Esala Mangallaya

Esala Mangallaya

The "Esala Mangallaya" is a Sinhalese festival celebrated in the month of "Esala", a month in the Sinhalese Calendar which occurs during the months July and August in the Gregorian Calendar.

Festivities in Kandy

Kandy is the home of the Sri Dalada Maligawa which is a Sri Lankan buddhist temple holding the Buddha tooth relic. Kandy holds the most elaborate celebrations. Shop-keepers and hoteliers pile up their stock to cater to the crowds.

Maligawa and its premises are decorated and illuminated with strings of lights, including the esplanade. These lights burn throughout the night. A few days before the "Perahera", a "Kapa", a sapling from a tree that sheds milky juice is erected in each of the four "Devales". On the fifth day of Esala, the "Kumbal Perahera" begins and goes on for 10 consecutive nights when the sacred relic casket is taken around the streets of Kandy accompanied by exotically costumed dancers and drummers.

These dance forms vary. The most popular dance forms are the Ves, Udekki, Pantheru, Naiyandi, Hewisi, Savang and Leekeli.

The most colorful Perahera is the last, the Randoli Perahera, which falls on the Esala Full Moon Poya day. On this day, at the auspicious time, the Perahera starts. The Diyawadana Nilame in full traditional Kandyan dress will enter the inner chamber to receive the Perahera Karanduwa containing the Buddha Relics. The Mahanayake Thero will place the relic's casket on the velvet cloth, intricately embroidered with gold and silver, held by both hands by the Nilame. As he steps out of the chamber bearing the relics casket, the crowd begins a chant of "sadhu". The chorus will go on while the mini perahera begins. A red and yellow floor spread ("pavada"), embroidered with appliqués of different hues is laid before him, and two Temple functionaries will start strewing jasmine flowers on it while the Diyawadana Nilame, carrying the casket, will slowly tread over the pavada.

In front of him, two hand torches are held by bearers while the kavikaramaduwa sing songs in praise of the Dalada. The Nilame walks past the udamale and begin to descend the wooden staircase and go past the digge and ambarawa and finally arrives the place where the tusker is waiting to carry the casket.

The casket containing the Buddha Relics is always carried by an elephant in a dress embedded with colored bulbs. He looks more colorful than the other caparisoned elephants numbering over 75 who take part in the Perahera. The decorated ransivige is placed on the back of this tusker and the relics casket is placed inside it on, a velvet cushion, by the Nilame. After the Nilame and the Mahanayake Thero strew jasmine flowers on the casket the tusker arrives at the wahalkada followed by the Nilame.

The Perahera proper begins as the cannon booms. Leading the Perahera is the band of whip crackers who crack their whips in rhythmic pattern announcing the start of the Perahera. Immediately following are two flag-bearers carrying the two flags of the Sathara Korale (known as Ira Kodiya) embossed with the symbols of the sun and the moon indicating the wish that this Perahera be held until the sun and the moon last. Next comes the peramunerala, attired in the traditional white dress and riding a caparisoned elephant and carrying the sannasa, the royal charter to hold the Perahera. Following him is the Gajanayake, the Maligawa official in charge of the elephants, elegantly dressed in traditional Kandyan dress carrying the ankusaya the instrument by which elephants are controlled.

The crowd impatiently waits to get a glimpse of the tusker carrying the relics casket. The tusker is dressed in a decorated costume and brilliantly illuminated bearing the ransivige in which the Perahera Karandawa rests on a velvet cushion, with garlands of jasmine flowers dangling above it and strings of lights flickering all the time, tread over the pavada in easured steps under the canopy held over the ransivie by 16 able bodied men with poles and strings. As the karanduwa passes by, the crowd, stand up and with their hands clasped together chanting sadhu, sadhu, sadhu thereby paying their homage to the Sacred Tooth Relic.

The focus of the crowd then moves towards the Diyawadana Nilarne who, attired in his traditional Kandyan constume, slowly walks by under a large e embroidered umbrella held by a Vidane of the Maligawa and e flanked by two troupes of Ves dancers whose performance is a lovely sight to see.

Over 75 caparisoned elephants, thousands of dancers and drummers, hundreds of flag bearers and torchbearers take part in each of the Peraheras. The Maligawa Perahera is followed by the Devala Peraheras in the order of Natha, Vishnu, Kataragama and Pattini under the direction of the respective Basnayake Nilames, who in their traditional Kandy and costumes, take part in the Perahera.

After the day perahera, it is customary for the Diyawadana Nilarne and the Basnayake Nilames of the four devalas to report to the president that the Perahera was satisfactorily conducted.

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