Sri Lanka’s festivals offer visitors the chance to experience the diverse cultures that shape the island's identity. The festivals are an integral part of life here, from the Buddhist festival of Kandy Esala Perahera – one of the country’s grandest traditional festivals – to the Catholic Madhu Church Festival, and from the Hindu Vel festival to the series of events marking Ramdan; the country’s major religions are all represented here.
If you happen to be visiting Sri Lanka when any one of these spectacular festivals is due to take place, make sure to leave some space in your itinerary to witness something a little out of the ordinary.
June 3 – 13Devotees from across the country, Catholics as well as those from other faith, attend the annual feast of St Anthony’s Shrine or the Kochchikade Church. Festivities commence with the flag hoisting ceremony on June 3, 2017. Thereafter, novenas and special prayers will be held until the vespers service on June 12. On June 13, the feast day, mass is held every hour from 4am to 7am. The main services will be held at 8am (Tamil), 10am (Sinhala) noon (English). The procession of the statue of Saint Anthony will be at 5.30pm while the final blessing takes place at night.
June 8The day marks the introduction of Buddhism to the Island by Arahant Mahinda in the third century BC. It is believed the Great Arahant preached the Dhamma to King Devanampiyatissa, the then ruler of the country, in Mihintale. The Thero had been sent by the Indian Emperor Ashoka, who is credited for spreading Buddhism to nine countries. Sri Lankans celebrate this day with great religious fervour. Sil is observed during the day, while Aloka Pooja are held at night. Many make the pilgrimage to Mihintale, the cradle of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, where they worship the place in which the Dhamma was first preached in the Island.
June 25 – JulyLocated in the islet of Nagadeepa or Nainativu off the Jaffna Peninsula is the ancient Nagapooshani Amman Kovil dedicated to goddess Parvati and her consort Lord Shiva. The Kodiyetram or flag hoisting in June marks the beginning of the annual kovil festival, which will be held in July.
June 25 – 26Upon seeing the half-moon, the leaders of the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama declare the end of the fasting and beginning of Eid. Although scheduled for June 25, 2017, the date may change depending on the sighting of the moon. The day after the sighting, Muslims pray before breakfast, while in Colombo they congregate at the Galle Face Green. Later, meals are shared with family, neighbours and friends, while relatives are visited.