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Esala Perahera – August 11-21, 2024

Esala Perahera is celebrated annually in July or August and this year, it will be celebrated from August 11 to 21. This week-long holiday honors the Sacred Tooth Relic and the four ‘guardian’ Gods Natha, Vishnu, Kataragama, and Goddess Pattini. It is one of the greatest of all Buddhist festivals in Sri Lanka, which lasts for 10 days. It is observed during “Esala” (July or August), the month believed to commemorate the first teachings of Buddha after enlightenment. The word ‘Perahera’ refers to musicians, dancers, singers, and various other performers with numerous elephants parading the streets to celebrate religious events. The festival ends with the traditional ritual, a water cutting ceremony which is held at the Mahaweli River in Kandy.

History of Esala Perahera

During the reign of King Kirthi Sri Meghwant (305 to 331 A.D.), Prince Dantaha and Princess Hemamala, son-in-law and daughter of King Guhasiva of Kalinga, arrived in Sri Lanka. This is the beginning of the historic Ceylon Esala Perahera. The Esala Perahera, which the succession of kings was expected to attend under King Kirthi Sri Meghwant’s directive that the relic be taken around Anuradhapura once a year, was disrupted by an outside invasion.

Esala Perahera was created thanks to Upali Thera’s efforts. The original purpose of this procession was to commemorate Hindu deities, particularly those that were incorporated into Sri Lankan Buddhism. Upali Thera believed this to be inappropriate in a Buddhist country, and his influence led the king to declare that “From now on, gods and men must follow the Buddha.”

The book ‌by the Chinese pilgrim Fa Hien, who traveled to Sri Lanka in the fifth century A.D., has the best Esala Perehera version of the Buddha’s life story. The sporadic invasions of the Dravidian kingdoms resulted in the kingdom being moved from Anuradhapura to Polonnaruwa, then to Dambadeniya, and finally to other cities. At each retreat, a new temple was built to keep the relic of the sacred tooth. After shifting the capital to Kandy, the ruins were eventually abandoned. Since that time, the relic of the sacred tooth has been honored annually during the Esala Perahera.

Esala Perahera timeline

200 B.C.
Old Ritual of Esala Perahera

A ritual called the Esala Perahera is performed to ask the gods for rain.

300 A.D.
Tooth Relic is Brought to Sri Lanka

The Sacred Tooth Relic of Buddha is transported from India to Sri Lanka 800 years after his death.

400 A.D.
‘Fa Hien’

The book of Chinese pilgrim ‘Fa Hien,’ who traveled to Sri Lanka in the fifth century A.D., contains the most illuminating account of the Esala Perehera.

Custody of the Tooth Relic

When the Kandyan kingdom is conquered by the British, the Buddhist clergy is given custody of the Tooth Relic.

Esala Perahera FAQs

Who brought the tooth relic to Sri Lanka?

To prevent his foes from using it as a weapon of war, the Kalinga King Guhasiva transferred the tooth relic to Sri Lanka in the fourth century A.D. along with Prince Dantaha and Princess Hemamala.

What is Randoli Perahera?

The Randoli Perahera, also referred to as the golden palanquin, is the most exquisite and stunning Perahera. The only Perahera that features over 50 elephants and tuskers, hundreds of drummers, dancers, and singers, as well as pilgrims and spectators who are elegantly dressed.

Where is Buddha buried?

Buddha is buried in Jingchuan County city of Pingliang, in the east of China’s Gansu Province.

Esala Perahera Activities

  1. Attend a procession

    Every person is required to take part in the five processions held over 10 days on Esala Perahera. Since they are only held once a year, these processions are extremely significant to Buddhists. Therefore, the vast majority of believers are eagerly anticipating this occurrence.

  2. Participate in the ceremonies

    Besides just attending the ceremonies held on Esala Perahera, one must also try to actively take part in these religious activities to get closer to God (in which Buddhists believe). Research ways in which you can participate.

  3. Practice religious activities

    In this holy event (for Buddhists), besides participating in the processions, the believers must try to practice religious activities. One should dedicate themselves to the religion during these 10 days because it is human nature for religious practice to induce feelings of peace and fulfillment in the heart.

5 Facts About Esala Perahera Everyone Should Know

  1. The oldest edifice in Kandy

    The oldest edifice in Kandy is believed to be the 14th-century shrine that faces the Sri Dalada Maligawa.

  2. The firing of cannonballs

    There are four important timings for the firing of cannonballs, which can be heard across Kandy.

  3. The Festival of Tooth

    Esala Perahera is also termed the “Festival of Tooth.”

  4. Devale Perahera

    The Devale Perahera, which traditionally means to bless the King and his people, is held during the first five days.

  5. The processions in Esala Perahera

    The Sri Dalada Maligawa sponsors five processions at Esala Perahera, as well as four shrines honoring Hindu Gods and a Goddess.

Why We Love Esala Perahera

  1. It is a religious event

    Since Esala Perahera is one of the largest Buddhist festivals, Buddhist devotees adore it and hold it in the highest regard. Given that it is the longest religious event for the believers, this occasion is extremely significant.

  2. It honors the sacred tooth relic

    Esala Perahera is an event in which the sacred tooth relic of Buddha and the four guardians of gods are honored. The believers visit the temple of the tooth (Kandy) for all processions.

  3. We get to visit holy places

    During Esala Perahera, believers visit different holy places at different times during the 10 days, across Sri Lanka. Only once a year, the believers get to visit many of the holy places at once and learn about the history of their ancestors.

Esala Perahera dates

2022August 14Sunday
2023August 21Monday
2024August 11Sunday
2025August 10Sunday
2026August 9Sunday

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