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Peraheras are annual Buddhist festivals that take place in Sri Lanka. It is an occasion where hundreds and hundreds of Locals flock together on the street to witness a parade meant to honor the gods. In a Perahera Tuskers and Elephants parade the city with hundreds of dancers with unique abilities. These colorful pageants are an event which not only Locals but tourists can enjoy too. There are three main Peraheras which take place annually.
The purpose of the Esala Mangalaya or the Esala Perahera is to honor the Sacred tooth relic and the four guardian Gods Vishnu, Kataragama, Natha and Goddess Pattini. The Sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha is paraded through to streets of Kandy, this procession is done to obtain the blessings of the gods to obtain rain for the cultivation of Crops and the enrichment and development of the Kingdom.This Perahera is the only one in the world which is held for 10 consecutive days with more than 50 tuskers and elephants and more than 100 of elegantly dressed dancers and drummers.The Kandy Esala Perahera is a unique religious and cultural icon of Sri Lanka as well as a vibrant festival to all eyes.
The Esala Perahera is held in the month of August.
Click here for more information on the Esala Maha Perahera
The Navam Perahera is held on the Navam poya day of Every year, in 2018 it falls on the 28th of February. The importance of the Navam poya day is it honors the day Arahat’s Sariputta and Moggallana were appointed as the first chief disciples of Lord Buddha. Initially, Gangaramaya temple organized an Esala Perahera, but it was forced to be stopped due to financial shortcomings. But then, later on, they restarted their efforts as the “Navam Perahera” and this peripheral gained success. Though it is now known as the Navam Perahera initially it was known as the “Kolamaba Perahera”.The “Gangaramaya Raja Maha Viharaya” is responsible for organizing the only Buddhist Perahera to parade the streets of Colombo. The Gangaramaya Temple houses the sacred “Sharirika Dhathu” which is the physical remains of the enlightened one, The “Maha Bodhi” also known as the sacred Bo tree and Buddha Rupa, which are images of Lord Buddha. Located in the middle of Beira Lake, the temple also features a main temple known as the Viharaya, a pagoda known as the Cetiya, a Vihara Mandiraya, Sima Malakaya and a relic Chamber. You can also find a Library, Museum and 2 halls dedicated to almsgiving and residential purposes.
The Navam Perahera is held on 28th of February to the 1st of March.
Click here for more information on the Navam Maha Perahera
The Kataragama Perahera takes place annually during the months of July and August. This Perahera is a part of the Esala Perahera which takes part in Kandy; It is dedicated to the Hindu God of Wisdom, Skanda also known to Sri Lankans as Kataragama Deviyo. God Skanda is said to have six heads, twelve arms and twenty names. In the Kataragama temple, There are shrines dedicated to Gods Skanda, Ganesha, Vishnu also the Goddesses Kali and Pattini and Kataragama's two consorts Valli Amman and Thevani Amman.
The Kataragama Perahera is held in the month of July.
Click here for more information on the Kataragama Perahera.
An exception to these three main Peraheras, there are Perahera’s held for certain occasions. Another Perahera which is noteworthy is the Katina Perahera. This Perahera is not subject to only one location but is a Perahera which takes place from temples from all over Sri Lanka. This Perahera commences with the ending of the season of rain, the ending of the rain marks the end of dwelling indoors by monks. This rainy season starts on the Esala full moon day in July ends with the Vap full moon day in October. Thus begins the Katina period, when devotees offer fresh robes to monks who have observed "wassana", which is the term used to describes the three month period which monks spend indoors. The robes are offered in the temple in a procession called the Katina Perahera.
It is definitely recommended that you make time during your stay at Sri Lanka to witness this amazing festival. You will not be disappointed with the beauty and there is always the delicious street foods which you can purchase. It is noteworthy to know that majority or in most cases, the entire amount of participants take part in this festival as volunteers. If it was a Perahera in a Rural Village all inhabitants of the Village would band together and make this Cultural event successful. This is such an important event for Buddhists that even locals who work abroad take vacations and come back to Sri Lanka during the Perahera season to take part of it. Witnessing a Perahera is something you will not forget for the rest of your life.