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Festivals of Sri Lanka 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.

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Religious Festivals
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 Lanka.

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 days.

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.

Thai Pongal
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.

Sri Lanka FestivalsBak
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.

Kataragama Perahera
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 footprints.

Festivals of Sri LankaMuslim 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.

Christian Festivals
Christmas and Easter are celebrated like in any other part of the world by the Christian Community of Sri Lanka.

National and Seasonal Events
Independence Day
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.

Kite Festival
Kites of various shapes and sizes are flown in the sky in a grand contest held on seashore in Colombo.

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