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Kandy Esala Perahera 2023: Sri Lanka's Most Popular Festival

Kandy Esala Perahera: A Guide to Experiencing Sri Lanka’s Famous Festival

Kandy Esala Perahera is an annual grand festival celebrated in the city of Kandy, Sri Lanka. It is one of the most magnificent and oldest Buddhist festivals in Sri Lanka, attracting both locals and tourists from around the world.

This unique cultural event showcases the rich heritage, religious devotion, and traditional customs of the Sri Lankan people. The Kandy Esala Perahera promises to be a captivating spectacle filled with color, music, dance, and religious fervor.

The Chief Custodian of the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic in Kandy has officially announced the dates for the Esala Procession 2023.

The ‘Kumbal’ procession is set to occur from August 21st to August 25th, and it will be followed by the ‘Randoli’ procession from August 26th to August 30th.

Introduction to Kandy Esala Perahera

Fire Dancers in Kandy Esala Perahera

The Kandy Esala Perahera is a vibrant religious procession that takes place during the month of Esala (July/August) in Kandy, Sri Lanka.

It is dedicated to the Sacred Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha, which is housed in the Temple of the Tooth (Sri Dalada Maligawa) in Kandy. The festival spans over ten days and culminates in the grand finale, known as the Randoli Perahera.

Historical Significance of Kandy Esala Perahera

The origins of the Kandy Esala Perahera can be traced back to the 3rd century BC when the Tooth Relic was brought to Sri Lanka. Over the centuries, the Perahera has evolved and grown in scale, becoming an integral part of Sri Lankan culture. It is believed to bring blessings, prosperity, and protection to the country and its people.

Preparation and Preparatory Events

Tusker in Kandy Esala Perahera

Months before the Perahera, preparations begin with the selection of tuskers, who will carry the caskets containing the Sacred Tooth Relic. These majestic elephants are adorned with elaborate costumes and ornaments. The streets of Kandy are decorated with vibrant lights, and the temple complex is meticulously prepared for the festivities.

Rituals and Ceremonies

The Perahera consists of a series of rituals and ceremonies. It starts with the Kap Situveema ceremony, where the cutting of a sanctified jackfruit tree symbolizes the beginning of the festival. Daily rituals, including the morning and evening ‘Dalada Maligawa’ rituals, are performed throughout the ten-day period.

Elephants in the Perahera

Tuskers and Elephants in Kandy Esala Perahera

The elephants play a significant role in the Kandy Esala Perahera. They are beautifully decorated and carry the sacred relics in golden caskets on their backs. The majestic sight of these adorned elephants, accompanied by traditional drummers and flag bearers, is a highlight of the festival.

Traditional Dances and Music

The Perahera showcases a wide variety of traditional dances and music. Dancers, drummers, and other performers clad in vibrant costumes entertain the spectators along the procession route. The rhythmic beats of drums, the melodious tunes of flutes, and the graceful movements of the dancers create a mesmerizing ambiance.

Costumes and Ornaments

Dancing girls in Kandy Esala Perahera

The participants in the Perahera wear colorful costumes and intricate ornaments. The dancers don traditional attire representing different cultural traditions of Sri Lanka. These ornate costumes, combined with the vibrant colors, add to the visual splendor of the event.

Lighting and Decorations

During the Kandy Esala Perahera, the city of Kandy is illuminated with elaborate light displays. Streets and buildings are adorned with colorful decorations, creating a festive atmosphere. The beautifully lit procession adds to the magical charm of the event, attracting spectators from far and wide.

Procession Route and Timings

The Perahera follows a specific route through the streets of Kandy. The procession starts from the Temple of the Tooth and proceeds along a predetermined path, passing through several important locations in the city.

The timings of the Perahera may vary, but it usually takes place in the evenings, allowing visitors to witness the spectacle under the night sky.

The Illustrious Kandy Esala Perahera

Crowds and Accommodation

The Kandy Esala Perahera attracts a large number of spectators each year, both local and international. It is advisable to plan your visit in advance and book accommodation well ahead of time, as the city gets crowded during the festival. Many hotels and guesthouses offer special packages for visitors attending the Perahera.

Best Viewing Spots

To get the best experience of the Kandy Esala Perahera, it is essential to choose the right viewing spot. The area around the Temple of the Tooth provides an up-close view of the procession. Other popular spots include the Queen’s Hotel, Dalada Veediya (Tooth Relic Street), and the Kandy Lake bund.

Food and Refreshments

Preparing Kottu Roti

During the festival, numerous food stalls and vendors line the streets, offering a variety of local delicacies and refreshments. Visitors can indulge in traditional Sri Lankan dishes such as hoppers, kottu roti, and string hoppers. It is an excellent opportunity to savor the flavors of the island while enjoying the festivities.

Cultural Impact and Tourism

The Kandy Esala Perahera holds immense cultural significance in Sri Lanka. It is not only a religious festival but also an event that showcases the country’s rich heritage. The festival has a significant impact on tourism, attracting visitors from all over the world who come to witness this cultural extravaganza.

Preserving Tradition

Boy dancers in Esala Perahera

Efforts are made to preserve and promote the traditions associated with the Kandy Esala Perahera. The younger generation is encouraged to participate and learn the traditional dances and rituals, ensuring that these cultural practices continue to thrive for generations to come. Organizations and individuals work together to safeguard this important cultural heritage.

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The Kandy Esala Perahera is a mesmerizing festival that showcases the cultural richness of Sri Lanka. With its vibrant processions, traditional dances, and religious rituals, it offers a unique and unforgettable experience for visitors. The festival not only celebrates the country’s heritage but also fosters a sense of unity and devotion among its people.


What is the significance of the Kandy Esala Perahera?

The Kandy Esala Perahera is a religious festival dedicated to the Sacred Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha and holds immense cultural significance in Sri Lanka.

How long does the Kandy Esala Perahera last?

The festival spans over ten days, with the grand finale known as the Randoli Perahera.

Where does the Perahera take place?

The Perahera takes place in the city of Kandy, Sri Lanka, starting from the Temple of the Tooth.

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