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Kandy Esala Perahera – Sri Lanka’s most vibrant cultural event

Held annually in the full-moon month of ‘Esala’, the Kandy Esala Perahera is the ultimate celebration and showcase of Sri Lanka’s rich heritage and vibrant culture.

Sri Lanka's Kandy Esala procession is held annually to pay homage to Lord Buddha
Sri Lanka’s Kandy Esala procession is held annually to pay homage to Lord Buddha

The significance of the month of ‘Esala’ (which falls in July or August) is that it is believed to commemorate the very first teaching imparted by the Buddha, following his enlightenment.

Conducted in reverence to the sacred Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha which is contained in the ancient palace of Kandy known as ‘Sri Dalada Maligawa’, the flamboyant annual procession unites Sri Lankans from all corners of the island and draws culture enthusiasts from across the globe.

This year, the Kandy Esala Perahera is scheduled to take place from the 16th to the 26th of August in its usual series of colourful Kumbal Peraheras, Randoli Peraheras, and vivacious ritualistic ceremonies.

 Sri Lanka's Kandy Esala cultural event
Sri Lanka’s Kandy Esala cultural event

Majestic origins and timeless rituals: The Esala Perahera in Kandy is one of the oldest and most significant of all Buddhist festivals in Sri Lanka.

The Sinhalese term ‘Perahera’ refers to a procession of ceremonial musicians, drummers, dancers, singers, acrobats, whip crackers, flag bearers, sword carriers, fireball dancers, and various other performers accompanied by a large number of elaborately adorned elephants parading the streets in celebration of a religious event.  

The entire route of the procession is decorated with lights that are beautifully synchronized with the proceedings and performances of each Perahera.
 Sri Lanka's Kandy Esala cultural event
Sri Lanka’s Kandy Esala cultural event

Primarily hosted to honour the sacred Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha, the Esela Perahera is also conducted with the intention of seeking blessings from the divinities for bountiful rains and a prosperous harvest, as well as an intercession to shower blessings on the people.

The illustrious ten-day festival commences with the ‘KapSituveema’ – a ritual where young jackfruit trees are planted in the premises of each of the four ‘Devales’ (Shrines of God) dedicated to the four ‘Guardian Gods’ Natha, Vishnu, Katharagama and Pattini, and ends with the traditional ‘Diya Kepeema’ – a water cutting ceremony which is held at the Mahaweli River at Getambe in Kandy.

 An idyllic base in the heart of the bustling festivities: Located 116km away from Colombo, in Sri Lanka’s scenic Hill Country, Cinnamon Citadel Kandy is nestled in the heart of the city of Kandy, making it the ideal base for those traveling from far and wide to view the Perahera.

Set against the picturesque backdrop of the Knuckles Mountain Range shrouded in varying degrees of mist, and built to resemble the majestic realm of the last Sinhalese kings, Cinnamon Citadel Kandy takes you on an enchanting cultural journey and tells you an ancient tale of its own.

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