Sri Lanka’s most prominent religious festival is the magnificent Kandy Esala Perahera.It is held in the hill capital of Kandy over 10 days in late July to early August and climaxing on Esala Poya.
The perahera’s origins date back to the third century BC, but the modern event originated in the mid – 18th century.
Today, thousands – including many visitors – flock to Kandy during this dazzling ten day festival, where,
the Maligawa Tusker carries the gold casket containing the relic accompanied by fellow elephants, human dancers ,touch bearers ,whippers etc.
The air is filled with the pulsating throb of a multitude of drums, the ethereal-sounding wail of wind instruments, the wicked crack of whips, even the occasional trumpeting of an elephant. There is quieter participation too, from stilt walkers, acrobats, and the most aesthetically pleasing and traditionally important of all the performers, the dancers.
In the southeast of the island, the sacred site of Kataragama is brought to life with its unique annual Esala Festival,
The festival commemorates the victory the six-faced, 12-armed Hindu war god, Skanda.
Naturally, many Hindu devotees make the pilgrimage to the shrine, but Buddhists, Muslims and some Christians also honour this god. During this 10-day festival pilgrims demonstrate their sincerity by performing astonishing acts of penance and self-motivation. These include walking barefoot atop hot coals and spearing themselves with hooks.
At Dondra, Sri Lanka’s southernmost point, just five kilometers from Matara, a notable festival dedicated to Lord Vishnu featuring low-country dances, traditional rituals, a perahera and a handicrafts fair, is held in July. During the same month and commencing on the Easala Poya Day is a seven-day festival with a perahera in Unawatuna, near Galle, where devotees descend on the village and beach. At Bellanwila, just south of Colombo, another perahera takes place during the week-long poya festivities held at the historic Rajamaha Vihara.
Hindus celebrate a festival known as Vel in July to mark the triumph of Lord Murugan (another aspect of the war god Skanda) over evil powers. A magnificent silver-plated chariot bearing a statue of Lord Murugan leaves a kovil in the Pettah, a commercial district of Colombo, and is lead by procession to another kovil in Bambalapitiya, followed by musicians and devotees smashing coconuts and singing songs of praise to Lord Shiva. Along the route there are stalls selling sweet delicacies, souvenirs and handicrafts to passers-by.
The Munneswaram Temple, three kilometers from Chillaw, is another focus of celebration for Hindus in July as they celebrate with fire-walking in devotion to Lord Shiva while another small festival is held at the seaside shrine of Udappuwa.
The Nallur Festival in Jaffna in August is the island’s longest festival. Spanning 25 days of vibrant chariot processions, drumming, dancing and acts of self-mortification, held in honour of the war god Skanda.
The Festivities on the Beach are a rare occasion where a blend of music, art performances, kite festivals, surfing, beach parties, weddings and leisure activities take place. The magical experience on the beach will lift your spirits becoming a feast for your eyes ! come, and explore the wonder !