Kandy Esala Perahera

The best season to visit Kandy is in August when the event Kandy is most famous for takes place – the Kandy Esala perahera or pageant. Hosted by the Temple of the Tooth, this event spans over two weeks, taking on festival-like proportions and equally charged preparations. Thousands of visitors throng Kandy town, calling for special traffic and security arrangements.

At this time of the year, hotel occupancy in Kandy is completely saturated and to accommodate guests and visitors to Kandy even private homeowners are known to open their homes to strangers. The perahera is a rich concoction of the best of Buddhist and Sinhala culture. The procession displays various traditional dancers, martial artists, flag bearers and musicians depicting the various pre-colonial districts coming under the jurisdiction of the monarchies both of the ‘up country’ or hills as well as the ‘low country’ or plains of the island. The procession takes on a carnival atmosphere with its stilt-walkers, traditional drummers, whip dancers and fire stunts. These occupations requiring immense skill and perfection are handed down from generation to generation, in service of the Temple. The highlight of the event and what most visitors, especially children, come to see is the procession of decorated elephants.

The last attraction and the ultimate reason for the procession is to parade Buddha’s Tooth Relic mounted high up on a specially trained elephant, adopted, bred and dedicated to this purpose by the Temple mahouts. Some of the elephants showcased in the procession are owned by the Temple Trust and are cared for with special treatment for the purpose of the perahera. They are sometimes brought out to the Temple gardens for people to touch, as they are considered sacred to devotees.

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