‘The Kandy Esala Perahera in Sri Lanka’ also known as ‘The Festival of the Tooth’ is a festival held in Kandy, Sri Lanka during July and August. The festival is celebrated every year in the form of a historical procession to pay homage to the Sacred Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha, which is housed at the Sri Dalada Maligawa in Kandy, and to please the four ‘guardian’ Gods –Natha, Vishnu, Kataragama, and the Goddess Pattini.
The Sinhalese term ‘Perahera’ means a parade of musicians, acrobats, dancers, singers, and various other performers accompanied by a large number of beautifully decorated elephants parading the streets. The procession consists of exciting traditional local dances such as fire-dances, whip-dances, and Kandyan dances.
The Esala Perahera is a combination of two kinds of Peraheras ̶ The Esala and Dalada. Esala Perahera was a ritual introduced in the 3rd century BC to please the Gods to bless with rainfall whereas the Dalada Perahera is believed to have been introduced in the 4th century CE to pay homage to the Sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha.
The Kandy Esala Perahera is started with Kap Situveema or Kappa, a process in which a sanctified young jackfruit tree is cut and planted in the premises of each of the four Devales (temples) dedicated to the four guardian Gods –Natha, Vishnu, Katharagama and the Goddess Pattini. This is done to get the divine blessing for rainfall to the country.
For the next five nights, the “Devale Peraheras” take place within the premises of the four ‘devales’. The priest of each ‘devale’ will take the pole every evening, accompanied by music and drumming. The participants will carry flags and canopies, spears, gold armaments, and the sacred insignia of the Gods. On the sixth night, the Kumbal Perahera begins and continues for five days. Then Randoli Perahera begins after five nights of the Kumbal Perahera. Randoli refers to palanquins on which the Queens of the ruling Kings traditionally traveled.
After the final Perahera, four Peraheras from the four ‘devales’ head towards the Getambe Mahaveli River near Peradeniya. The chief priests of the ‘devales’ then get into the middle of the river. Another priest marks a circle in the water with a ‘golden’ sword. The priests’ will then empty the water held in the ‘golden ewer’ into the river. This disposed water was filled at the same spot the previous year and this process will continue year after year. The process is known as ‘Diya Kepeema’ which means ‘water cutting ceremony’.