Asian Geographic - - South Asia -

Pri­mar­ily a ven­er­a­tion of the Tooth Relic – a tooth said to come from the Bud­dha him­self – this fes­ti­val also cel­e­brates the com­ing of the rainy sea­son in Sri Lanka.

The coun­try’s big­gest fes­ti­val is said to have be­gun in the 4th cen­tury, when King Kirti Siri Meghawanna de­creed that the na­tional trea­sure be pa­raded through the city once a year.

The 10-day cel­e­bra­tion be­gins with the cer­e­mo­nial cut­ting of a tree. Pieces of the tree are then planted near the tem­ples of the Bud­dhist gods Natha, Vishnu, Kataragama and Pat­tini. For the next five nights, pro­ces­sions take place out­side of the four tem­ples with plenty of dancing and mu­sic. Each pro­ces­sion be­gins and ends with the fir­ing of a can­non shot.

From the sixth to the 10th day, pro­ces­sions from each shrine pa­rade to­ward the Dal­ada Mali­gawa, or Tem­ple of the Tooth, in­creas­ing in size and grandeur.

On the fi­nal night, a replica of the tooth is placed in a gold cas­ket on a mas­sive ele­phant called the Mali­gawa Tusker (the ac­tual tooth must stay within the tem­ple sanc­tu­ary). This re­gal ele­phant is be­decked in em­broi­dered cloth, jew­els and bright

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