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The Pulsating beat of the Esala Perahera

It's August and Kandy is ready for the annual Esala Perahera; a festival rich in history and religious-cultural identity.

Written by
Swetha Rathnajothiee

At dusk, the streets surrounding the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic glow with a thousand lights that illuminate the surrounding darkness to reveal a procession of pulsating action. The sound of whips cracking heralds the start. Men in white walk in procession carrying the Buddhist flag.

The first elephant bears the Peramune Rala, a distinguishable presence, as he carries the perahera sannasa on both hands, which contains the religious activities of the procession and the duties with regard to the properties of the Temple.

Dancers, drummers and performers gleam in colourful costumes as they move to the rhythm of the drums. Elephants, guided by mahouts, saunter respectfully to the delight of onlookers. The streets reverberate with the pounding of drums as the ‘horanewa’ – traditional horn provides the melody to the dancers; some manoeuvring balls of fire, others performing various stunts.

The Esala Perahera is divided into several seg- ments. The observances begin with a ritual, kap situwima – planting of a sanctified young jackfruit tree. The first processions of this festival are in honour of the four devales, situated around the Tooth Relic Temple, whose deities are regarded as the guardians of the Sacred Relic. The Kumbal Perahera that follows, a mini procession prior to the grand finale, parades the streets for five days. The majestic tusker bears the all Sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha when the Randoli Perahera takes to the streets. This was the procession that was patronised by the royalty of yore, watched by the subjects. The Queen was borne in a palanquin, which is still honoured with a palanquin being carried in the procession. The Maha Randoli Perahera is the grand finale to a lengthy celebration. Representative of the kings, chieftains and other officials that walked in honour of the Sacred Relic, today men in royal regalia known as ‘Nilame’ devotedly perform all the rituals associated with the procession. Chief among them is the ‘Diyawadana Nilame’, whose permission is sought to begin the procession.

The ‘water cutting ceremony’ takes place on August 26, where a sword is driven into the waters of the river, symbolically closes this annual parade that is held to invoke blessings and prosperity upon the people.

Kap Situweema – August 12, 2018

First Kumbal Perahera – August 16, 2018

Second Kumbal Perahera – August 17, 2018

Third Kumbal Perahera – August 18, 2018

Fourth Kumbal Perahera – August 19, 2018

Fifth Kumbal Perahera – August 20, 2018

First Randoli Perahera – August 21, 2018

Second Randoli Perahera – August 22, 2018

Third Randoli Perahera – August 23, 2018

Fourth Randoli Perahera – August 24, 2018

Fifth (Maha) Randoli Perahera – August 25, 2018

Water Cutting Ceremony – August 26, 2018

Day Perahera – August 26, 2018

Above details provided by the Sri Dalada Maligawa, Kandy.

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