and last for 4 to 5 hours.

 

Ceremony of Cutting the Water and Daytime Perahera

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Afterthe Randoli Perahera, thewater cutting ceremony, known in the local language as Diya Kepima, takes place. The ceremony is attended by the Kapuralas (temple heads) and consists of “cutting” the water from the Mhaweli River on the outskirts of the city. After this, the water is placed in chalices to be arranged in the various temples. After all, a procession or daytime Perahera is held, culminating the celebrations.

 

The replica of the Holy Buddha's Tooth sits in a casket on an elephant in the Kandy Esala Perahera processions

The replica of the Holy Buddha’s Tooth sits in a casket on an elephant in the Kandy Esala Perahera processions

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Parades of the Kandy Esala Perahera Festival

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The processions are held every night of the festival and is divided into two: Kumbal Perahera and Randoli Perahera. Both feature a large presence of dancers, performing arts, elephants draped in large decorated and colorful garments, acrobats and lots of entertainment. Randoli Perahera is held in a more fervent manner, especially on the last two days of the final stage.

 

Parade route

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People perform shows during the Kandy Esala Perahera

People perform shows during the Kandy Esala Perahera

 

The various processions that occur every day are held at the devals of Natha, Vishnu, Kataragama and Pattini. In addition, the performances are also held on the streets of the city during the night.

 

Thembili is a traditional Sri Lankan coconut

Thembili is a traditional Sri Lankan coconut

 

What to eat at the Kandy Esala Perahera Festival

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During the Kandy Esala Perahera celebrations, food places do not sell alcoholic beverages because it is a religious event, so they are not used to drink this type of beverages out of respect for their traditions. In addition, people do not usually eat meat during these dates, so the dishes you will get are mainly vegetarian. However, some of the most popular restaurants among tourists make some exceptions.

One of the drinks you can try during this period of time in the country is the Thembili, also known as King Coconut. This is a yellow-colored coconut found mainly in Sri Lanka. This coconut is much sweeter than the average coconut. You can drink its water alone or combine it with some other beverage.

Also, one of the frequent meals during the celebration in Curry with rice. It is a broth sauce spice with lots of spices such as turmeric, mustard seeds, curry, chilies and herbs. In addition, it has a variety of vegetables and is accompanied of course, with rice.

In the city of Kandy you can also find a large number of restaurants, bars and cafes that you can visit to expand your gastronomic knowledge of the city. Some of the most popular places are The Empire Café, Senani BY Oak ray Restaurant & Bar, Sala Thai, Slightly Chilled Lounge and Natural Coffee.

 

Curry rice is one of Sri Lanka's favorite dishes

Curry rice is one of Sri Lanka’s favorite dishes

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Travel Insurance

 

From Carnavalesdelmundo.org we recommend to hire a good insurance to visit this carnival and to know the rest of the country. For being our readers we offer a 5% discount on all IATI insurances. Read more information about all insurance offers here:

 

 

What to see and do inside the Kandy Esala Perahera Festival

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The first ceremony you shouldbe a part of once you are at the festivities is the Opening Ceremony with the sacrifice of the jackfruit tree, which is sprinkled with sandalwood scented water and placed in each of the temples or devals. Then, the first parade takes place, led by Maligawa Perahera and Basnayaka Nilame. The procession features a great show with dancers, elephants and various acrobats performances.

Once the first day is over, you can attend the start of the Kumba Perahera, in which the visits to the devales take place, one each night. At the end, the second and last stage of the festivities known as “Randoli Perahera” begins. During this celebration, you can see much more elaborate and effervescent processions. The last two nights are the most exciting, so we recommend you attend these.

The last ceremony you canattend is the water cutting ceremony, where the representatives of the devales cut the water from the river outside the city and then store it in chalices and place them in the temples. This festivity is one of the biggest and most beautiful in its style, so we definitely advise you to attend if you have the opportunity.

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What to see and do outside of the Kandy Esala Perahera Festivals

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Some of the tourist attractions you can visit in the city of Kandy are:

Bahiravokanda Vihara Buddha Statue

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This is an imposing statue of Buddha on top of a mountain. From here you possess an incredible view of the mountain and the city. If you decide to go, keep in mind that you must take off your shoes and the priests ask for some monetary collaboration.

 

Ceylon Tea Museum

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It is a historical museum of the country’s tea. In the visit they explain you a little about the process of extraction and elaboration of tea. In addition, you can buy some samples or do a tasting. In addition, it also has historical documentation and photographic material.

 

Kandy Lake

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It is a large and quiet lake that you find in the city. Inside the enclosure you can take a walk or just hang out. You can find some fishes, ducks, swans and other animals.

Also if you want to visit museums and important buildings in this city we recommend that you book your entrance ticket in advance through Tiquets: .

Book tickets in the city you are visiting

 

Safety at the Kandy Esala Perahera Festivals

 

 

Sri Lanka and the city of Kandy are generally safe for tourists. However, we recommend you keep a low profile, keep your personal belongings in a safe place and contact security agencies if you identify any suspicious activity.

Also, we recommend the following products to store your items safely:

 

 

Climate at the Kandy Esala Perahera Festival

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During the Kandy Esala Perahera celebrations, the city’s weather is pleasant, with temperatures ranging from 29 to 22 degrees Celsius. Be sure to stay hydrated and apply sunscreen regularly.

 

People perform shows during the Kandy Esala Perahera Parade

People perform shows during the Kandy Esala Perahera Parade

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How to get to the Kandy Esala Perahera Festivals

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How to get there by plane

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The nearest airport to thecity of Kandy is Bandaranaike International Airport, which is about 80 kilometers away and receives a good number ofdomestic and international flights. Once here, you can use the different means of transportation to get to the city.

We recommend buying airline tickets through Kiwi.com or Skyscanner where they are usually cheaper. More information on this link to review Kiwi.com..

 

How to get there by train

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From the airport take a bus to the2 bus terminal Colombo Bastian Mawatha. Once there, walk about 20 minutes until you reach the Fort Station. Once there, take a train on the Colombo-Kandy line until you reach the city. The entire journey is 4 hours and 20 minutes. The price ranges between 2 and 4 US dollars.

 

How to get there by bus

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From the airport you can take a direct bus to the city of Kandy, passing through the Colombo Bastian Mawatha Bus Terminal.

 

How to get there by car

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From the airport you can take the Colombo – Kandy road or the A1 route until you reach the city. The journey takes 2 hours and 30 minutes.

If you take a cab, the price of the same ranges between 40 and 50 US dollars.

 

Where to stay at the Kandy Esala Perahera Festival

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Booking.com

 

Kandy City Hotel by Earl’s

3-star hotel 150 meters from Kandy city center. Rooms feature air conditioning, TV, tea and coffee making facilities and private bathroom with shower. The hotel offers airport transfers, bar, restaurant, room service and free Wi-Fi.

 

Queen’s Hotel

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4-star hotel 400 meters from Kandy city center. Rooms have minibar, TV, tea and coffee making facilities and private bathroom. The hotel has a swimming pool, bar, airport transfers, parking and free Wi-Fi.

 

Cinnamon Citadel Kandy

4 star hotel 1.9 km from Kandy city center. Rooms feature air conditioning, minibar, tea and coffee making facilities and cable TV. Facilities include pool, bar, restaurant, airport transfers, parking and free Wi-Fi.

We recommend you use Booking.com to book hotels at a good price, check more information here:.



 

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