Spectacular Kandy Esala ceremony why is it so special?

The dates for the 2023 annual Esala Perahera were officially published today (05.06.2023) by the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic in Kandy (Dalada Maligawa). In Kandy, the yearly Esala festival will therefore start on August 17 and last until August 31. On August 21 and continuing through August 25, Kandy will host the first Kumbal Perahera. August 26 marks the start of the Randoli Perahera and ends on August 30. A water-cutting ceremony will mark the end of the Esala festival on August 30.

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Kandy

Kandy is a significant historical city in the Central Province of Sri Lanka. It served as Sri Lanka’s final kingship capital in the past. The city is located on the Kandy plateau, which crosses a region of tropical plantations, primarily tea plantations. As the capital of the Central Province, Kandy serves as both an administrative and a religious centre. The Temple of the Tooth Relic (Sri Dalada Maligawa), one of the most revered temples in Buddhism, is located in Kandy. UNESCO designated it a World Heritage Site in 1988. Local Buddhist leaders have historically resisted Portuguese, Dutch, and British colonial encroachment and occupation.

Kandy Esala ceremony

The festival of Tooth Relic is an event that takes place in July and August in Kandy, Sri Lanka (also known as the Sri Dalada Perahara procession). Each year, this ancient procession is undertaken to honour the Buddha’s Sacred Tooth Relic, which is kept at the Sri Dalada Maligawa in Kandy. The procession features distinctively Sri Lankan dances, including fire dances and performers in whip-dance attire. The Diya-kepeema rite, a water-cutting ceremony done at the Mahaweli River in Getambe, Kandy, traditionally marks the end of the celebration.

Kandy Esala ceremony 2023

The dates for the 2023 annual Esala Perahera were officially published today (05.06.2023) by the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic in Kandy (Dalada Maligawa). In Kandy, the yearly Esala festival will therefore start on August 17 and last until August 31. On August 21 and continuing through August 25, Kandy will host the first Kumbal Perahera. August 26 marks the start of the Randoli Perahera and ends on August 30. A water-cutting ceremony will mark the end of the Esala festival on August 30.

The Procession

A young, sanctified Jackfruit tree (Artocarpus integrifolia) is chopped down and placed on the grounds of each of the four Devales devoted to the four guardian gods Natha, Vishnu, Katharagama, and the goddess Pattini as the Kap Situveema or Kappa, which marks the start of the Kandy Esala Perahera. It was traditionally intended to bless both the King and the populace.

Devala Perahera

The “Devale Peraheras” last for the following five nights, with the priest of each Devale taking the pole each evening. There is also music and drumming, flag and canopy bearers, spearmen, and the Ran Ayudha (gold Armaments), the sacred symbol of the Gods, as well as flag and canopy bearers.

Kumbal Perahera

The Kumbal Perahera starts on the sixth night and lasts for five days. The Devale Peraheras first congregate in front of the Temple of the Tooth, Sri Lanka’s most revered Buddhist site, where the Buddha’s Sacred Tooth Relic has been kept since the 16th century. They are joined by the Basnayake Nilames, the Devales’ lay guardians, who have their insignias placed on the ransivige.

The Maligawa Elephant’s ransivige is attached to the replica Tooth Relic coffin, which is then placed inside. The Maligawa Perahera then joins the waiting Devale Peraheras and leads the procession. The Buddhist flag bearers clear the way after whip-crackers and flaming acrobats. Then, the official known as Peramuna Rala (Front Official) mounts the first elephant. Elephants, various groups of musicians, dancers, and flag bearers follow him, and he is followed by Kandyan Drummers and Dancers who captivate the audience. The Maligawa Tusker bringing the Sacred Tooth Relic is greeted by a choir of singers in white. The Diyawadana Nilame follows the tusker while dressed in traditional Kandyan splendour. He is historically obligated to do everything in his power to guarantee rain falls during the proper season.

The second procession originates from the Natha Devale, which was constructed in the fourteenth century and faces the Sri Dalada Maligawa.

The Katharagama Devale procession

The third is from the Maha Devale, also known as the Vishnu Devale (Vishnu is a Hindu divinity). It is located in front of Natha Devale’s main entrance.
The fourth procession originates from the Katharagama Devale, which is located on Kottugodalle Vidiya (a street in Kandy) and is devoted to the deity of Kataragama Deviyo, also known as the warrior deity Skanda. In this procession, the pilgrim dances the Kavadi, or peacock dance, in which they carry semicircular wooden devices decorated with peacock feathers on their shoulders.

The Pattini Devale, which is to the west of the Natha Devale and is home to a goddess known for curing infectious ailments and being invoked during times of famine and drought, is the location of the fifth and final procession. Only this procession features female dancers.

The Perahera of Randoli

After the Kumbal Perahera has lasted five nights, the Randoli Perahera gets underway. Randoli alludes to the palanquins that the queens of the governing Kings would usually ride. Thousands of people attend Kandy Esala Maha Perahera (Randoli Perahera) every year, which takes place on the day of the full moon.

The Day Perahera and Diya Kepeema

The pageant concludes with the Diya Kepeema, a water-cutting ritual at the Mahaweli River in Getambe, a town near Kandy, after a further five nights of the Randoli Perahera. The ritual is commemorated by a Day Perahera.

What can we see in the Kandy Esala ceremony?

The term Kandy Esala ceremony comes to the fore every year with the nearing of the full moon day of August. It is due to the annual event of the Kandy Esala ceremony, which will come to a climax on the full moon day of August. The pageant is one of the most beautiful cultural events in Sri Lanka.

The Kandy Esala ceremony is full of dancers, drummers, musicians, acrobats, and nicely decorated elephants. The Kandy Esala ceremony is a magnificent display of traditional dancing, music, chanting, puppetry, fire-eating and drumming.

August is one of the best months to travel to the island of Sri Lanka, due to the favourable weather for outdoor activities in August. Usually, tourist arrival to the island is largely reduced with the beginning of the southwest monsoon every year (April).

South-west monsoon is in full force over a large part of Sri Lanka from April to November. Due to the effect of the monsoon a large part of Sri Lanka coming under heavy rain. During the southwest monsoon, the number of foreign travellers on the island reduces by a great number. The period from April to October is regarded as the low season in Sri Lanka’s tourism industry.

The arrival of foreign tourists hit rock bottom, especially from European countries, in the month of May due to the unfavourable weather and continues through June and July. A temporary, sharp increase in tourist arrival was witnessed again in the month of August and the majority of those tourists do not forget to witness the pageant of the Esala ceremony of Kandy.

A large number of spectators of the Esala ceremony make their journey in the month of August in view of the Esala ceremony. The annual pageant is world-renowned and attracts nearly 600000 tourists to Kandy.

The majority of eyeballs gathering to witness this pageant are from Sri Lanka and they are gathering in Kandy from all parts of the country representing all religious groups and ethnic groups.

The historical importance of the Esala ceremony

This historical and religious event is known as the Esala ceremony and its beginning goes back to the 2nd century AD. July and August are the main Perahera season of the country, during which Perahera or processions is organized in many parts of the country.

If you choose July and August for the Sri Lanka weather and Sri Lanka rain season, then you have the best chance of witnessing one of these beautiful traditional events. This colourful pageant can be seen in Kandy, Kataragama and Colombo city. The venue for the grandest Perahera or procession of the island is Kandy, the temple of the tooth.

In general, Perahera also celebrates one or several gods such as God Ganesh, God Vishnu, Saman, Goddess Pattini, and God Kataragama. Each of these Gods and goddesses is believed to be capable of helping with certain areas of life.

The tooth relic temple is an important tourist attraction in Kandy, which hosts the annual religious event. The Kandy Esala ceremony is the most important ceremony in the tooth relic temple of Kandy and it has a very high religious significance.

The ceremony is a merit-making activity for participants as well as for spectators. Especially the people and performers who participated in the procession should strictly adhere to certain customs and rituals. 

As the beginning of the Perahera draws near, the participants must observe certain customs and rituals and dedicate themselves to the god. The houses are whitewashed, sins are forgiven and people stick to the five precepts of the teaching of Buddha, they refrain from eating fish, and any form of meat.

Modern Kandy Esala Ceremony

The Maha Sangha (the Buddhist Clergy) received possession of the Relic after the Kandyan Kingdom was conquered by the British in 1815. A man lay custodian known as the “Diyawadana Nilame” was chosen to oversee routine administrative tasks pertaining to the relic and its care while the monarch was away.

Book Kandy Esala Ceremony Tour

Local tour operators such as Seerendipity Tours organize special package tours for travellers, who wish to witness the Kandy Esala ceremony. The tour starts from Colombo and it is a 2 days trip starting from Colombo and beach hotels on the west coast. Apart from the opportunity to witness the spectacular Kandy Esala ceremony the travellers have the opportunity to visit many tourist hot spots in this 2 days tour.

Places included in the Kandy Esala Ceremony tour

  • Pinnawala Elephant orphanage
  • Peradeniya Botanical garden
  • Spice/Herbal garden
  • Tempel of the tooth relic
  • Gem Museum
  • Tea plantation and Tea garden
  • Kandyan cultural show

Hill Country Blue train trip

The travellers can also extend the Kandy Esala Ceremny tour to accommodate the Sri Lanka hill country blue train journey, which is considered to be one of the most scenic train trips in the world. If you extend the Kandy Esala ceremony tour with the hill country train journey, then you have the opportunity to witness the beautiful sri Labka hill country with the Nuwara Eliya city tour.

How much does it cost for the Kandy Esala Ceremony tour?

The Kandy Esala ceremony tour cost US$ 350 p.p. based on 2 persons.

What includes in the Kandy Esala Ceremony Tour?

The Kandy Esala ceremony tour includes below major tourist places and activities,

  • Entire ground transportation with an A/C vehicle
  • Service of a local guide
  • All entrance fees
  • 1 Night accommodation in a standard hotel
  • 1 dinner and 1 breakfast
  • All taxes

How to book Kandy Esala Ceremony Tour?

You can book Kandy Esala Ceremony Tour or get more information on the trip by writing to us at admin@seerenipitytours.com or WhatsApp us at 009477440977.

Book your seat in our Kandy-Nuwara Eliya – for 2 days and witness the Esala ceremony

The Kandy Perahera or Esala ceremony attracts nearly one million audiences during the event (10 days). The event takes place for ten consecutive days in the city of Kandy. The most colourful days of the event are the last two days of the Perahera, which is known as Randholi Perahera. Rangoli means Queens Palanquin. Large gatherings can be seen during the Randholi Perahera.

The chief participant of the Perahera is known as “Diyawadana Nilame”, the caretaker of the Temple of the Tooth. He wears the traditional Kandyan court dress in white colour and walks in the parade. He is accompanied by the caretakers of the Sataramaha Devala, the rest of the temples that participate in the Procession. The chiefs are the symbol of the vestige of the Kandyan kingdom, the last capital of Sri Lankan kings.

The significance of the Kandy Esala ceremony

The whole event evolved around the tooth relic of Buddha and a copy of this sacred object is taken around the temple during the Perahera. A magnificently decorated tusker is carrying the distinguished object, which is deposited in a golden casket. All the bystanders pay their respect to the tooth relic by standing from their seats when the tusker passes by.

The Perahera is an event important for Sri Lanka’s history, customs, rituals and traditions and the event enhances the faith of people in the sacred object. Artistically the Perahera improves the creative talents of Sri Lankan performing artists.

Perahera is a good reason for artists to practice their dance form throughout the year. It is a reason for making new artists on behalf of the older artists, to represent the families that are privileged by the king to participate in the event.

Taking part in the Esala ceremony is believed to be a great honour and a merit-making act for the participants. Hence it is an opportunity not to miss. The Perahera passes all aspects of Sri Lanka’s life from one generation to another. Hence it is a cultural inheritance for the coming generations that should be preserved by the current generation.

The route of the procession

The route of the procession varies day by day. The procession gets longer each day and the longest procession can be seen on the Last day of the festival, which is the final Rnadholee procession. The procession begins at the temple of the tooth relic and parades on the main road around the temple before it ends at the same venue.

Starting from Kumbsal Perahera the procession parade on the street for 10 consecutive nights. The Perahera or precession of the first 5 consecutive nights is called KUMBAL Perahera. During the Kumbal Perahera, the procession parade on the main road around an anthill, the name of the KUMBAL is taken from the local name for the anthill ‘KUMBAL’.

The start of the Randholee procession or Perahera takes place on the 6th night of the Esala ceremony. The chieftains of each temple dressed in official attire (Kandyan court dress ) and walks in the procession. Starting from the 1st Kumbal Perahera the beauty of the pageant gets grander. On each night the number of elephants and performers increased and the procession gets longer and longer each day. As the procession gets grander, more colourful and longer the route of the procession is also changed.

When does the ceremony start?

The performers of the procession and the elephants hit the street at an auspicious time, which is decided by the temple’s astrologer. Therefore the beginning of the processions (10 processions on 10 consecutive days) largely varied each day and starting time of the procession is declared in advance. Consult your travel agent to get to know the starting time of the procession before you head to Kandy.

Can I buy a seat during the ceremony?

As the procession takes place, the spectators gather on either side of the street and enjoy the traditional music and performances of the dancers. The final Randholee procession lasts around 5 hours and it would be a tedious task to stand all the while. In fact, there is a large concentration of people on the road to take a closer look at the tooth relic. It will be very uncomfortable to stand on the highly crowded pavement of the road.

If you wish to avoid the inconvenience and avoid the crowd the only possibility is to buy a seat. The prices of the seats differ depending on the crowd usually the rates for the seat are at their highest on the last day of the pageant, which attracts the largest number of eyeballs on all 10 days.

Usually, The seats are arranged in a building on both sides of the road, on which the dancers and elephants parade and the seat command betters and clear view of the pageant. Therefore buying a seat allows you to have comfort as well as a clear view of the Perahera. There is a high demand for seats for the annual Esala ceremony and therefore it is highly advisable to book seats in advance.

Accommodation in Kandy during the Perahera season

The city attracts nearly a million people from Sri Lanka as well as foreign travellers during the Esala ceremony. Therefore the city is extremely crowded. The organizers of the Festival arrange the facilities required by the spectators such as toilet facilities, security, etc. But the travellers who headed to Kandy had to find accommodation on their own.

The cost of accommodation rises sharply during the festival due to the high demand. Some properties increase their rates by more than 100% and it all depends on the demand. Almost every hotel imposes a supplement on every room during the Esala ceremony and most hotels increase their rates sharply as the availability of rooms reduces.

It will not be possible to get a room at the last moment during the festival season, even if it is possible to get a room at the last moment the travellers have to pay far more than the average rate. The best advice we can give you is to book your accommodation in advance if you are hoping to witness the procession. Thereby you can avoid paying an unworthy amount of money for the accommodation.

The Kandy Esala ceremony consists of 5 major parts, as below

  1. The procession tooth relic temple
  2. The procession Natah devala
  3. The procession of Vishnu devala
  4. The procession of Kataragama devala
  5. The procession of Pattini devala

The proceedings of the Kandy Perahera (Procession)

  1. whip crackers march at the beginning of the procession and they are the announcers of the approaching procession. They crack their whip, which is a sign of an approaching procession. Whip crackers can be seen only in the Randholee Perahera (during the last 5 days of the procession).
  2. The flag carriers follow the whip crackers. They march in 2 rows on either side of the road. The flags they carry symbolize the different administrative provinces and temples.
  3. The peramuna rala is the official that appears in the procession after the flag carriers. he rides an elephant. The peramune rala carries the lemak Mitiya (ola manuscripts), which is the official document of the temple that holds the records of the tenants and services due by them as well as the lands belonging to the temple.
  4. Drummers are the participants of the esala procession after peramune rala.
  5. The spectators can see gajanayake nilame after drummers, he is another official of the temple and rides an elephant.
  6. The Gajanayake nileme is followed by kariyakorale, who will be appointed as the Diyawadana nilame after the present Diwadana Nilame. He is the temple official, who overlooks all activities related to the Esala ceremony of Kandy.
  7. Next in the row is the Maligawa tusker and this elephant carries the Golden casket, which contains the sacred tooth (today a replica of the tooth relic taken on the procession). This tusker walks on Pavada (white cloths are laid as it marches) and the canopy is held over the casket.
  8. The spectators can witness two rows of dancers after the tusker, which carries the tooth relic. The dancers are lined up in 2 rows on either side of the road. Dancers are the last performers of the procession.

Important tips about Sri Lanka‘s Eesala ceremony

  • The city is isolated largely during the ceremony, for instance, if the ceremony begins at 06.30 pm all the shops and eateries are closed before 0630 p.m
  • The hotel occupancy is very high during the 10 days of the ceremony, So book your accommodation in advance and avoid overpricing.
  • Most roads in the city are closed just before starting the pageant and therefore it is advisable to reach the venue before the closure of the roads.
  • If you can reach the venue at least 1 hour before the start, you will be able to position yourself in a good place so that you can have a closer look at the pageant.
  • Book a seat in order to avoid the crowd.
  • Have some snacks and water bottles with you, the procession lasts around 5 hours.
  • There is a clear upbeat price of accommodation, food, transport and all other services in the city during the Esala ceremony.  Try to reduce purchases as much as possible in the city to save money.