How Is Esala Perahera Celebrated

How Is Esala Perahera Celebrated

Esala Perahera is a Buddhist festival held every year in Sri Lanka. The celebration lasts 10 nights, and is a way to pay homage to Lord Buddha’s tooth relic enshrined in Kandy. Kandy is the place of Dalada Maligava, the Temple of Tooth, where this relic is held in reserve. In the 4th century, Kandy’s king announced an annual parade to honor the relic, and since then, the celebration is held every year in the form of Esala Perahera. We have already told you how Mardi Gras is celebrated, and how Christmas is celebrated in Mexico and USA. Here at, we will tell you how is Esala Perahera celebrated.

Steps to follow:

This festival of 10 days begins on the new moon of July, during the lunar Esala month. In a way, it is also considered as a ritual to enact the summoning of rains.


It begins with a planting ceremony of a Kap tree, in which cuttings of an Esala, Rukkattana or Jak tree are planted in the 4 devales, signifying an oath to celebrate the festival.


Every night, a procession or perahera is arranged through Kandy streets. The first 5 nights are called Kumbal Perahera, and are held in a relatively lower key, but the final 5 nights, known as the Randoli Perahera, are more spectacular. The tooth relic is kept in a golden casket, which becomes the central focus in each procession.


The processions feature massive casts of participants, that include hundreds of brilliantly decorated and caparisoned elephants, and a large number of acrobats, dancers, fire eaters, jugglers and drummers showing their performances. You will see many artists walking on the stilts, swinging the fire pots, cracking the whips, with banners in their hands. During the processions, the tooth relic is carried on a Maligawa Tusker elephant’s back.


After the last procession, a water cutting ceremony is held, in which a priest cuts waters of Mahaweli Ganga with a sword. Symbolically, this ceremony signifies release of water supply for the next year and separates pure from the evil. Traditionally, the tooth relic is believed to save the country from drought.


The processions comprise of 5 separate peraheras, one from the Dalada Maligava, and 4 others from the 4 devales of Vishnu, Natha, Pattini and Kataragama. The route of the procession changes from one day to the other, though the path is always led by the perahera from the Dalada Maligava. Each procession features an elephant that carries insignia of its temple. Procession from the Dalada Maligava carries the tooth relic itself. The end and beginning of each procession is indicated with a deafening shot of cannon.


During the Esala Perahara festival, the city streets of Sri Lanka get a wave of colors, beckoning hundreds and thousands of performers, visitors and spectators to be a part of the processions. It is one of the grandest festivals held in the country, and its size is growing with each passing year.

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