Sinhala and Tamil New Year Festival Every year on April 13th Sinhala and
Tamil people celebrate, and Muslims celebrate Ramasan. Esala Perahera
(A-suh-luh peh-ruh-ha-ruh) is the grand festival of Esala held in Sri Lanka.
It is very grand with elegant costumes. Happening in July or August in
Kandy, it has become a unique symbol of Sri Lanka. It is a Buddhist festival
consisting of dances and richly-decorated elephants. There are fire-dances,
whip-dances, Kandian dances and various other cultural dances. The elephants
are usually adorned with lavish garments. The festival ends with the
traditional 'diya-kepeema'. The elephant is paraded around the city bearing
the tooth of Buddha.
Festivals are a part of Sri Lankan culture. They can be either Religious or
National festivals and are observed in grand scale.
Sri Lanka being a predominantly Buddhist country Buddhist festivals are
more frequent. Full moon day of each month, called Poya day, is a day of
religious observance for the Buddhists. On every Poya day there is some form
of festival in the village temples. However the major full moon days are
Duruthu (January), Vesak (May), Poson (June), Esala (August) and Unduvap
(December) observed with greater pomp and pageantry. Important Hindu
festivals are Thai Pongal (in January), Vel (in July/August) and Deepavali
(in November). Muslims celebrate the Ramadan, Haj and Milad-un-Nabi
festivals. Christmas and Easter are celebrated by the Christians in Sri
Kandy Esala Perahera takes place on the full moon day in August and pays
homage to the Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha. The sacred Tooth is carried in a
magnificent procession that includes temple chieftains, caparisoned
elephants, acrobats, frenzied drummers, trumpeters, pipers, traditional
dancers, torchbearers, and whip-crackers. This festival, which has been
described as the "most spectacular event in Asia", lasts for 12
Vel is a Hindu festival held in Colombo in July or August to venerate
the God of War. A gilded chariot, containing weapons of this fierce god is
carried in a procession that starts in a Kovil (Hindu temple) in Pettah. It
ends at a Kovil in Bambalapitya or Wellawatte, located 5 km away. The
temples have stalls selling sugar-cane, sweets and souvenirs.
Kataragama, a town in the south of the island attracts pilgrims from every
part of the country. The temple 'Kataragama Devale' is a focal point for
Buddhists and Hindus alike. Devotees make or fulfil pledges during this
period, in return for various favours from Sri Skanda - the God of the
Kataragama Devale. You will find pilgrims partaking in religious ceremonies
as well as ritualistic torture practices which include rolling naked on
scorching sand, walking barefoot over searing hot coals, flailing, piercing
a spear through one cheek, or skewering their tongue.
The full moon day of Duruthu is celebrated in January to comemorate the
first visit of the Buddha to Sri Lanka. A procession is held for three
nights at Kelaniya, 10 km. off Colombo. This is a colourful occasion with
elephants, dancers, drummers and whip crackers entertaining the spectators.
This harvest festival is celebrated by Hindu community to express their
regard for the Sun God. 'Pongal' word in Tamil means boiling over. People
offer worship at a Hindu temple. Then a pot of rice is cooked in spicy,
sweetened milk which is left to boil over. The dish is consumed as the
prasada of the Sun God.
Sinhalas and Tamils celebrate Bas as their new year. It marks the ending of
the solar circuit and considered auspicious by Buddhists and Hindus. People
wear new clothes, spend time with families and meet friends. Special dishes
are prepared and consumed collectively. People play various indigenous games
to make the occasion a fun-filled event. Several rituals are also observed.
For Buddhists all across the world, Vesak, a full moon day, is an occasion
of paramount significance. The day marks the Birth, Enlightenment and Last
Breath of the Buddha. Adherents of Buddhism bedeck and illuminate their
houses with electric lamps and specially Vesak lanterns. They also visit
places of worship to offer players. Towns wear a totally different outlook
on the day. Colorful pandals with numerous electric jets are erected. Free
meals are offered to passers by.
Buddhism was introduced on this day in Sri Lanka. This was the day when
Arahat Mahinda arrived in Sri Lanka. He introduced Buddhism in Sri Lanka.
The festival is celebrated more vigorously in Anuradhapura and Mihintale.
Large processions are taken out in both cities.
Grand festival of Esala is celebrated in many parts of the Island specially
Kandy. History of the festival dates back to 3rd century BC. Colourful large
processions are held for several nights. This is the biggest festival in the
region and is celebrated for ten nights. At Hindu shrines Vel festivals are
held during this month.
Katarangama is located in the eastern part of Sri Lanka. Biggest festival
in Kataragama is Perahera. Processions are held for two weeks in the months
of July/August every year. The devotees do the daring act of fire walking to
please God Skandha, the Warrior God.
Vel is a Hindu festival dedicated to the War God Skandha. On the occasion
of Vel towns in Sri Lanka take on blissful atmosphere. Processions are taken
with a colorful Vel chariot. In Colombo the procession marches from the Sea
Street temple to Bambalapitiya temple and back.
Hindu community celebrates Deepawali or the 'festival of lights' to welcome
Lakshmi the Godess of wealth. They illuminate their homes with oil lamps and
lights. Deepawali signifies victory of good over evil. People wear new
clothes, distribute sweets and indulge in pyrotechnics.
Groups of pilgrims climb Adam's Peak, a hill considered sacred in Sri
Lanka, for various religious activities. Giant footprints can be seen at the
summit of the hill. People express their regards for these sacred
and Christian Festivals
Muslim and Christian communities form a significant part of the population
of Sri Lanka. They also celebrate their festivals with fervour.
Milad-un-Nabi, Id-ul-Fitr and Haj are three major Muslim festivals.
Milad-un-Nabi is observed in December on the occasion of birth of Prophet
Mohammed. Id-ul-Fitr is celebrated when sacred fasting during the month of
Ramadan ends. Haj festival is celebrated when pilgrimages leave for the holy
shrine of Mecca. Eid-ul-Azha is celebrated to co-memorate the sacrifice of
Prophet Abraham. As in other parts of the world Christian communities
celebrate their festivals like Christmas and Easter.
Christmas and Easter are celebrated like in any other part of the world by
the Christian Community of Sri Lanka.
National and Seasonal Events
Sri Lanka celebrates its Independence day on the 4th February every year.
This day the Sri Lankans attained independence from British rule.
Traditional New Year
Traditional new year in Sri Lanka is celebrated in the month of April. The
festival is celebrated when the Sun enters from the zodiacal sign of Pisces
(the last sector) to Aries (the first sector). Whole country celebrates
traditional New year with lots of enthusiasm.. Conventional rituals are
observed on this day.
Kites of various shapes and sizes are flown in the sky in a grand contest
held on seashore in Colombo.