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Since 2008 this festival is being held in August instead of July. Perahera procession is taken every year since about 300 AD. This is avery colorful cultural & religious event , having fire-juggling acrobats, sumptuously-decorated elephants, traditional dancers, oboe-tooting musicians, banners, palanquins, whip crackers, torch bearers and thousands of barefoot pilgrims and swordsmen.
The event is made even more mesmerising as it happens at night. The old cannon booms after dusk and the Perahera (paraders) take to the streets for ten nights, with the parades growing ever longer each night until the final night of pageantry, when the parade is at its finest.
The festival is a synthesis of Hindu and Buddhist beliefs and is dedicated not just to Skanda but also to Buddha. It is held to invoke the blessings of the gods for rain, fertility, successful crops and good health.
Elephants feature heavily as they are symbols of abundance and fertility - the "clouds who walk the Earth", and are instrumental in attracting the vital rains for harvest time. Sid was there and describes this year's event:
"Well, this is believed to be the most colorful procession in Asia where beast
and men walk hand in hand. The story has it that during the reign of last king
of the Kandyan Kingdom, the annual exposure of the tooth relic (mailgawa is
famed for amongst tourist and locals) in form of a procession took place to
blessing to the country and its people. This is a very elaborate affair involving thousands of men and women (though not so many in number), elephants in regal costumes accompanied by tom tom beaters who parade the inner city streets for 10 days. The Perahara gathers momentum during its last five days
with more additions. It last for about four hours of viewing and some 75 elephants and 1,500 men took part
the night I was there.
The Perahara consist of five groups namely Maligawa (temple of tooth) which is the grandest, followed by 4 devales (temples surrounding Maligawa believed to be the seats of three gods and one goddess allied to Buddhism)......
It undoubtedly is one of the foremost World Heritage events named by the UNESCO,
attracting thousands of pilgrims and tourists to the hill city of Kandy every
year, not only to pay homage to the Sacred Tooth Relic, but also to see Buddhist
art, culture, the rituals of Thevava and the Kandyan dancing so unique to the
Four hundred and ten years have passed since the Dalada or the Sacred Tooth Relic of Buddha came to Kandy. It considered as the most precious possession of Buddhists the world over and has emerged miraculously unscathed through many human-made catastrophes such as wars and foreign invasions including the bomb attack a few years ago, although its residency has passed through many temples such the ones found in Arattana, Yapahuwa, Polonnaruwa and Isurumuniya, to mention a few.
For residents of Kandy, Dalada Perahera is an annual event. Tour agents grab all
rooms in hotels and guest houses well before the Perahera and even private homes
keep a room in readiness for tourists. In the final Randoli stages of the
Perahera, you will rarely find a vacant room in Kandy and the few available
charge as much as Rs. 7000 per night.
While the Perahera attracts a large number of international tourists, a regular
feature is the traditional journey made by rural men, women and children. For
them, this annual pilgrimage is a celebration looked forward to every year. They
come days ahead and reserve their lakeside space by spreading a tarpaulin,
waiting for the Perahera to begin.
In recognition of these rustic pilgrims, the Kandy local authorities have been
restrained from erecting seats along the lake rounds, as they do in other parts
of the Kandy city, the cost of which changes according to how good the view is.
As in the last year, the on-going peace process is expected to bring in throngs
of Northern and Eastern tourists to Kandy, uniting peoples from two ends of the
country in common appreciation of a common culture, native to and shared by all
who inhabit Sri Lanka, as a heritage of
Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim, Burgher or every race living there.
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