August 2019


Kandy Esala Perahera: An Awe-Inspiring Display of Heritage and Traditions
August 2019




The majestic tusker taking measured steps down the streets, carrying the golden casket is an awe-inspiring sight.

The streets of Kandy are full of people from all walks of life, quietly waiting. Every now and then, eager children would ask the question running through the minds of all - ‘Is it time yet?', until suddenly, the sounds of whips cracking on the ground is heard, and everyone realises that the Esala Perahera is on its way.

Words: Gayathri Kothalawala.

Photography: Dalada Maligawa Media Unit.

Come August, Kandy attracts Sri Lankans and foreigners to view the Kandy Esala Perahera. As the sun sets beyond the mountains, a hush falls over the gathering, as all along the streets, lights are lit. With the crack of the whip, the perahera begins to move. The whip crackers are followed by the fire twirlers. The sounds and the sights remind onlookers of thunder and lightning that herald rain.


Torch bearers add further illumination to the brightly lit atmosphere. Astride a majestic elephant, the Peramune Rala (an officer) leads the procession. He is followed by the Gajanayake Nilame, the keeper of tamed elephants. In the olden days, he was charged with the welfare of all the elephants that belonged to the king.

Crowds burst into a chant of ‘sadhu sadhu’ as the tusker takes measured steps down the street.


In their wake comes a dazzling arrays of music, song, and dance that keep the viewers spellbound. Hevisi players and thammettam drummers create beautiful beats and rhythms. The bedecked elephants that come next slowly shuffle their feet in tune to the music, lifting their trunks. Raban dancers twirl small raban balanced on poles, throwing them high in the air. They catch the raban seamlessly and move down the street making way to the udekki dancers. The small hand drum is said to be constructed according to the instructions given by God Sakra. Rhythmically swaying elephants travel down the road to reveal pantheru dancers. Pantheruwa is said to have been used by Gods to celebrate their battle victories.


The Ves dancers step to the vannam as they pay homage to the revered Tooth Relic. These dancers herald the arrival of the Kariya Karawana Korale (Official responsible for the functioning of the Temple of the Tooth Relic). He is accompanied by temple functionaries, dancers, and drummers. Then comes the majestic caparisoned tusker bearing the Sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha enshrined in a golden casket. Crowds burst into a chant of ‘sadhu sadhu' as the tusker takes measured steps down the street. He is accompanied on either side by two other elephants.


A kavi maduwa - a platform comprising of poets, and artists - follows the main tusker. As they sing songs in praise of the Buddha, the Diyawadana Nilame (Chief Lay Custodian in charge of the Tooth Relic) and the Gam Vidanes follow behind, concluding the Sri Dalada Perahera.


The processions for Gods Natha, Katharagama, Vishnu and Paththini come next. The pageant for God Natha is followed by the perahera for God Vishnu. Next, the procession for God Katharagama is followed by the parade for Goddess Paththini.


The first five days of the perahera are known as Kumbal Perahera. On the last five days the perahera bursts into an extravaganza known as Randoli Perahera. The Maha Randoli Perahera on the tenth day is the grandest of all and is followed by a Day Perahera, which concludes with the Water Cutting ceremony.

Esala Perahera 2019

August 5th -  1st Kumbal Perahera
August 6th - 2nd Kumbal Perahera
August 7th -  3rd Kumbal Perahera
August 8th - 4th Kumbal Perahera
August 9th - 5th Kumbal Perahera
August 10th - 1st Randoli Perahera
August 11th - 2nd Randoli Perahera
August 12th - 3rd Randoli Perahera
August 13th - 4th Randoli Perahera
August 14th - Maha Randoli Perahera
August 15th - Day Perahera

  • image01
    image01

    The Sacred Tooth Relic is ceremoniously escorted upon pavada to the lower chamber.

    Prev Next
  • image01
    image01

    The intricately adorned casket being carried by the Diyawadana Nilame.

    Prev Next
  • image01
    image01

    Temple functionaries carry flowers symbolising the offerings to the revered Tooth Relic.

    Prev Next
  • image01
    image01

    TheVes dancers are one of the main highlights of the grand perahera.

    Prev Next
  • image01
    image01

    Pantheru dancers from the Paththini Devalaya – the only instance where female dancers can join in.

    Prev Next
  • image01
    image01

    Hevisi drummers create beautiful beats and rhythms.

    Prev Next