The Esala Perahera Festival is held to seek blessings for a good harvest from the deities. You might see costumed elephants on parade, a lot of dancing and drum for 10 days.
The Esala Perahera comprises of five separate Peraheras – four from the Kandy devices (shrines) to the deities – with an order of precedence maintained throughout.
It is the oldest and the most famous of all Buddhist festivals in Sri Lanka, featuring dancers, lavishly decorated elephants, jugglers, fire-breathers, and musicians. The costumed elephants are probably the most attractive for tourists. The Esala Perahera festival is recently popular among tourists from all around the world.
According to legend, 1,700 years ago one of the Buddha’s teeth was stolen from his funeral pyre and smuggled into Sri Lanka. Nowadays, the relic is a sacred symbol for Sri Lankans, and it is displayed in the most sacred temple in this country – the Temple of the Tooth.
There is a parade for every night of the festival (overall 10), with the processions getting longer and more intense as the Esala Perahera festival gets underway.
You will experience different festivities such as inhaling jasmine and frangipani bouquets, see amazing elephants and dancers in exotic costumes and even see unbelievable fire eaters which swing burning coconut husks from chains.
The beginning of the Esala Perahera festival starts with the ceremonial cutting down of a jack tree, also known as Kapsituvima (Planting of the "Kapa").
The first five nights of the festival are known as Kumbal Perahera. Initially, the Devale Perahera assembles in front of the Temple of the Tooth. Elephants, drummers, and dancers will be seen in all these Peraheras.
The last five nights of the festival are known as Randoli Perahera. These get progressively larger and more intense until the last night when you will witness one of the most amazing parades.
After the Peraheras, the “water cutting” ceremony is held in the morning through the Mahaweli Ganga River. A goblet of water from the ceremony is stored and used in the tree-planting ritual that signals the beginning of the next year’s festival.
The Esala Perahere festival has been around for hundreds of years. It is in the most verdant countryside of Sri Lanka and in the World Heritage-listed Kandy. The festival is meant to be appreciated over many days, so if you plan your holiday, be sure to stay at least for 3 days.