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    The Esala Perahera in Kandy is one of the oldest and grandest of all Buddhist festivals, featuring dancers, jugglers, musicians, fire-breathers, and lavishly decorated elephants This is held in the month of Esala (July or August) as to celebrate Buddha’s conceive and many years later his leaving of the family home. The Kandy Esala Perahera lasting for ten days. The Sinhalese term ‘perahera’ means a parade of musicians, dancers, singers, acrobats and various other performers accompanied by a large number of caparisoned Tuskers and other elephants parading the streets in celebration of a religious event.

    This Perahera is to honor of the Sacred Tooth Relic and the four ‘guardian’ Gods Natha, Vishnu, Kataragama and Pattini.. Kandy Maligawa Perahera followed in order by those of the Natha, Vishnu, Kataragama and Pattini ‘devales’ (temples dedicated to these Gods) situated in the neighborhood of the Kandy Maligawa.

    After the Kandyan Kingdom fell to the hands of British in 1815, the custody of the Tooth Relic was handed over to the Buddhist Clergy. In the absence of the king, a lay custodian called the Diyawadana Nilame was appointed to handle routine administrative matters.

    The meaning of this Kandy Esala Perahera Pageant Procession is to beseech blessings of the gods to obtain rain for the cultivation of crops etc.

    Kandy Esala Perahera History
    Kandy Esala Perahera History

    This ritual is performed by carrying the sacred tooth relic of the Buddha through the Kandy city streets which is done with great ceremony. This is the most beautiful pageant in the Asia.

    The first ritual ‘Kap situweema’ (planting ‘kap’) will be held to commence rituals to start the perahera after few days. The ritual is performed according to an auspicious time decided by astrologers. A young jak tree will select for this and will clear and clean it. The tree will sprinkle with sandalwood scented water perfumed with. An offering is made of nine kinds of flowers, an oil lamp with nine wicks is to light. The priest of the Maha Vishnu Devale recites his prayers to all the gods, after which the jak tree will cut.

    The trunk will cut into four separate pieces. The symbol of prosperity will be shown as the ‘milk’ or the latex that flows when cut the tree. The four pieces of the trunk of the tree are taken to the four ‘devales’, one piece each to a Devale. Each piece of the jak tree (called ‘kap’) will planted under a canopy decorated with leaves, flowers and fruits in the temple premises dedicated to each deity. Therefore this is what we called ‘kap situweema’.

    History of the Kandy Perahera

    Old Ceylon Kandy PeraheraIt is believed the Kandy Perahera has its origin with the arrival of Prince Danta and Princess Hemamala, the son-in-law and daughter of King Guhasiva of Kalinga, India to Sri Lanka during the reign of King Kirthisiri Meghawanna (305-331 AD). Following the decree of King Kirthisiri Meghawanna that the Relic be taken round the city of Anuradhapura once a year, the Esala Perehera pageant had been followed by the succession of kings, though with interruptions caused by the foreign invasions.

    The most revealing narration on the Esala Perehera is found in the book written by the Chinese pilgrim Fa Hien who visited Sri Lanka in the 5th century A.D. The intermittent invasions by the Dravidian kingdoms in the southern Sri Lanka was to result in the shifting of the seat of the kingdom from Anuradhapura to Polonnaruwa, then to Dambadeniya and other cities. In each retreat, a new temple of tooth was built to enshrine Sacred Tooth Relic. Finally, since the shift of the capital to Kandy, the Sacred Tooth Relic has been undisturbed. Today the Temple of the Tooth at Kandy houses the Sacred Tooth Relic of Buddha and naturally it has been there that the annual Kandy Esala Perehera Pageant is held in every year.

    Kandy Esala Perahera Viewing Galleries 2014

    Kandy Esala Perahera Pageant Procession is believed to be a fusion of two separate but interconnected Perahera’s (Processions) – The Esala and Dalada. It is very grand with elegant costumes. Happening in July or August in Kandy, it has become a unique symbol of Sri Lanka. The Esala Perahera which is thought to date back to the 3rd century BC, was a ritual enacted to request the gods for rainfall. The Dalada Perahera is believed to have begun when the Sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha was brought to Sri Lanka from India during the 4th Century AD.

    The Tooth Relic was take in procession to Sri Lanka by Princess Hemamala & Prince Dantha. It is a Buddhist festival consisting of dances and nicely decorated Elephants. There are fire-dances, whip-dances, Kandian dances and various other cultural dances. The elephants are usually adorned with lavish garments.

    Tentative dates of the Kandy Esala Perahera 2014

    1st – 11th August 2014.
    (Subject to change).

    DateEvent
    27th July 2014Kapsituvima (Planting of the ‘Kapa’)
    27th July to 30th July 2014Internal Perahera of Four Devales
    01st August 20141st Kumbal Perahera
    02nd August 20142nd Kumbal Perahera
    03rd August 20143rd Kumbal Perahera
    04th August 20144th Kumbal Perahera
    05th August 20145th Kumbal Perahera
    06th August 20141st Randoli Perahera
    07th August 20142nd Randoli Perahera
    08th August 20143rd Randoli Perahera
    09th August 20144th Randoli Perahera
    10th August 20145th Randoli Perahera
    11th August 2014Day Perahera (Water Cutting Ceremony “Diya Kepeema”)

    Tentative Route of the Kandy Esala Perahera 2014

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    Pizza Hut Corridor - Temple Street, Kandy Sithumina Book Shop Building - No.20, Colombo Street, Kandy
    Seetha Book Shop Building - No.24, Colombo Street, Kandy MPCS Building - No.34, Colombo Street, Kandy
    Paivas Hotel Corridor - No.37, Yatinuwara Veediya, Kandy Francis Perera Building - No.12, Yatinuwara Veediya, Kandy
    Devon Hotel Corridor - No.74, Yatinuwara Veediya, Kandy Queens Hotel Kandy
    Queens Hotel Corridor - Dalada Veediya, kandy

    The order of the procession of Kandy Perahera

    Kandy Perahera procession features five processions organized by the Maligawa Perahera or Perahera of the Sacred Temple of the Tooth Relic, the most venerated Buddhist temple of Sri Lanka and four shrines dedicated to Hindu Gods and a Goddess, i.e. the Shrine of God Natha, the Shrine of God Maha Vishnu, the Shrine of God Katharagama and the Shrine of Goddess Pattini. By 8pm, the Maligawa Perahera or the procession of Sacred Temple of the Tooth of the Buddhists takes the lead and joined by the processions of four Hindu shrines. The second procession is from the shrine dedicated to God Natha. The 14th Century shrine that faces the Sri Dalada Maligawa or Temple of the Tooth is said to be the oldest building in Kandy.

    The third is from the shrine dedicated to God Vishnu. Vishnu Devale also known as the Maha Devale is located close to the Natha Devale. The fourth procession is from the Kataragama Devale dedicated to the God of Skanda, the deity of Kataragama. Kataragama shrine is located on Kottugodalle Street of Kandy. This procession includes Kavadi, the peacock dance, in which the pilgrim dancers carry semicircular wooden contraptions studded with peacock feathers on their shoulders. The fifth and final procession is from the shine dedicated to goddess Pattini. Pattini shrine is located to the west of the Natha Devale.

    Maligawa Perahera or Perahera of the Sacred Temple of the Tooth Relic is comprised as follows :

    At the forefront of the procession are the Whip Crackers. The cracking of whips all the way from the very beginning to end of the chosen path of Perahera signifies the approach of the procession. Immediately following the whip crackers are the Flag Bearers carrying are the standards and the flags of the different Provinces and the Temples in single file on both sides of the road. The official called Peramunerala riding on the first elephant follows next carrying the register of the Sacred Temple of the Tooth at Kandy.

    Next on the procession are the Drummers playing an array of traditional drums and blowing traditional flutes. While the drummers play in explosive style, the teams of dancers leap and bound. The hoards of drummers and dancers are followed up by the officer in charge of the elephants, of course mounted on a caparisoned and decorated tusker. During the ancient and medieval times of Sri Lanka, the officer in charge of the Kings’s stable had been a high ranking minister of the king. To date the officer in charge of the elephants called Gajanayaka Nilame carries the silver goad called Ankusa that symbolize his authority. Following Gajanayake Nilame is another officer of the temple mounted on a tusker: the Kariyakorawnarala, is the officer in charge of drummers and dancers. He is also responsible for minor functions at the Sacred Temple of the Tooth. Arrival of Kariyakorawnarala set the stage for center of attraction: the Maligawa Tusker Caparisoned, robed and illuminated, the tusker of the temple stepping in supreme grace and great pride carrying the resplendent golden casket called Ransivige sheltered with a canopy. The golden casket contains the Sacred Tooth Relic of Buddha.

    The beasts sense of the solemnity of the procession and the reverence, in which the Sacred Tooth Relic is held by the human populace, it seems, could hardly be bettered even by a human itself. Held high over the Tusker is canopy; unrolled on to the way of the Tusker is a ream of white cloth called pavada. The devotees, spectators, the foreign tourists and all distinguished guests stand steadfast while the Maligawa tusker carrying the Sacred Tooth Relic of Buddha passes them. The Tusker is followed by two long chains of vibrant dancers, on each side of the road, facing each other with a team of drummers in the middle forming another column. At the end of the retinue is the Custodian of the Temple of the Tooth titled Diyawadana Nilame, dressed in traditional regalia of the high officials of the kings, who reigned at the medieval kingdom of Kandy. Diyawadana Nilame is attended by Murawadu (lance bearers), Wadana tal-athu (sunshade bearers and umbrella-bearers) as well as the other officials of the Sacred Temple of the Tooth.

    Kandy Perahera – Esala Perahera Highlights

    Sri Dalada Maligawa during the festival (Sacred Temple of the Tooth Relic )


    Randoli Perahera

    Five ‘Randoli’ peraheras are carryout after Kumbal Perahera for five days. Out of these perahera’s the most beautiful and spectacular Perahera is Randoli Perahera (golden planaquin). Kandy city is full of foreigners and spectators during this period.

    Most people who visit are from other cities and from other countries. This is the only perahera in the world which carry on for fifteen days and with more than fifty elephants and hundreds of drummers, dancers, and singers.


    Diya Kepeema and Day Perahera

    After the last night perahera the four peraheras from the four ‘devales’ go to the steppingstone of the Getambe Mahaveli River near Peradeniya. The chief ‘kapuralas’ (priests) of the ‘devales’ then wade into the middle of the river. One of the ‘kapuralas’ marks a circle in the water with the point of a ‘golden’ sword. The priests empty the water into the river in the ‘golden ewers’ (ran kendiya) which they had filled with water at the same spot the year before.

    Then fill them up again with new fresh water. (The ewers thus filled will be emptied and refilled here at the end of The Esala Perahera the following year). This ritual is known as the ‘diya kapeema’ (water cutting), which takes place on the morning of the last day of the perahera.

    Then the four peraheras start marching back to Kandy. On their way they stop at the ‘Pulleyar Kovil’ (Selvavinayagar Kovil) at Katukelle. Next at the astrologically calculated auspicious moment they proceed to the Adahana Maluwa, where they join the Maligawa Perahera. The five peraheras parade along the D. S. Senanayake Street and King Street three times. The Maligawa Perahera enters the Maligawa and the devale peraheras wind up at the respective temples, bringing the annual Kandy Esala pageant to an end with this day perahera.


    Kumbal Perahera

    On the sixth night, the Kumbal Perahera begins and continues for five days. Initially, the Devale Perahera assemble in front of the Temple of the Tooth, which is Sri Lanka’s most important Buddhist Shrine and where the Buddha’s Sacred Tooth Relic has been kept since the 16th Century with their emblems placed on the ransivige (a dome-like structure) accompanied by the Basnayake Nilames (the lay custodians of the Devales). Elephants,drummers and dancers will accompany in all these Peraheras.

    For the next five nights, the “Devale Peraheras” take place within the premises of the four Devales with the priest of each Devale taking the pole every evening, accompanied by music and drumming, flag and canopy bearers, spearman and the Ran Ayudha, the sacred insignia of the Gods.

    On the sixth night, the Kumbal Perahera begins and continues on for five days. Initially, the Devale Peraheras assemble in front of the Sri Dalada Maligawa (or Temple of the Tooth, which is Sri Lanka’s most important Buddhist Shrine and where the Buddha’s Sacred Tooth Relic has been kept since the 16th Century) with their insignias placed on the ransivige (a dome-like structure) accompanied by the Basnayake Nilames (the lay custodians of the Devales).

    The relic casket, which is a substitute for the Tooth Relic, is placed inside the ransivige affixed to the Maligawa Elephant, a tusker.

    At about 8pm, the Maligawa Perahera joins the awaiting Devale Peraheras and leads the procession. Whip-crackers and fireball acrobats clear the path, followed by the Buddhist flag bearers. Then, riding on the first elephant, is the official called Peramuna Rala (Front Official). He is followed by Kandyan Drummers and Dancers who enthrall the crowd, and are themselves followed by Elephants and other groups of musicians, dancers and flag bearers. A group of singers dressed in white heralds the arrival of the Maligawa Tusker carrying the Sacred Tooth Relic. The Diyawadana Nilame (traditionally required to do everything in his power to ensure rain in the correct season) walks in traditional Kandyan-clothed splendor after the tusker.

    The second procession is from the Natha Devale, which faces the Sri Dalada Maligawa and is said to be the oldest building in Kandy, dating back to the 14th Century.

    The third is from the Vishnu Devale (Vishnu being a Hindu god), also known as the Maha Devale. It is situated in from of the main gate of the Natha Devale.

    The fourth procession is from the Katharagama Devale (dedicated to the God of Katharagama, identified with the warrior god Skanda) which is on Kottugodalle Vidiya (a street in Kandy). This procession includes Kavadi, the peacock dance, in which the pilgrim-dances carry semicircular wooden contraptions studded with peacock feathers on their shoulders.

    The fifth and final procession is from the Pattini Devale (Pattini being a goddess associated with the cure of infectious diseases and called upon in times of drought and famine), which is situated to the West of the Natha Devale. This is the only procession that has women dances.

    The following important times are announced by the firing of cannonballs, which can be heard all across Kandy.
    1. The commencement of the Devale Perahera
    2. The placing of the casket on the tuskers back
    3. The commencement of the Dalada Perahera
    4. The completion of the Perahera



    Devale Perahera

    Perahera will be carried out for fifteen days. All these peraheras take place in the night. During the first five days the Devale Perahera is held within the grounds of four Devales dedicated to the four guardian gods Natha, Vishnu, Katharagama and the goddess Pattini by the chief priest of the Devalas. Traditionally it was meant to shower blessing on the King and the people.

    The way of the Perahera procession

    The whip crackers (group of men cracking whips) and fireball acrobats lead the Maligawa Perahera. This serves to announcement of the arrival of the procession and to clear a path for it. There is a deeper meaning for the whip cracking. It symbolizes the lightning, thunder, and the arrival of rain, something that has direct relevance to the worship of the Tooth Relic.

    Next come some men bearing flags representing the various provinces of the then Kandyan Kingdom. The elephant that follows these carries on its back a Buddhist flag, which shows that the perahera is a mainly Buddhist event.

    Then comes the ‘Peramunarala’ (officer in the frontline) on the back of an elephant. He carries an ola leaf book wrapped in a piece of white cloth, that shows he is one of the administrator of the King. This was followed by the ‘hewisi’ band of the Maligawa led by its four official tom-tom beaters.

    The ‘Gajanayake Nilame’ (the official who responsible for the elephants taking part in the perahera) road rides on an elephant next. The brightest, the most outstanding feature of the perahera is the Maligawa Tusker is carrying the relic casket. But this is not the real tooth relic but as a symbol, the Maligawa Tusker carries out it. The majestic Maligawa Tusker is accompanied by two other companion elephants. The gorgeously illuminated, bejeweled casket is held in position on the back of the Tusker. The relic casket marches the ‘Diyawadane Nilame’ (the lay custodian and the chief administrator of the Dalada Maligawa) amidst a troupe of dancers and drummers.

    Four Devales

    The other our ‘devale’ peraheras follow in the aforesaid order. The second procession is from the Natha Devale, which faces the Sri Dalada Maligawa and is said to be the oldest building in Kandy, dating back to the 14th Century.

    The third is from the Vishnu Devale (Vishnu being a Hindu god), also known as the Maha Devale. It is situated in from of the main gate of the Natha Devale.

    The fourth procession is from the Katharagama Devale (dedicated to the God of Katharagama, identified with the warrior god Skanda) which is on Kottugodalle Vidiya (a street in Kandy). This procession includes Kavadi, the peacock dance, in which the pilgrim-dances carry semicircular wooden contraptions studded with peacock feathers on their shoulders.

    The fifth and final procession is from the Pattini Devale (Pattini being a goddess associated with the cure of infectious diseases and called upon in times of drought and famine), which is situated to the West of the Natha Devale. This is the only procession that has women dancers.

    The following important times are announced by the firing of cannonballs, which can be heard all across Kandy.
    The whole perahera spectacle takes more than three hours. It constitutes a memorable cultural pageant which mixes the Buddhist and Hindu ritual practices, and also some Mahayana and Theravada elements. The whole pageant is a reflection of Buddhist worship today; but it also represents a frozen image of the ancient outdated state service system known as the ‘rajakariya’ in terms of which people belonging to different occupation based ‘castes’ (Kula) performed duties for the king in return for enjoying royal land grants.

    At the end of the last ‘Randoli’ perahera the Maligawa Perahera enters the ‘Adahana Maluwa’ and stops there. This is in remembrance of the King Vimaladharmasuriya I (1592-1604), on his way from Delgamuwa to Kandy carrying the Sacred Tooth Relic; spend the night at this spot, having temporarily placed the Relic in the Gedige Shrine there, before ceremonially proceeding with it to his palace the next day.



    Modern Perahera

    The Modern Perahera dates back to the reign of the Kandyan King Kirthi Sri Rajasinghe (1747 – 1781 AD). During these times, the Tooth Relic was considered private property of the King and the public never got a chance to worship it.

    However, King Rajasinghe decreed that the Relic be taken in procession for the masses to see and venerate.

    After the Kandyan Kingdom fell to the British in 1815, the custody of the Relic was handed over to the Maha Sanga (the Buddhist Clergy). In the absence of the king, a lay custodian called the “Diyawadana Nilame” was appointed to handle routine administrative matters.

    Kandy Esala Perahera Pageant Procession
    The Kandy Esala Perahera begins with the Kap Situveema or Kappa, in which a sanctified young Jack tree (Artocarpus integrifolia) is cut and planted in the premises of each of the four Devales dedicated to the four guardian gods Natha, Vishnu, Katharagama and the goddess Pattini. Traditionally it was meant to shower blessing on the King and the people.

    Just prior to the commencement of Randoli Perahera at kandy