The Perahera Festival of Sri Lanka

Asia | | February 9, 2010 at 12:15 am


It’s August and I’m in the central Sri Lankan district of Kandy to witness an important event, guess what! No not a cricket match between Sri Lanka and Australia, but to experience the Buddhist festival of Perahera.

The Perahera festival is the largest Buddhist festival in Asia and lasts for 12 days and nights.  The festival is held annually in the month of August.  In short the festival is all about traditional dancers, a procession of hundreds of elephants and fire artists throughout Kandy, but the centerpiece of the celebration is the Dalada Maligava or Temple of the Tooth.  This is the temple, where the last remaining piece of Buddha, his tooth is preserved.  Every year the festival is about parading this sacred treasure.

Perahera Festival
History tells us the sacred tooth was bought to the country from India during the 4th century BC.  The procession is a call to the gods to bless the earth with rainfall and prosperity.  The festival begins with whips ferociously cracked so as to represent thunder.

I got myself a room in the Amaya Hills Hotel, which is very near to Kandy and the famous temple.  Let me assure you the nation has changed for the better now as the civil war in the country between the Tamil rebels and government forces has been declared closed.  Sri Lanka has been declared a safe destination to visit for tourists.   This should help the country get back to its glory days as a preferred tourist destination as the country offers value of money vis-à-vis the costlier European, American and other Asian zones.

I get down to action and stood at the side of the parade.  Some of the people watching the parade were busy throwing currency notes into the path of the procession, so as to bring good fortune, health and climate.

Later, I witnessed an awesome sight and guess what, it was the march of the elephants, with elaborated costumes.  It was a sight to see. The procession was broken into five parts, with the sacred tooth coming in the first section and the subsequent four parts represented the four gods of the Buddhist faith.

Later, I saw elephants, dancers, men throwing fire and spinning plates.  The section which grabbed one’s attention was performers skewering hooks through their skin on the backs and being pulled with ropes.  The Buddhist monks dressed in orange add color to the parade.

I was curious to get up close and personal with the elephants so I made plans to visit the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage.  Established in 1975, the orphanage is home to some 60 plus Indian elephants.  I arrived at the correct time and was able to see the elephants bathing at the nearby river at around 10 in the morning.  It was a sight to see the elephants playing together and swaying their trunks.  Later, I got down on the rocks and was able to feed the elephants and take pictures and pet them.  I later visited a nearby safari park and was also able to ride an elephant for £ 13.

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
I then left the country the next day.  Overall, I was more than satisfied with the entire trip.  It was a unique experience altogether.  Sri Lanka is a wonderful place to visit.  For elephant lovers, the month of August is the best time.  There are also lots and lots of scenic places to visit during other times of the year as well.  So, I request you guys who are still in two minds, go ahead and visit the island nation, it is a very safe place now.

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  1. Kevin says:

    I have visited Sri Lanka and I havent heard about this festival anytime. I was happy with overall trip but now I think I’ve missed a very important part of it.

  2. Sarah says:

    I never knew Sri Lankan also praises Buddha. This is a news to amny people all over the world! Sri lanka is known as the House of the great Lord of Ramayana i.e. Raavan.

  3. Dio says:

    That was the main concern before visitng Sri lanka, the war between Tamilians and Sri Lankans. Now everything is settled and it is indeed a good place to visit. As said August is the best time to visit as you will be a part of the traditional fest as well.

  4. Sonic says:

    From the picture above where Elephants are decorated with lights and all, I can imagine the sight how it will be in real! everything will be so neatly decorated and it will be full of fun.

  5. Mario says:

    Seriously, its worth a site watching elephants enjoying with its group and playin mischief! I’ve seen the same sight in Kerala in India. They are amazing species of animals!

  6. Louis says:

    How lucky the author is to see such festival! March by elephants, everything must be so royal on that auspicious day.

  7. Geromie says:

    A short and sweet article making people really feel about the place and making them a decision to change their holiday spots.

  8. Stella says:

    Elephant Orphanage, this is something really onnocent and sweet to think about elephants. Now a days all the animals are getting killed and decreasing because of the cruelity of the people. I’m happy that there are still people who think and take care for the animals.

  9. Edward says:

    This festival is like a big bash in Kandy! hundreds of elephants marching, traditional dancers all over, fire artists! wow :)

  10. Phill says:

    I always liked and respected Asian people’s beliefs and culture towards their God! One single tooth of A lord who changed the world’s thinking! it might be only a small question for other people but Asians they praise that tooth as their God. Truly amazing.

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