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The Kandy Esala Perahera 2009

Kandy - 26th July to 05th Aug 2009
As the August moon waxes in the Buddhist month of Esala, a ten-day-long pageant takes over Kandy. Men fulfil vows to Hindu god Skanda by walking "in harness" with spikes in their backs, accompanied by a fabulous procession with dancers, tom-toms, whip-cracking acrobats in a frenzy and elephants kitted out in party gear. To top it off, all this has happened every year since about 300 AD.
The action is made even more mesmerising because it happens at night. The old cannon booms after dusk and the Perahera (paraders) take to the streets for ten nights, with the parades growing ever longer each night until the final night of pageantry, when the parade is at its finest.
The festival is a synthesis of Hindu and Buddhist beliefs and is dedicated not just to Skanda but also to Buddha. It is held to invoke the blessings of the gods for rain, fertility, successful crops and good health. Elephants feature heavily as they are symbols of abundance and fertility - the "clouds who walk the Earth", instrumental in attracting the vital rains for harvest time.
The most treasured item in the procession is a copy of a golden reliquary said to hold a tooth of the Buddha. Legend has it that the Buddha’s tooth was brought to Sri Lanka in the third century AD, hidden in the tresses of a princess. Pilgrims flock to visit the golden temple, Sri Dalada Maligawa, situated beside a tree-lined lake, every day of the year to catch a glimpse of the golden casket which holds the venerated molar.

 

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