Sinhalese word “Perahera” means parade of musician, dance, singers, acrobats and other performers with decorated Tuskers elephants parading the streets to celebration of religious event and the world famous Kandy Esala Perahera is a combination of 2 different Perahera’s, Esala and Dalada Peraheras. It is a big event with expensive costumes and is celebrated in July or August on Full Moon Poya Day. Esala Perahera started in 3rd BC, was a religious activity to ask gods for rain and Dalada Perahera begun when Sacred Tooth Relic of Buddha was brought to Sri Lanka from India in 4th AD are 2 that have now become Sri Lanka’s famous Kandy Esala Perahera.
The Perahera started when Prince Dantha and Princess Hemamala, the son-in-law and daughter of King Guhasiva of Kalinga India came to Sri Lanka in 4AD and gave Sacred Tooth Relic of Buddha to Sri Lanka King Kirthisiri Meghawanna. King Meghawanna decided that Tooth Relic should be taken round Anuradhapura city annually and Esala Perahera started and was done every year only interrupted when foreign war made Perahera difficult and dangerous.
Perahera has become unique Sri Lanka symbol. The Buddhist festival has many jugglers, musicians, fire-breathers, dances and colorful decorated elephants parading streets of Kandy. There are fire, whip, Kandyan and other cultural dances. Elephants dressed in garments of gold, semi-precious stones and rich colors. Festival ends with diya-kepeema ritual, a water cutting ceremony at Mahaweli RiverGetambe, Kandy.
Modern Perahera started by Kandy King Kirthi Sri Rajasinghe. During this time, Tooth Relic was property of King and public never got to worship it. King Rajasinghe decided that the Relic be taken in procession for people to worship. After Kandy Kingdom was destroyed by British in 1815, the Relic was given to Buddhist clergy.
Considered one of the world’s most colorful parades Perahera is a popular tourist attraction and visitors get to experience Sri Lanka culture and tradition.
For 5 nights, the “Devale Peraheras” take place within the premises of the Devales accompanied by music and drumming, flag bearers and sacred sign of the Gods. Pattini Devale procession is only one that has women dances.
On 6th night, Kumbal Perahera begins and continues on for 5 days. The relic casket, which is a substitute for the Tooth Relic, is placed inside the ransivige (a gold dome-like structure) on the main temple Elephant, and the Maligawa Perahera joins the 4 Devale Peraheras and leads the procession.
Whip-crackers and fireball acrobats clear the path, followed by Buddhist flag bearers. Then, riding on the first elephant, is the Buddhist official followed drummers, dances, elephants and musicians. Singers dressed in white welcome the Tusker carrying Sacred Tooth Relic.
Randoli Perahera begins after 5 nights of Kumbal Perahera and refers to palanquins on which Queens of ruling Kings traveled.
After 5 nights of Randoli Perahera, the pageant ends with Diya Kepeema and Day Perahera is held to mark the ceremony.
Starting of Devale Peraheras, Dalada Perahera, placing casket on tuskers back, and end of Perahera are announced by firing cannonballs heard everywhere in Kandy.