Sri Lanka FESTIVAL MUST-SEE: ESALA PERAHERA
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