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Kandy Esala Perahera in Sri Lanka

Kandy Esala Perahera in Sri Lanka

The Esala Perahera is a grand Buddhist festival in Kandy that features dancers and jugglers as well as musicians, fire-breathers and elephants with elaborately decorated heads. It is held in Esala (July/August), which is the month believed to mark the Buddha's first teaching after his enlightenment. While the Kandy Esala Perahera is held for ten days, there are many festivities that can be seen throughout. Perahera is a Sinhalese word that refers to a parade of performers, including singers, dancers, and acrobats. It also includes a large number caparisoned Tuskers, Elephants, who parade the streets in celebration for a religious event.

The Esala Perahera is a celebration in Kandy to honour the Sacred Tooth Relic, the four 'guardian' Gods Natha and Vishnu as well as Goddess Pattini. Following the Kandy MaligawaPerahera are those of the Natha Vishnu Kataragama, Kataragama, and Pattini "Devales" (Temples dedicated these Gods), which are located near the Kandy Maligawa ("Temple of the Tooth).

The Tooth Relic was taken into the care of the Buddhist Clergy after the Kandyan Kingdom fell under the control of the British in 1815. To handle administrative routines, the Diyawadana Nickel was named as the custodian. The Kandy Esala PeraheraPerahera Procession was created to invoke the blessings of God to bring rain to the kingdom's crops and enrich its lands.

The ritual involves carrying the sacred tooth relic from Buddha through Kandy's streets. It is performed with extraordinary panache. This pageant is one of the most beautiful in Asia.

To begin the Perahera rituals, the first ritual 'KapSituweema’ (planting of a young Jackfruit tree sanctified) will be performed. Astrologers determine the auspicious time for the ritual. Sandalwood-scented water is used to sprinkle the Jackfruit tree. Nine types of flowers are used in the offerings. The oil lamp has nine wicks and the oil lamp contains nine kinds of oils. The Maha Vishnu Devale priest (Vishnu Temple), recites his prayers to all the Gods.

History of Kandy Esala Perahera

Buddhist Literature reveals many pageants and celebrations held in honor of Lord Buddha. The perahera pageant was popularized during the reigns of Emperor Asoka, India. The Kandy Perahera pageant is a pageant that displays traditional customs. The majority of them have been mixed with Buddhist and Hindu religious practices.

They are a reminder of the Sinhalas culture's great value.

The DaladaSiritha stated 38 statutes, on which a perahera pageant should be conducted.Accordingly, the Shrine Room of the Sacred Tooth Relic should be cleaned at the auspicious hour. Canopies should be tied and decorated with silk clothes. The king team comprising ministers and the general public should offer rice, flowers, and light oil lamps on the seventh day of the month. On the evening of the seventh day, the city should be decorated as the heaven. On the night of the 7th of the month, chief priests from UttaraMula Sect of two castes Ganavesi or Kilin should move and venerate the Sacred Relic casked.

The Esala is thought to be the result of two distinct but interconnected "Peraheras", (Processions), namely The Esala or The Dalada. The Esala Perahera, believed to have originated in the 3rd Century BC, is a ritual that prayed for rain. The DaladaPerahera was believed to have been initiated by Lord Buddha's Sacred Tooth Relic, which was brought from India to Sri Lanka in the 4th Century CE. This is eight hundred years after Buddha's death.

The Tooth Relic was, according to tradition, taken by Prince Dantha and Princess Hemamala in procession to Sri Lanka.

Kandy Esala Perahera was also created through the efforts and leadership of UpaliThera. This procession was initially intended to honourBrahminical deities and especially those that were incorporated into Sri Lankan Buddhism. UpaliThera thought this was inappropriate for a Buddhist nation. His influence led to the king declaring, "Henceforth gods are to follow Buddha."

These rites were done every year. Even today, rights were still performed in this manner.

The Order of the Kandy Perahera Procession

Monks from the Malwatte Chapter, Asgiriya Chapters and the Buddhist clergy are responsible for the Tooth Relic rituals. The Diyawadana organizes the Perahera. He summons many officials from the Temple of the Tooth, and entrusts them to various ceremonial duties related to the Perahera. The NekathMohottala is the advisor on Astrological matters. He gives him the auspicious moment. The Panikka Mura Baarakaruwo is charged with organizing the various types of drummers.

Maligawa officials also meet with the owners to participate in the Perahera. Most elephants are privately owned. It is given to the dance troupe’s time to prepare. The BasnayakeNilames, the lay custodians for the Devales, are then instructed to organize their processions.

Procession Value

The Kandy Esala Perahera starts with the KapSituveema (or Kappa), in which a young Jackfruit tree (ArtocarpusIntegrifolia) is cut, and then planted in each of the Devales dedicated the guardian gods Natha and Vishnu and Katharagama. It was traditionally meant to bless the King and people.

Kumbal Perahera

The KumbalPerahera starts the first procession for the Sacred Tooth Relic. This is the first KumbalPeruahera that the infants receive to remove Evil Spells or Ill Will. The procession marches through Kandy for five consecutive days as a tradition.

The KumbalPerahera, however, is very popular and continues to be a semi-procedural or unfinished procession. This is because Nilames don't walk in the procession. The Drummers and Tuskers participate in the procession without wearing any ceremonial costume.

Randholi Perahera

The procession of the Sacred Tooth Relic, which parades the streets for five days, is the only way to see this. It's a tradition.

The Chief Queens of Kings marched in this procession in Palanquins during the time of the Kings. The Queens were not permitted to participate in the procession of Sacred Tooth Relic. Instead, a palanquin was taken to honor the Queen. It is now the last item in the procession. Each of the four Devalas carries a decorated palanquin with religious articles. Even though palanquins may be carried, the honor they are awarded is not less.

Maha Randoli Perahera (The Grand Randoli Procession).

The last Procession is the MahaRandoliPerahaera. This is the most important event at the festival. The Tuskers are dressed in garlands and have gold-stitched costumes. Drummers are fully dressed in ceremonial costumes. A newly stitched costume adds glamour to the DiyawadanaNilme's procession.

Perahera of the Temple of the Tooth Relic is as follows:

The Whip Crackers are at the front of the procession. The procession is approaching by the Whip Crackers, who crack whips from the beginning to the end of Perahera's chosen path. The Flag Bearers, who are carrying both standard flags and flags from the various Provinces and Temples, follow immediately after the whip crackers. They stand in one file along the road. Next, the Peramunerala (official) riding on the first elephant carries the register of the Sacred Temple of the Tooth in Kandy.

The Drummers, who play traditional drums and blow traditional flutes, are next on the procession. The drummers are a force of nature, but the traditional dancers make magic with their moves and leaps. The officer in charge of the elephants follows the dancers and drummers. He is mounted on a decorated and caparisoned tusker. The officer who was in charge of the King’s stable during the medieval and ancient times of Sri Lanka had been a minister high up. The silver goad Ankusa, which is used to signify his authority, is carried by the GajanayakaNilme, the officer responsible for the elephants. The GajanayakeNilme is followed by the Kariyakorawnarala, who is the officer responsible for the drummers and dancers. He also oversees minor functions at the Sacred Temple of the Tooth. The arrival of the Kariyakorawnarala sets up the centre of attraction: the Maligawa Tusker, who is caparisoned and robed in great grace, walks majestically with the resplendent, golden casket, the 'Karaduwa,' which is sheltered by a canopy. The Sacred Tooth Relics of Buddha are contained in the golden casket.

The sense that the Sacred Tooth Relic was held in reverence and the solemnity of its procession is something the beast could not believe is possible, even if it were human. A canopy is held high above the Tusker while the Tusker's path is covered with a pavada (ream) of white cloth. While the Maligawa Tusker, carrying the Sacred Tooth Relics of Buddha, passes them, devotees, tourists, and other distinguished guests stand steadfast. Two long chains of dancers on either side of the road face each other, with a group of drummers at the center creating another column. The Custodian of the Temple of the Tooth, DiyawadanaNailme, is found at the end of the retinue, dressed in the traditional regalia of high-ranking officials of kings who ruled over the medieval kingdom of Kandy. Murawadu (lance bearers), Wadanatal–athu (sunshade and umbrella-bearers), as well as other officials of the Sacred Temple of the Tooth, are present at Diyawadana.

Devala Perahera

The original pageant that featured the four devalePeraheras in honour of the Hindu deities was an independent one. The four devalepeaheras were a part of the Sri DaladaMaligawaEsala Perahera during King Kirthi Sri Rajasinha's reign. He was a descendent from the Hindu Nayakkars. This was done at the request UpaliMahaThera, and WelivitaAsaranaSaranaSarankaraSangharajaMahaThera, who were instrumental in the revival of the Upasampada (the Higher Ordination monks) (bhikkhus).

The annual Esala pageant is led by Sri DaladaPerahera, followed by the Maha Vishnu and Kataragamadevales, with beautifully caparisoned, beautifully adorned tuskers bearing the insignia for each devale.

Natha Devalaya

One of Senkadagala's oldest buildings, the Nathadevale was built by King Vikramabahu IV in 14th century. He reigned over Gampola. According to the Chulabod-hiwansa, a Brahman named Natha had established a Dethis Pala Bodhi Tree. The devalaya is now known as NathaDevalaya. This tree, also known as the Welbodhiya, is still where people worship and make vows.

It is rare to find two Chaityas within the NathaDevalaya. One Chaitya is the dome-shaped white structure that houses PathraDhatu, which is the bowl used by Buddha to eat his food. Historical records show that the Nathadevale made the selection of names suitable for Senkadagala's kings.

The names were written on puskola (or ola leaf) pieces and then placed on a silver tray in front of the deity statue. The appointed king would go to the devale along with his entourage, select an ola leaf with a name and place it in front of the statue. This custom is believed to have led to the alteration of the Nayakkar names for Kannasamy-Muttusamy as VijayaRajasinha.

Vishnu Devalaya

VisnuDevalaya, also known as MahaDevalaya, is also known. This devalaya was originally located in Aluthnuwara, near Mawanella on Colombo-Kandy Road. It was moved to Kandy by King Kirthi Sri Rajasinha. This was caused by the Portuguese invasion in the upcountry. On their way to Gannoruwa, Kandy, the Portuguese looted and destroyed the Aluthnuwaradevale.

According to legend, the Vishnu Devale was the place where the Kandyan kings were coronated. This peraheradevale follows the NathaDevalePerahera. The deity is blue. In keeping with the theme, all elephants are covered in blue "Eth Hetta", the cloth that covers the elephants. Blue is also used for the bulbs that bear the insignia and symbolism of the deity on the tusker.

The Esala Perahera is over. After that, the ValiyakMangalya is performed in the devale premises for seven days. This is a ShanthiKarmaya, to bless all artists and other people involved in the Perahera.

Kataragama Devalaya

It is unclear when and by whom the KataragamaDevale in Kandy was built. It is located in central Kandy's KotugodellaVidiya. This street was once called the "KavikaraVidiya". In earlier times, it was also called Skanda Kumara. The deity is believed to protect them from enemies. RuhunuKataragama is south of Sri Lanka, and this is the main devalaya.

The Kataragama Deity is considered Hindu. Originally, the Kapuralas who performed the rituals were Brahmins from India. The KataragamaDevalaPerahera is a variant of the Vishnu DevalaPerahera. It includes distinct cultural items from Hinduism. The deity's vahanaya', or vehicle, is the peacock. The peacock is the deity's 'vahanaya' or vehicle. Red is a prominent colour and musicians and dancers wear it.

One of the most distinctive features is the 'Kavadi’ dance. Young men also have iron hooks attached to their skins. These hooks can be attached to contraptions or pulled by others using long strings. This is believed to be a penance to honor a vow. Drumming and flute music are different from the rest of the devales.

Pattini Devalaya

For good health and prosperity, Padmini, a female Hindu goddess is worshipped. The details of the Kandy PattiniDevalaya's construction are unclear. The devale was built by King Narendra Sinha. According to historical belief, the deity's anklets were brought to India and put in this devale. A replica - which is very similar to the anklets - is placed in all Pattinidevales. It is rare to see female dancers only performing in this Perahera, as Goddess Pattini was a female idol.

The DavalPerahera (Day Perahera) is the Perahera's climax. The Randoli are returned to Katukelle by the devalepeaheras following the watercutting ceremony. The day of the DavalPerahera is in the afternoon at 2 p.m. The devaleperaheras travel to Kandy and join the MaligawaPerahera that will arrive from GedigeViharaya. The perahera circled the temple square (MaligawaChaturassaya), three times, before dispersing, each returning to its respective devales to bring to an end another Sri DaladaEalaPerahera.

Diya Kapeema, and the Day Perahera

The final Perahera is completed. Four Peraheras (priests) from each of the four 'devales head towards the GetambeMahaveli River's stepping stones near Peradeniya. The chief 'kapuralas (priests), of the devales, then waded into the middle river. One of the "kapuralas" marks the water's circle with the point of a "golden" sword. The priests then empty the water into the river, which is still held in the golden ewer’ (ran kendiya), which they filled with water the previous year.

They then fill them with fresh water. The ewers that have been filled will be empty and refilled at the Esala Perahera's end the next year. This is the "diyaKapeema" (water cutting) ritual, which is performed on the last day of festivities.

The four Peraheras then start to march back towards Kandy. They stop at Katukelle's 'PulleyarKovil (SelvavinayagarKovil). They then proceed to the AdahanaMaluwa where they join the MaligawaPerahera at an astrologically determined auspicious moment. Three times, the five Peraheras march along King Street and D. S. Senanayake Street. The annual Kandy Esala Pageant is over when the MaligawaPerahera enters into the Maligawa.

Perahera Sandeshaya

The DiyawadanaNilame would complete the Perahera. It would lead a procession with the Nilames rural devalas and SatharaMahaDevalas of the Nilames to the President's Pavilion. To acknowledge the completion and celebration of the annual Esala Perahera, they would be carrying a formal letter called PeraheraSandeshaya. The President would be presented with the sannasa at the President's Pavilion.

Modern Perahera

In 1815, the British took over the Kandyan Kingdom and the Relic was placed under the care of the MahaSangha (the Buddhist Clergy). The "DiyawadanaNilame" was the main lay custodian of Relics to handle all administrative matters.

Whip Crackers

The whip crackers are at the front of the procession, signifying the Perahera's approach.

Fire Ball Dancers

You can then witness the amazing sight of fireball dancing, which involves using fireballs. The team is known for performing amazing dances that require a lot of acrobatic moves.

These fireball dancers, also known as "Pandampaliya", are a symbol of the glow of light. This dance is very entertaining and displays a great rhythm.

Flag Bearers

The flag bearers are located immediately after the whip crackers. They carry national and Buddhist flags as well as different provincial flags.


The drummers, who play traditional drums and flutes, are next on the procession. This is a religious ritual that pays homage to the sacred tooth. The procession is made up of many generations of hereditary musicians. To pay homage to the sacred tooth relic, they play the tunes with great respect and honor.

Kandyan Dancing

Kandyan dance, a Kandyan native dance, is what identifies Kandyan tradition. Only male dancers can perform it in Sri Lanka. They are able to captivate the audience with their amazing leaps and moves. Traditional Kandyan dancers' dancing teams create magic through their leaps. The pageant is renowned for its spectacular performances, including powerful leaps and whirls.

A large group of traditional Kandyan dancers dance to the beat of drums. Kandyan dancers are known for their colorful costumes, which include elaborate rattling anklets and jingling bracelets. They also wear funky headgear. They are skilled and experienced at participating in Perahera festivals.

Kandy Esala Peruahera Elephant Parades

Perahera's most striking sight is the magnificently decorated elephants. The elephants are dressed in lavish clothes and lit up with lights. PeramuneRala, and Nilames, are the officials associated with the Temple of Tooth. They ride on the top of the elephants.

Ceremonial Tusker

The arrival of the magnificent ceremonial tusker is undoubtedly the most anticipated part of the procession. The golden casket, containing the sacred Buddha tooth relic, is carried by him. He is surrounded by two exquisitely decorated tuskers and a elegant, well-lit dress.

The center of attraction is the arrival of the Tusker: the Maligawa Tusker, who walks in great grace and great pride with the golden casket, arrives. It contains the sacred Tooth Relic from Buddha, the 'Karaduwa', and is protected by a canopy.

The Pawada is a white cloth that covers the path for the majestic tusker to walk on when he is walking. The most amazing sight for Buddhists is seeing the Lord Buddha's sacred tooth relic in front of their eyes, in the golden casket on top of the magnificent tusker.

Traditional dancers

Two long lines of traditional Kandyan dancers are visible soon after the Maligawa Tusker. They provide a lively dancing scene and lay the foundation for the DiyawadanaNilame (the custodian of Temple of Tooth).

Important Sacred Casket Bearer Tuskers

These are the most notable tusker-elks who were the main casket bearers at the Kandy EsalaPerehera Festival.

  • Raja
  • Heiyantuduwa Raja
  • Millangoda Raja
  • Nadungamuwa Raja

Route of Kandy Esala Perahera

1st Kumbal Perahera

Sri DaladaVeediya – DS SenanayakeVeediya – Temple Street – Deva Veediya – SrimathBennetSoysaVeediya – YatinuwaraVeediya – Raja Veediya.

2nd Kumbal Perahera

Sri DaladaVeediya – DS SenanayakeVeediya – Raja Veediya

3rd Kumbal Perahera

Sri DaladaVeediya – DS SenanayakeVeediya - SrimathBennetSoysaVeediya - E.L SenanayakeVeediya - Raja Veediya

4th Kumbal Perahera

Sri DaladaVeediya - E.L SenanayakeVeediya - Raja Veediya

5th Kumbal Perahera

Sri DaladaVeediya - YatinuwaraVeediya - Raja Veediya

1st Randholi Perahera

Sri DaladaVeediya - D.S.SenanayakeVeediya - Temple Street - Deva Veediya - Srimath Benet SoysaVeediya - E.L.SenanayakeVeediya - Cross street - D.S. SenanayakeVeediya - Raja Veediya

2nd Randholi Perahera

Sri DaladaVeediya - D.S.Senanayake Street - Srimath Benet SoysaVeediya - YatinuwaraVeediya - YatinuwaraVeediya - Raja Veediya

3rd Randholi Perahera

Sri DaladaVeediya - E.L.SenanayakeVeediya - Srimath Benet SoysaVeediya - YatinuwaraVeediya Kumara Veediya - E.L.SenanayakeVeediya - Cross Street - D.S.SenanayakeVeediya - Raja Veediya

4th Randholi Perahera

Sri DaladaVeediya - YatinuwaraVeediya - Cross Street - E.L.SenanayakeVeediya - KandeVeediya - D.S.SenanayakeVeediya - Raja Veediya

Grand Randholi Perahera

Sri DaladaVeediya -YatinuwaraVeediya - Hill Street - D.S.SenanayakeVeediya -Raja Veediya

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Kandy Perahera Tour from Colombo

Today you will have an opportunity to watch the most spectacular procession of Kandy Esala Perahera. We will depart for Kandy to see Kandy Esala Perahera tonight, our staff will arrange a prime viewing gallery around the temple square. On completion you will leave towards Colombo, if you wish, being able to spend an overnight stay at Kandy.

Kandy Perahera Tour fromSigiriya

Today you will have an opportunity to watch the most spectacular procession of Kandy Esala Perahera. We will depart for Kandy to see Kandy Esala Perahera tonight, our staff will arrange a prime viewing gallery around the temple square. On completion you will leave towards Sigiriya , if you wish, being able to spend an overnight stay at Kandy.

Kandy Perahera Tour fromNuwaraEliya

Today you will have an opportunity to watch the most spectacular procession of Kandy Esala Perahera. We will depart for Kandy to see Kandy Esala Perahera tonight, our staff will arrange a prime viewing gallery around the temple square. On completion you will leave towards NuwaraEliya , if you wish, being able to spend an overnight stay at Kandy.

Kandy Perahera Tour fromNegombo

Today you will have an opportunity to watch the most spectacular procession of Kandy Esala Perahera. We will depart for Kandy to see Kandy Esala Perahera tonight, our staff will arrange a prime viewing gallery around the temple square. On completion you will leave towards Negombo, if you wish, being able to spend an overnight stay at Kandy.

Kandy Perahera Tour fromBentota

Today you will have an opportunity to watch the most spectacular procession of Kandy Esala Perahera. We will depart for Kandy to see Kandy Esala Perahera tonight, our staff will arrange a prime viewing gallery around the temple square. On completion you will leave towards Bentota, if you wish, being able to spend an overnight stay at Kandy.

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Kandy Perahera Visit Main Locations,

  • HNB Garden
  • Queens Hotel
  • Pizza Hut Restaurant Balcony
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