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The Kandy Dala Perahera is considered to be one of the most beautiful cultural events in Asia. The celebration is intended to honor the Sacred Tooth Relic and the found main guardian gods, Natha, Vishnu, Kataragama and Pattini. The colourful event consists of various types of dancers, drummers, fire-dancers, whip-dancers, and beautifully dressed elephants. The festival has three major processions, Kumbal Perahera, Randoli Perahera and Diya Kapeema (Water Cutting Ceremony) at the Mahaweli River at Getambe temple. The festival is a unique identity of Sri Lanka and a must see event.
The history of Esala Perahera dates back to the 3rd-century BC, first it was a ritual to honor the gods and seek protection and rainfalls for cultivations. It was then transformed into the current Dalada PErahera in the 4th-Century to honor the Sacred Tooth Relic and the guardian gods of Buddhism.
The perahera starts with a ceremony called Kap Sitaweema or Kappa where four sanctified young Jackfruit trees were cut and planted in the premises of the found shires of gods Natha, Vishnu, Kataragama and Pattini. The next five days the “Devale Perahara” takes place within the premises of the four shires. On the sixth day the Kumbal Perahara starts, it continues on for five consecutive days. Each day the Kumbal Perahera starts at an auspicious time. Whip crackers and fireball acrobats clear the road for the parade, followed Buddhist flag bearers, “Peramune Rala” (front official) of the Perahara, Kadyan drummers, dancers, elephants and musicians. A replica of the relic casket placed in a chamber called “Ransivige” was carried by the Maligawa Elephant in the Kumbal Perahera, the Diyawadana Nilame of the temple of tooth follows the elephant with the lay custodians “Basnayake Nilames” of the devalas. An interesting fact is that only the goddess Pattini’s procession includes female dancers.
After five nights of the perahera the Randoli Maha Peraha commence, and goes on for five nights. The pageant ends with a ceremony called “Diya Kapeema” or water cutting ceremony at the Mahaweli rivers at Gatambe.
The whole festival lasts for about sixteen days, and it is considered as the unique identity of Sri Lankan culture. If you are planning to experience make sure to reserve seats to view the perahera, seats at the queens hotel are the best offering views of the Dalada Maligawa. The perahera takes place for about 3 hours, and be prepared to wait even longer.