Bright and loud, the Esala Perahera is one of the oldest and most magnificent Buddhist festivals in the world. Dancers, jugglers, musicians, fire- breathers and richly decorated elephants merge in the Sri Lankan city of Kandy during the summer months in order to commemorate the first teaching given by Buddha after his enlightenment. Lasting for ten days, the Esala Perahera festival fills every corner of the city with ravishing colours and rhythms, while dancers,singers and acrobats parade along the elephants through the main streets.
The Esala Perahera festival was inspired by the Sacred Tooth Relic, which have been guarded by the Buddhist Clergy for more than two Centuries. The purpose of the celebrations and processions of the Esala Perahera is to bless the land in order to stimulate the cultivation of crops and enrich the lands of Sri Lanka. The ritual starts by the plantation of a sanctified young Jackfruit Tree, which is sprinkled with sandalwood and fragranced water and surrounded by nine kinds of flowers and an oil lamp with nine wicks. The religious authority of the Mana Vishnu Devale recites his prayers to the gods, blessing the Jackfruit tree and marking the beginning of the Sacred Tooth Parade. The celebration continues by carrying the Sacred Tooth through the streets of Kandy in a carefully orchestrated, quasi- theatrical event. Its combination of colours, sounds and textures make this pageant one of the most mystical and inspiring experiences in Asia.
If you wish to visit this festival, make sure that you arrive in advance of major parades, as the Esala Perahera is by far the most popular celebration in Sri Lanka and it receives a great number of visitors every year. Seats located at convenient locations can also be booked around 30 mins in advance, and the prices are quite affordable for western standards. The most spectacular night takes place on the last day of celebration, when the Maha Perahera - the Great Parade- takes place. Thousands of drummers, dancers and acrobats amenize the night, while a hundred brilliantly caparisoned elephants roam the city to honour the Sacred Tooth. To visit Sri Lanka you must have a valid visa.This process can be completely carried out online and has a cost of US$30 and a validity of 30 days. A Sri Lankan travel visa can still be obtained at international embassies for the same price and duration. If you are already in the country and you do not have a valid permit, there is a counter at Bandaranaike International Airport that provides short notice visas, although you will be required to pay a small penalty.
If you wish to extend your trip to Sri Lanka, it is possible to renew your 30-day tourist visa twice through a relatively simple bureaucratic process. For more information, contact the Department of Immigration and Emigration http://www.immigration.gov.lk/ When travelling through Sri Lanka, you must carry a valid passport at all times. This is especially necessary when booking accommodation and accessing the international embassies in the capital, Colombo.