Kandy Esala Perahera is the grandest and colorful religious event in Sri Lanka. It is also one of the greatest events in Asia. The perahera is 235 years aged which dates back to the reign of the king Kirthi Sri Rajasinghe (1747-1780). This is held annually in late July and early August. Days are fixed by the Diyawadana Nilame of the Temple of the Tooth Relic. First there was only one perahera from the Temple of the Tooth relic which was later merged with four perahera from four Devales.
Perahera begins with the ceremony of “kap situweema” where cuttings from an esala tree are planted in four Devales. “Kumbal Perahera” starts on the 6th day from kap planting. Throughout the night the perahera goes through the streets of Kandy. The Maligawa perahera and other four Devalaya perahera always have the same order. The tusker of the Maligawa with the casket of the Tooth Relic on its back heads the perahera followed by the Natha, Vishnu, Katharagama and Paththini Devales. The number of elephants is increased in each night making the perahera grander. After five nights from Kumbal perahera it starts Randoli Perahera which goes for another five nights. The fifth night is the grander day of the Perahera. On that night perahera goes through Dalada Veediya (Ward Street) and Trincomalee Street to the “Adhanamaluwa Viharas”.
The water cutting ceremony that symbolizes the end of the festival is held before the dawn of the next day following the last perahera. This is held in Mahaweli River near Gatambe by cutting the water with a sword. Then the final perahera parade through the street for the last time of the year. The Perahera contains with lot of cultural items and also with beautifully dressed elephants. This is a great opportunity for you to see all most all the cultural dances in Sri Lanka in one place. You can watch this great pageant from anywhere along the route.