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Kandy Perahera

More than 100 elephants draped in colorful finery lead thousands of devotees in 10 days of celebration at the Kandy Perahera, one of Buddhism’s oldest and biggest annual pageant or procession, happens every year since about 300 CE.

In Sri Lanka’s hill capital, Kandy, the festival is held to honour Lord Buddha’s Sacred Tooth Relic - enshrined in the city’s main temple - and showcase temple chiefs, Kandyan dancers, fire-juggling acrobats, whip crackers, palanquins, musicians and torchbearers who follow the elephants through the streets in spectacular processions.

Elaborately adorned elephants, in rows of three, sway to the beat. At times, with their trunks linked or tucked away, it almost appears as if they are joining in the dance. Flanking the entire procession are the torch-bearers. Walking with measured step, they steadfastly carry the flaming long wooden poles, their golden-orange glow tinting the scene with magic light. At regular intervals, they lower their poles to revitalize the glow with coconut shells. The heat is intense. Their bodies glisten with beads of sweat. Smoke plays tricks with the coloured lights.

Sri Lankans from all over the country and an ever increasing number of foreign visitors annually gather in Kandy to witness this colourful pageantry. They will line the streets for a series of day and night processions from August 10, culminating in the spectacular finale of the medieval pageant on August 16th.

Kandy Perahera, or Esala Perahera, named after the lunar month in which it is held, is widely regarded as the most magnificent Buddhist festival held in the world.

The highlight of the nightly procession is the brightly festooned Maligawa Tusker, the biggest elephant in the procession, entrusted with carrying the Perahera Karanduwa, a replica of the tooth casket enshrined in the temple in the 4th Century CE.

The sacred tooth itself is kept safely within the confines of seven caskets in the inner sanctum of Kandy’s Dalada Maligawa and is never removed from the temple.

To this day, each year, the most majestic pageant takes on the streets to the delight of visitors from both within and outside of Sri Lanka.

Mark the dates now, to be in the cozy town of Kandy this August to give yourself a treat of a lifetime.

Usually the main Perahera events are held on:

August - Maha Perahera

August - Day Perahera

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