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One of the main Cultural celebrations of Colombo, The Navam Perahera, is one event to bring people from all our the globe to The capital of Sri Lanka. This Perahara is held annually on the month of February. It is an event which can be enjoyed regardless of your nationality and ethnicity, Colombo’s Navam Perahera is quite similar to Kandy’s Esala Perahera. The Navam Perahera starts at the Gangaramaya Temple, which is also known as the “ temple by the Lake”, and Parades around the Viharamadevi Park and Navam Mawatha.
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 Buddhist Parade revolves around a Large Tusker who carries a casket full of sacred relics which hold extreme Religious values to Buddhists.Along with 49 other elephants, there are many performers who parade through the streets of Colombo exhibiting varies talents.
Whip Crackers: They have several purposes. Men parade the streets cracking their whips; Their first purpose is to clear the streets for the main Procession to pass without any disruption. The second purpose is to signal the onlookers of the arrival of the main Perahera. It is often told that celestial beings here the cracking of the whips and it serves as an invitation for them to watch the procession. They are followed by a collection of young and old devotees carrying trays of Flowers.
Elephants: Tuskers and Elephants are dressed in beautiful colorful clothes, these majestic creatures look even mightier being adorned with jewelry and shining colors. Usually, their costumes contain 3 parts: the “Netti Malaand” which is the Forehead garland, the “Kan Joduwa” which is the ear ornament and the body part. The most beautifully adorned is the Main Majestic Tusker who carries the sacred relics. He is regarded as the highlight of the whole Perehera.
Hewisi Drummers: The most important group of the whole procession. The Hewisi Drummers consist of drummers who play Sri Lankan Drums. The “Daula”, the “Thammettama” and the trumpet “Horanewa” are the drums used on this occasion. The reason why the Drummers are regarded as the most important group is that they provide the rhythm to which the other performers perform.
Dancers: There are three types of Dancers who move through the Procession. First comes the “Vannam” dancers. They specialize in singing Vannams, which are verses sung to give their performance a lyrical music. Next comes the “Ves Natuma” dancers. These dancers have to a long strenuous training in order to perfect this dance. It is a style fo dancing which comes from the hill city of Sri Lanka, Kandy. This dance requires the dancers to wear a beautiful headdress, this headdress is the reason why it takes years to perfect this dance due to its weight and size. Finally comes The Pantheru Dancers. These dancers have a small musical instrument called “Pantheru” which they use while dancing.
Borukakul Karayo: These performers specialize in walking on stilts. They walk above the crowds on two long pieces of wood and leer and sneer at the spectators for their amusement.
You can witness this unique display of performances and the true beauty of Sri Lankan culture which has been preserved for so many generations. You can also buy a lot of street food during this event. Spending a day at the Navam Perahera is a unique experience which will give you a glimpse into the true culture and traditions of Sri Lana. Tourists and thousands of locals flock to witness this event, and it's definitely guranteed not to disappoint you.
In 2018 the dates of the Navam Maga Perahera is on the 28th of February and the 1st of March.