What is Kandy Esala Poya Perahera?

By Remitbee - Aug 12, 2021

The Esala Perahera in Kandy is one of Sri Lanka's oldest and most opulent Buddhist celebrations, featuring dancers, jugglers, musicians, fire-breathers, and ornately decorated elephants. This event takes place in the month of Esala (July or August) and will be celebrated this year on the 13th day of august which is thought to be the day Prince Siddhartha renounced his regal lifestyle.

The ten-day Kandy Esala Perahera is marked by a variety of festivals. A procession of musicians, dancers, singers, acrobats, and other entertainers, accompanied by a huge number of caparisoned Tuskers and Elephants, parades the streets in celebration of a religious occasion in Sinhalese.

Esala Poya is a significant day for Buddhist devotees. The Esala and Dalada Perahera are thought to have merged to form the Kandy Esala Perahera. The Esala Perahera, which is estimated to have been performed in the 3rd century BC, was a ceremony performed to ask the gods for rain. The Dalada Perahera is thought to have started when the Buddha's Sacred Tooth Relic was transferred to Sri Lanka from India in the 4th century AD. It is the pinnacle of the country's Buddhist celebrations and is endowed with divinity.

The four sacred tooth relics, among a few other sacred relics, remained intact following Mahaparinirvana, according to the Maha Parinibbana sutta of the Deegha Chapter. Due to the continual disputes during the reign of King Mutaseewa in the kingdom of Kaalinga, Lord Buddha's left canine tooth, one of the four Tooth Relics, was carried to Sri Lanka and blessed with Sri Saddhamma for 45 years. During the reign of King Kithsirimewan, Princess Hemamala and Prince Dantha took the Sacred Tooth Relic to Sri Lanka in order to guard it. This incident occurred in the year 328 A.D.

The Esala pageant

The phrase perahera, which literally means 'procession,' refers to a popular Buddhist ceremony that includes a number of rituals, beginning and ending with the kap-planting and water-cutting ceremonies, respectively. These two ceremonies are the opening and closing rites of the yearly Esala festivities, which take place in various regions of the island in July and August. They are mostly associated with deities, either to seek their blessings or to express gratitude for favours received. The Sacred Tooth Relic and the four "guardian" Gods Natha, Vishnu, Kataragama, and Goddess Pattini are honoured during the Esala Perahera in Kandy. The Natha, Vishnu, Kataragama, and Pattini ‘Devales' (Temples dedicated to these Gods) that are located near the Kandy Maligawa Perahera are followed in sequence by those of the Natha, Vishnu, Kataragama, and Pattini ‘Devales' (Temples dedicated to these Gods) (Temple of the Tooth).

The procession is essentially a mash-up of five different peraheras. Natha, Vishnu, Kataragama, and Pattini are four Kandy devales (complexes for worshipping Hindu or Sri Lankan deities who are also devotees and servants of the Buddha). The fifth and most beautiful perahera comes directly from the Temple of the Sacred Tooth.

Thousands of Kandyan dancers and drummers lead the parade, beating drums, cracking whips, and waving colourful banners. Then there is the long procession of elephants, which can number up to 50. From the trunk to the toes, the Maligawa tusker is adorned. It holds a big canopy that shelters the empty casket of the precious relic cask on the last two nights of the perahera. The elephant is greeted with a path of pristine white linen.

The Best Spots to see and the major route

Almost all of the roadsides, balconies, rooftops, upstairs windows, and even rooftops are jam-packed with viewers, both local and foreign, hours before the Maha Randoli Perahera. The Kandy Perahera usually begins at 6.30 p.m. to 7.00 p.m. in the evening, following the sunset. The greatest spots to see the Esala Perahera are the Queens Hotel, Dalada Veediya, and Yatinuwara Veediya. From D. S. Senanayake Street and King Street, you can see the Day Perahera. The procession usually lasts about 4–5 hours and is continuous.

The ceremony is perhaps one of the most stunning in South Asia. The Kandy Esala Perahera showcases Sri Lankan culture to the rest of the globe. This is a piece of our cultural history. Thousands of people travel to Kandy to witness the Esala Perahera, regardless of race, religion, or caste.

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