Kandy Esala Perahera is a magnificent procession with dancers, elephants, drummers, musicians and yes, more elephants, parading through the streets of Kandy. It is the most colourful and elegant Buddhist festival that takes place in the month of July or August every year for 10 days to conclude on the night of the full moon of August.
Originated in 4th century as an annual ritual, enacted for Gods’ blessing for rain, fertility and health, the modern perahera has been joined by the Devale Perahera , which was dedicated to the four guardian deities, Natha, Vishnu, Kataragama, and Pattini in the 18th century.
The procession starts with a “BOOM”, a firing of the cannon to signal the parade left the Temple of the Tooth. The whip crackers leading the Perahera, let the spectators know that procession is approaching them. Then advance the torch bearers, followed by flag bearers. And the crowd enthralling Kandyan drummers and dancers follow the Peramune Rala (Front official) who is riding on an elephant behind the flag bearers.
Following more singers, dancers and caparisoned elephants, the most spectacular and most venerating element of the night is the Maligawa Tusker carrying the reliquary containing the relic casket, a substitute for the Sacred Tooth Relic. The tusker is the largest and most magnificently adorned of all, in colourful trappings decorated with gold and precious stones and fairy lights. Diyawadana Nilame (the lay custodian appointed to handle routine administrative matters) walks in traditional Kandyan-clothed finery after the tusker, followed by many more dancers, musicians elephants and hundreds of pilgrims.
The parade grows longer each night until the final night of pageantry, when the parade is at its finest. And the splendour of the procession makes it an unforgettable experience.