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Colourful Fairs and Festivals of Kandy

Esala perehera at kandy temple

Kandy is Sri Lanka’s most popular cultural city and tooth relic temple is annexed here. Tooth Relic is the most important element for Buddhist in the island and attracts millions of Buddhist devotees every year. The temple is not only visited by local travellers but also by the foreign tourists, who wish to see this important Buddhist temple. However, it’s not just tooth relic temple that makes Kandy so important today.

Kandy is popular around the world for its undying hospitality, centuries-old tradition and culture, carefully-preserved cuisines and a plethora of festivals and colourful events. These are some of the factors that attract hundreds of thousands of travellers from all walks of life to this beautiful city, every year.

It is Royalty and heritage, colourful events and cuisines come into once mind when one thinks of Kandy. There is large number of festivals and fairs, celebrations and feasts taking place here. The very essence of Sri Lanka, you discover in Kandy. Most of these event takes places in and around the tooth relic temple, making it the lifeblood of this lively city.

Temple of the tooth relic
Polonnaruwa, the medieval capital city of Sri Lanka is one of the most important historical sites with large number of well-preserved monuments

Below are most important festivals and fairs takes place in Kandy

1. Esala Ceremony

Drawing in more than 500000 people and hundreds of elephants, Esala ceremony is the most popular colourful event on the island. It is not only visited Sri Lankans but also hundreds of thousands of tourists from all around the world. Lasting 10 days in the months of July/August, each day of the ceremony hundreds of elephants parade the street with troops of dancers, drummers, and many other participants. The grandeur of the procession is heightened day by day from the beginning of the festival and most beautiful pageant takes places on the 10th day of the festival.

Esala ceremony or well known as Esala procession is a popular motif for various artistic works since the 2nd century AD. Esala ceremony is a popular motif for wall hangers, calendars, and religious paintings in Buddhist temple, arts, advertisements and sculptures. Not only the artists but also all Sri Lankans are fascinated by this colourful event.  Therefore, the Esala ceremony is not new to the people of Sri Lanka. If you are a foreigner, you may not know much about it, and then this is the best time to talk about it.

This colourful event is one of the oldest religious ceremonies in the world. The first occurrence of Esala ceremony is dating back to many centuries. The annual ceremony of Esala procession is taking place at the Temple of the tooth of Kandy, Sri Lanka. Hundreds of elephants are decorated with colourful costumes and people are dressed in amazing traditional costumes.  Majestically marching colourfully clad jumbos, dancers whirling in the air, drummers making roaring sounds, flutist producing soothing rhythm and creativity all in one place. It is highly unlikely to see this unique blend of culture, tradition, history and art & craft, at any place other than in Kandy.

Esala ceremony is the most internationally popular cultural and religious event of Sri Lanka. The earliest historical information pertaining to the Esala ceremony is dating back to 2nd century AD. The celebration of this traditional festival was disturbed during the trouble periods such as Indian invasions and internal conflicts. European colonial powers such as British, Portuguese and Dutch have also caused to stop the event due to the deteriorated security for the tooth relic. But, the Buddhist monks were able to protect the tooth relic against all the enemy forces. Today, Esala ceremony is an icon of the island of Sri Lanka.

The procession takes places for ten consecutive days in the months of July and August.  The procession is divided into several stages such as Kumbal PeraheraRandoli perahera etc. Most colourful and longest procession takes place on the last day of the ceremony. Esala Ceremony is one of the religious events in Sri Lanka, which is mainly attended by believers of Buddhists. The Esala ceremony is organized to invoke the blessings of Gods. It is believed, when the tooth relic is taken in the procession, it produces timely raining. Therefore the farmers are able to cultivate crops and get a good yield.

Today it is not merely a traditional event; it shows the unity among religions of Hindu and Buddhism. It greatly helps to the survival of traditional arts and crafts, music, dancing of Sri Lanka. Thanks to the Esala ceremony new artists are trained to perform in the ceremony, means the knowledge of old artisans is passed over to the newer generations. You may not be able to ascertain, what is so fascinated by this event. The best way to find out is just there as it happens.

2. Aluth Sahal Mangallaya or New Harvest Festival

This 1-day running festival is organised by the tooth relic temple of Kandy and is held in the month of January every year. The farmers in the region bring a portion of their paddy harvest to the temple, which was collected at the beginning of the year. The new harvest then offered to Buddha and the respective divinities.

3. New Year Festival

New year festival or festival of food marks the beginning of the new year according to the Buddhist calendar. This festival falls on 14th of April and celebrated throughout the country. It is one of the most important festivals celebrated in Kandy. Buddhapuja or offerings to Buddha and other deities are made at an auspicious time on the day of the new year.

4. Kartika Festival

This is one of the important traditional events of the past. The event is held in the month of November and celebrated every year. It is believed that Kartika festival was influenced by the Hindu festival known as the festival of light. On the day of the festival delegates from other temples gather at Natha devala or Natha temple. Later distribution of oil takes place to temple authorities, who gathered at natha devala. Oil required for the event is supplied by the tooth relic temple.

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Colourful Fairs and Festivals of Kandy
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Colourful Fairs and Festivals of Kandy
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Kandy is one of the most visited destinations among the foreign tourists. It is a beautiful city in Sri Lanka and many cultural events and traditional festivals take place here. Esala ceremony is the most important festival in the temple and the most colourful pageant in the island.
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