Esala Perahera: the biggest festival of Sri Lanka



A small island nation in the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka has a rich yet troubled history that led to a unique culture, the result of a succession of different civilizations on the island.

This Sri Lankan heritage is particularly marked by a profusion of religious festivals of all backgrounds: Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Christians. The most famous of them is the Esala Perahera, also called the “Festival of the Tooth “. Occurring every summer, these celebrations attract not only the Sri Lankans in large numbers, but also travelers from around the world.

The history of the Esala Perahera

The Esala Perahera is celebrated every year in the former royal city of Kandy. The date is set according to the lunar calendar in July or August. It is assumed that the origins of this festival date back to the arrival of the princess and prince Danta Hemamala in Sri Lanka during the reign of King Kirthisiri Meghawanna (305-331). Following a decree of the king, it was decided that the tooth of Buddha, an extremely sacred relic, would be transported each year around the city of Anuradhapura. The tradition continued from king to king, despite some interruptions caused by foreign invasions. Successive conflicts caused by the Dravidian kingdoms in the south led to the relocation of the royal capital to Polonnaruwa, then Dambadeniya and many other cities. In each of them, a new Temple of the Tooth was erected to protect the sacred relic. The royal capital was finally changed to Kandy and the tooth of Buddha is still preserved there since the 16th century in Sri Dalada Maligawa, the local Temple of the Tooth. The most significant story of the ancient Esala Perahera known to date is included in the writings of the Chinese pilgrim Fa Hien, who visited Sri Lanka during the 5th century.

The course of the Esala Perahera

The Esala Perahera in Kandy belongs to both the Buddhism and Sinhalese culture. The principle of the ceremony is to parade the tooth of Buddha through the streets in order to invoke the favor of the gods for the rainy season. The honor of carrying the casket containing the relic replacement (the true relic remains in the shelter of the tooth temple) is given to a majestic elephant with tusks, followed by many of its peers. The beauty of the richly decorated ornaments they wear rival the traditional clothing of Sinhala leaders worn by the guards and officers. In addition, there are many dancers, musicians, acrobats and fire-eaters. Taking place over several days, it is one of the most spectacular and colorful processions in Asia. The parade is held in the evening and gains momentum throughout the day to finish on a high note with thousands of enthusiasts and a hundred elephants in the streets.

Faithful pilgrims, residents of Kandy and its environs or just passing travelers in Sri Lanka are all amazed by this joyous and grand parade made ​​of lights and music. The Esala Perahera is the essential step during a trip to Sri Lanka in the summer. For more information on the destination of a thousand wonders, consult

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