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Home > Discovery Top Attractions > Kandy Procession

Kandy Procession

Arugam BayThe Kandy Procession or Perahera, one of Sri Lanka's most famous religious festivals, takes place every year in the hill-capital Kandy. On the full-moon day of July/August each year, the sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha, encased in a golden casket at the Kandy Tooth Relic Temple, is taken in procession, on the back of the temple's tusker along the streets of Kandy for all to see.

This ritual, which has been taking place for hundreds of years, is an experience of a lifetime. Scores of elephants all dressed in their finery, Kandyan chiefs in their traditional royal attire, thousands of dancers, drummers, flag bearers, and Buddhist monks, all walk in procession in honor of Lord Buddha. Thousands of people line the streets of Kandy to get a glimpse of the golden casket and to pay homage to Lord Buddha.

The Kandy Procession today is one of the better-known festivals in Asia, and it may be the largest Buddhist celebration in the world. 

At the procession while the royal male elephant/Tusker carries the reliquary with as many as 100 elephants, dressed in elaborate finery, make their way into town while torches and fire dancers fend off curses. Whip-cracking porters clear the way through the throngs of pilgrims, followed by musicians, jugglers, torch bearers, boy dancers and acrobats, and members of noble families in Ceylonese garb.

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Kandy Procession is actually a 10- days pageant which leads up to until the full moon of the month of July/August. There are two kinds of pageants. The first is called the "Kumbal Perahera" which parades for the first 5 nights. Then the "Randoli Perahera", which parades the last 5 nights. The last night's Perahera is the grandest of all. Randoli means the 'Queen's Palanquin' The number of elephants increases daily making the Perahera more spectacular each night. The Maligawa Perahera is followed by four separate Peraheras - four from the Kandy devales (shrines).

Attendance at the Kandy Perahera numbers at about a million people. The festival brings today all ranks of Sri Lankan society in a vast throng of devotees and interested onlookers. And because of the national character of the shrine, many Tamil Hindus and mixed-blood Christians take part as an expression of their common cultural heritage.

At the festival, the president and leaders of Sri Lanka continue the nationalist Buddhist tradition by taking part in a ceremony in which they dedicate their service to the people in the presence of the sacred relic. 

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