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This is the period of the Kandy Esala Perahera, the most magnificent annual spectacle to be witnessed in Sri Lanka. Perahera literally means procession, but this is no ordinary procession the beginnings of the Perahera go back to the third century AD, When king Megavanna decreed that one a year the sacred tooth relic of the Buddha should be brought out of its enshrinement in the Dalada Maligawa (Temple of the Tooth) so that homage could be made. The Kandy Perahera as we know it, however, did not commence until the 18th century, during the reign of King Kirthi Sri Rajasinghe. Siamese Buddhist monks invited to help restore the island’s Theravada orthodoxy complained to the king that the predominance of Kandy’s four major Hindu devales was improper in a Buddhist royal capital. The king therefore ordered that a new Perahara of the tooth relic be instituted in which processions representing the four devales should be incorporated.
The Perahera still preserves this tradition, with the columns representing the devales leading the way, each followed by a number of colourfully caparisoned elephants. In the vanguard is the column from the Natha Devale – Natha being the tutelary deity of Kandy, who is identified with Maitreya, the Buddha-to-be. Next comes the Vishnu Devale- Vishnu Devale – Vishnu, besides being one of he major gods of the Hindu pantheon, is also the deity to whom the welfare of Buddhism in the island is entrusted. Then there is the Skanda Devale – Skanda being the war deity of Kataragama and finally the Pattini Devale Pattini being the goddess of health and chastity.

Behind the four Devales comes the column from the Dalada Maligawa, with magnificent tusker adorned with colourful cloth decorated with small electric bulbs. On the elephant’s back is a howdath with what is kwon as the karaduwa, which is a replica of the dagoba-shaped casket that preserves the tooth relic. (The genuine tooth relic – although whether it is genuine is another matter- used to be conveyed in the Perahera, but now that is considered too risky.) More elephant’s attire of office walks the Diyawadana Nilame, the chief trustee of the Dalada Maligawa.
The people of Kandy are represented in the Perahera by school children and performers such as Kandyan dancers, stick dancers, whip crackers, acrobats, still-walkers, and flame throwers. Their serried ranks, precision, and bright costumes, make for a most attractive and entertaining display, which is why the Perahera has become such a popular event among visitors to the island.
The Kandy Perahera consists of 10 nightly processions followed by a day procession on the eleventh day. For the first six nights the procession is known as kumbal Perahara. This, however, is a mere prelude to the much more impressive Randoli Perahera, which begins on the seventh night. The magnificent Randoli – golden palanquins – that bear the consorts of the four deities join the columns representing the devales. The length of the Perahera gradually increases, while the accessories become more and more splendid. After five nights of the Randoli the Perahara reaches its climax, with over 100 elephants participating.
On the morning of the eleventh day, a ritual known as the water-cutting ceremony is performed. This is a symbolic purification of the sword of Skanda, the war god of Kataragama. At dawn a procession leaves for the river at Getambe, a suburb of Kandy. On arriving at the bank of the river, the waters are cut with a circular sweep of the sacred sword. Then four clay pots – one from each of the devales – are filled from the circle of water marked out by the sword. These pots are carefully kept throughout the coming year, for should they evaporate before the next Esala Perahara, it is deemed to be a sign of misfortune. At noon on the eleventh day, the final Perahera that concludes the festival begins.
Perahera on a smaller scale are also held at Benllanwila and Lunawa both close to Colombo- as well as at Matara, Ratnapura, and Mahiyangana during this month.

 
  Vel- Hindu  
 

The Hindu festival known as Vel is held in Colombo at the same time as the Kandy Esala Perahera is held in Kandy. The gilded juggernaut or chariot of Skanda, the God of war, complete with his ayudha (weapon) and Vel (trident) is hauled from the Sri Muthuvinayanam swami kovil in sea street, pettah, to either the Old or the New Kathiresan Kovil located a few miles south on the Galle road at Bambalapitiya and Wellawatte respectively. The journey is by day and is tortuously slow. In addition to its crawling pace, the juggernaut makes many predetermined stops for religious observances. The temple whose turn it is to receive the Vel holds a fair and merry-go-rounds and souvenir stalls are set up in the grounds. Hawkers line the street offering sweets and enormous stacks of sugar cane. The return journey is much faster and is very colourful with illuminations and decorations lining the route. The visitor who wishes to observe the procession can best see it at any point between Fort and Bambalapitiya and Wellawatte.

 
  The Kataragama Festival  
 

The Kataragama Festival takes place over a two-week period in July and August. Kataragama is little more than a jungle shrine on the banks of the Menik Ganga (River of Gems) in the south-eastern corner of the island. It has been a celebrated place of Hindu pilgrimage since ancient times, attracting people from India and beyond. Kataragama has become a place of pilgrimage and workshop not only for Hindus, but also Buddhist, Muslims, and even some Christians. The most eye-catching feature of the festival is the penchant of devotees for self-mortification, generally in repayment of vows made on an earlier visit to Kataragama. These include minor acts, such as rolling around the scorching sand. Then there are major acts of penance, such as the carrying on the shoulders for many miles of the decorated arched framework known as the kavadi. Others skewer their cheeks and tongues with miniature spears skewer their cheeks and tongues with miniature spears or are suspended from hooks thrust through the skin of the back. (These acts are definitely not for the squeamish.) However, acts of self-mortification are confined to the minority.Most pilgrims simply worship at the temples of the many deities, fulfilling vows, or giving alms to beggars.The climax of the festival is a grand Perahera and a water cutting ceremony similar to that the Kandy Perahera.

 
  Madhu Festival  
 

The shrine at Madhu near Mannar, 172 miles from Colombo, is popular pilgrim retreats for Roman Catholics gather in campsites surrounding the church near Mannar. The reason for the pilgrimage is a miracle working statue said to be that of our Lady of Healing carried to Madhu from a Portuguese church at neighboring Mantai. The Madhu festival provides an occasion for people young and old, from all walks of life and all communities, to spend a few days camping out in the open while engaging in spiritual reflection.

 
  The Feast of St.Anne  
 

The feast of St.Anne is celebrated by Roman Catholics at Talawila, a small village halfway up the kalpitiya peninsula, on July 26. 

 
  Deepavali  
 

The Hindu festival of Deepavali, the Festival of Lights, takes place in late October or early November. It is a joyous celebration of the triumph of good over evil, and of the return of Rama after his period in exile. Hindu houses are redecorated, new clothes are worn, and lamps are lit everywhere to welcome Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. For the Hindu business community, this festival marks the beginning of the financial year

 
  Unduvap Poya  
 

The full moon day in December, Unduvap Poya, is observed as the day on which Sanghamitta, sister of Arahat Mahinda and daughter of Emperor Asoka, arrived in Sri Lanka bearing a sapling of the sacred Bo-tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment. Naturally, it is in Anuradhapura, at the site of the sacred Bo-tree, where the major observances are held.

 
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