On a cultural and religious note, the Kandy Perahera, the biggest Buddhist festival in Sri Lanka and one of the biggest in Asia, was a spectacular event. The Perahera takes place every July/August and lasts for 10 days culminating at the full moon; poya day.
The newspaper had provided us with seats in the temple with a great view of the event. Richard, Michael and I left Colombo at 8am on Wednesday morning to make the three hour bus journey to Kandy. We arrived around midday and already the city was full of people waiting for the evening’s event. Many people without pre booked seats had been there since 8.00am in order to ensure a good view of the Perahera.
The pavements were packed full of waiting families and people sitting on the ground on plastic sheets. I don’t know how they did it, all the hours of waiting. Despite having seats we ended up sitting and waiting for five hour for the procession to begin.
Finally the wait was over and the Perahera finally began. It lasted three hours. Richard was almost beside himself with agitation at the end.
The procession consisted of whip crackers, fire jugglers, stilt walkers, drummers, Kandyian and numerous other traditional dancers, elaborately adorned elephants, prisoners and their guards carrying flags, and a casket atop a triage of elephants carrying Buddha’s tooth. It was quite a procession!
The Temple of the Tooth is the biggest and most important temple in Sri Lanka and is the one which the Kandy Perahera originates from. All temples have a relic of Buddha’s, or at least claim to. The Kandy Temple is said to have Buddha’s tooth, although no one really knows if it is there as the Portuguese claim to have taken it and burnt it during their colonization of Sri Lanka. However Buddhists say that the Portuguese were fooled and took a false tooth, the real one being hidden somewhere safe. Either way the temple claims to house Buddha’s tooth. For many Buddhist’s the Kandy Perahera is the religious highlight of their year and thousands flock to watch it. There are many smaller Perahera’s throughout the year originating from different temples around the country but none as big as the Kandyian one.