The perahera on the first day is called the Uda Maluwe Perahera, a low-key pageant with a few participants that circles the upper precincts of the temple three times and then retreats. The sacred tooth relic casket, resting on a cushion, is at the heart of the pageant. The second day procession is more magnificent, and to the main tooth relic perahera is added the exuberant processions of the three gods who have shrines within the main temple: Vishnu, Kataragama and Vibishana.
The final and grandest perahera is the Randoli Perahera. As the drumming throbs at dusk on this day, excitement mounts among the thickly congregated crowds. Lights flare up and vendors line the streets. It is the cue for the pageant to stream out in their hundreds: whip- crackers, drummers, dancers, torch-bearers, elephants and acrobats all putting up a show of colour, artistry, music, dance and tradition.
Altogether 3,000 participants swirl and move to the beats of ancient music. Over 50 elephants sway majestically, clothed in the brightest colours, embroidered in gold and silver and shimmering jewels. It is a celebration of the unique and vibrant culture Sri Lankans have inherited through millennia.
This year, you can witness the Duruthu Perahera winding its way through Kelaniya on January 9, 10 and 11, 2017.