Esala Perahera

29 Jul 2017 - 8 Aug 2017
Kandy, Sri Lanka

This bright, bold Buddhist Festival is a multi-hued extravaganza and one of Sri Lanka's biggest cultural events.

  • When? 29th July - 8th August 2017
  • Where? Kandy
  • Price: free

Multi-coloured elephants and cutting water with a sword may sound all a bit Fantasia-esque but both are intrinsic parts of Esala Perahera, held every year around July and August.

The arrival of the Tooth Relic in the fourth century is celebrated for ten days as Kandy remembers its Chinese-Buddhist origins. To begin with the Kapy Tree Planting Ceremony is observed - Esala tree cuttings are planted and vows are spoken before the Perahera (parade) begins. The first five evenings of the festival are known as the Kumbal Perahera, which are relatively low-key processions that wind through the city streets. On day six, the Randoli Perahera gets going when a colourful and jubilant Sri Lanka is at its best. The final evening's Maha Perahera (Grand Parade) is when wonderfully decorated elephants, thundering drummers and flipping acrobats march through the streets with a replica casket of the Tooth Relic carried triumphantly by a Maligawa Tusker elephant. 

The festival winds down on day ten at the Water Cutting Ceremony. Here, a priest wades into the Mahaweli Ganga to slice and cut the water with a sword, this action will protect the city against drought in the coming year. The lengthy stages make this a tough one to experience in its entirety but definitely consider the elephant and percussion climax. And one thing we can guarantee? They'll be no Mickey Mouse or dancing broomsticks.

  • Get there: Bandaranaike International Airport is the closest airport to Kandy. Take a taxi to Gampaha Station then hop on the Colombo to Kandy train.
  • Stay: Find a hotel in the heart of the city so you don't miss a second of the festivities.

*We do our very best to verify the dates of our events but please check with the official event provider before booking your flights. We would hate for you to be disappointed!