Every January, the streets of Kelaniya resound with the cracking of whips, rhythmic sounds of traditional Sri Lankan drumming and the reverent cries of sadhu, sadhu as the Duruthu Perahera takes to the streets. It is proceeded by two smaller processions Udamaluwe Perahera and the Dathu Perahera respectively held on January 17 and January 18.
On January 19, the spectacular Maha Perahera or Randoli Perahera will leave the Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya. Throngs of devotees and spectators eagerly line the streets and anticipates the first thunder-like crack of the whip that heralds the oncoming perahera. Then the shimmering fireballs interrupt the gathering darkness.
As the hewisi bands serenade the devotees, standard bearers carry the provincial flags of Sri Lanka. Following them, the Peramuna Rala, a Kanyan chieftan perched atop a caparisoned elephant makes his way through the streets. In his wake troupes of dancers perform traditional Sri Lankan dances. In between different segments of the procession, richly adorned elephants elegantly step in
tune to the music. The dazzling display pays homage to the Buddha, and is accompanied by the pageants for the Gods Vishnu, Vibhishana and Kataragama the guardian deities of the temple.
A reverent silence spreads over the gathered crowds as the majestic temple tusker comes into view. Borne on its howdah, is the beautifully adorned casket of the sacred relics of the Buddha. As the gentle elephant passes, the devotees raise clasped hands and chant sadhu in worship.
Held annually in the month of January, the Perahera pays tribute to the Buddha, who arrived in Sri Lanka for the first time on the Duruthu full moon poya day over two millennia ago.
A grand procession of cultural arts and traditions of the island nation, it inspires reverence in the hearts of the onlookers.
After travelling through the routes of the city, the sacred relics are once again placed within its chamber. With that, the festivities come to a close until the first full moon of the next year.