The Kandy Esala Perahera: The Definitive Guide
Everything you want to know about Kandy Esala Perahera
If we ask someone reasons to visit Sri Lanka, most of them will answer saying to see the beautiful pageant Kandy Esala Perahera. Kandy Esala Perahera is one of the most beautiful pageants in the world. The Esala Perahera is a festival dedicated to the tooth of Lord Buddha. The colorful pageant held each year in July or August. The uniqueness of the Kandy Esala Perahera has become a symbol of Sri Lanka.
The Buddhist festival consists of several elegant dances that emphasize Sri Lankan Traditional culture and nicely decorated elephants. The traditional folk dances including fire dances, whip dances, Kandyan dances, and also many cultural dances. The elephants decorate with extravagant garments. The experience will be unique as there is no other country which has an elegant festival like this.
History of Kandy Esala Perahera
The pageant dated back to the 3rd century BC. This was a ritual to request the gods for rainfall. The Dalada Perahera is believed to have begun after the Sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha was brought to Sri Lanka from India during the 4th Century AD by Princess Hemamala & Prince Dantha. Perahera means procession. The Esala Perahera in Kandy believed to be a combination of two separate but interconnected processions which are Esala and Dalada.
The Beginning of the Procession
The Kandy Esala Perahera begins with the Kap Situveema Pageant or Kappa.
How that happens is a holy young Jackfruit tree (Artocarpus Integrifolia) is cut and planted in the premises of each of the four Devales or Kovils. These four devales or kovils dedicated to the four guardian gods Natha, Vishnu, Katharagama, and the Goddess Pattini. It meant to shower blessing on the King and the people back in the days.
After the Kap Situveema Pageant or Kappa, the next five nights, the “Devale Peraheras” take place within the premises of the four Devales.
The chief priest of each Devale taking the pole every evening, accompanied by music and drumming, flag and canopy bearers, spearman, and the Ran Ayudha. Ran Ayudha (Gold Weapons) is considered being the sacred insignia of the Gods.
The Kumbal Perahera (The Kumbal Procession)
The first procession of the Sacred Tooth Relic begins with the Kumbal Perahera (Kumbal procession). After the Kap Situveema tradition, Kumbal Perahera begins and continues for five days. It is a tradition that the procession parades the streets of Kandy for five days.
There is a belief that the first Kumbal Perahera shown to the infants will drive away Evil Spells and Ill will. The Kumbal Perahera is popular and remains as an unfinished procession or a semi procession. The reason is that Nilames do not walk in this procession. But the Drummers and Tuskers take part without any ceremonial costumes.
The Randoli Perahera (The Randoli Procession)
The Randoli Procession considered to be the most elegant than the Kumbal procession. This begins after five nights of the Kumbal Perahera. Randoli refers to palanquins. Back in the days, the Chief Queens of the Kings paraded in this procession in Palanquins.
But later the participation of the Queens stopped as it was believed to be not appropriate to the procession of the Sacred Tooth Relic. But a palanquin taken as the last item in the procession as an honor to the Queen. Also, the four Devalas carry their own decorated palanquins with religious objects of the Devales.
The Maha Randoli Perahaera (The Grand Randoli Procession)
Here comes the grandest event of the festival. The Maha Randoli Perahaera is the last Procession which attracts thousands of crowds. The Tuskers come with garlands and decorated with gold stitched costumes. The drummers come fully dressed in ceremonial costumes. The Diyawadana Nilame adds a novel glamour to the procession by wearing a newly stitched costume.
The Modern Perahera/Procession
The Modern Perahera dates back to the reign of the Kandyan King Kirthi Sri Rajasinghe (1747 – 1781 AD). During these times, the Tooth Relic considered as the private property of the King. The public never got a chance to worship the Tooth Relic.
However, King Rajasinghe commanded that the Tooth Relic can be taken in procession for the masses to see and worship.
In 1815 the Kandyan Kingdom fell to the British. The protection of the Tooth Relic handed over to the Buddhist Clergy. In the absence of the king, a lay custodian called the “Diyawadana Nilame” appointed to handle routine administrative matters in The Temple of the Tooth Relic.
The Highlights of the Kandy Esala Perahera/Procession
Temple of the Tooth Relic in Sri Lanka’s most important Buddhist Shrine and it is where the Buddha’s Sacred Tooth Relic has been kept for centuries.
The Devale Peraheras assemble in front of the Temple of the Tooth Relic. The symbols of the Devales placed on the Ransivige (a dome-like structure) and accompanied by the Basnayake Nilames (the lay custodians of the Devales).
The relic casket is a substitute for the Tooth Relic. It places inside the Ransivige. Then later attaches it to the Temple of the Tooth Relic Tusker. The Maligawa Perahera joins the awaiting Devale Peraheras and leads the procession at an auspicious time around 8 pm.
The Order of the Kandy Esala Perahera/Procession
- Fireball acrobats
- Buddhist flag bearers
- Riding on the first elephant, called Peramuna Rala (Front Official)
- Kandyan Drummers and Dancers
- Elephants and other groups of musicians, dancers and flag bearers
- A group of singers dressed in white heralds the arrival of the Sacred Tooth Relic
- The Tusker carrying the Sacred Tooth Relic
- The Diyawadana Nilame walks in traditional Kandyan-clothed splendor after the tusker
- The second procession from the Natha Devale
- The third procession from the Vishnu Devale (Vishnu being a Hindu god)
- The fourth procession from the Katharagama Devale (dedicated to the God of Katharagama, identified with the warrior god Skanda)
- The fifth and final procession from the Pattini Devale (Pattini being a goddess associated with the cure of infectious diseases), This is the only procession that has women dances.
the firing of cannonballs announces the following important times. The sound can hear all across Kandy.
- The commencement of the Devale Peraheras
- The placing of the casket on the tuskers back
- The commencement of the Dalada Perahera
- The completion of the Perahera
Diya Kepeema and the Day Perahera
After a further five nights of the Randoli Perahera, the pageant ends with the Diya Kepeema ceremony. It is the water cutting ceremony at the Mahaweli River at Getambe, a town a few miles from Kandy. The ceremony ends by commencing a Day Perahera.
Now you know everything about Kandy Esala Perahera. If you want to know more about Sri Lanka, Vogue Lanka Travels is here to guide you throughout.
Will you be visiting the most beautiful pageant in the world?
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