Pulsating Esala Perahera

With the waxing August moon of the Esala month, unfurls a ten day lasting pageantry of sorts in Kandy, Sri Lanka, a mesmerising procession that has been devoutly adhered to since 300 AD. The captivating revelry is believed to be a harbinger of rainfall, fecundity, bumper crops and sound health.

The festival is a tasteful blend of Hindu and Buddhist ideologies and a dual homage to Skanda and Buddha.  As dusk sets in, the boom of the olden cannons and the lashing sounds of a dozen whips is a pompous call to commence the festivities, as the Perahera or marchers span the streets during the ten day long festivities that get more elaborate and lengthy, with the concluding night being the finest treat to all senses.

elephant shrine

As the annual, vibrant Esala Perahera getting to a roaring start, one is simply enthralled by sea of rotary performers and the profoundly featured, ornately decked-up elephants – the icons of fertility and opulence, also called ‘the clouds who walk the Earth’ and are considered crucial symbols to hail in the rainfall for a healthy crop.


The elephants are the real luminaries of this extravaganza, swathed in eye-catching reds and purple coloured capes donning nugget-engraved visors that flow over their head, ears and onto their trunks. A few elephants are seen illuminated with an array of mini lightings with golden tops covering their torso. Some are seen carrying top Buddhist monks and temple VIP’s while others lug pious relics in pagodas.

The sights and sounds one experiences, truly is a live paraphernalia of sorts with locals engaging in stilt walking, fire throwing, percussionists engaged in belting out cacophonous sounds derived from cymbal ringing, ritualistic drum thumping and the cadenced clank of mock sword combats. Avowing to the Hindu deity Skanda, resolute and devout followers take to the streets with spikes lobbed into their backs.

Esala Perahera à Kandy - Sri Lanka

The focal point of the festivities is the Holy Tooth Relic, believed to be the rare few relics of Buddha to endure his last rites that is older than 2,500 years. The tooth was covertly slipped into Sri Lanka from India more than 1,700 years back to guard it against the disparages of an ireful emperor. Since, then, the tightly protected tooth is taken out for a parade annually for public viewing, though its replica is paraded, as the original is believed to be quite valuable.

The Esala Perahera in Kandy is justly the Indian Mardi Gras sans the profligacy, intoxication or scantily clad women folk.

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  1. Beautiful narrative of Esala Perahera!

    Keep up the good work!!
    Kirigalpoththa´s last blog ..Banyan Tree My ComLuv Profile

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