A Perahera (Parade in Sinhala) is heralded at the Bellanvilla temple near the capital city Colombo! For Anne-Maëlle, who recently joined our Shanti team in Colombo, it was a great première and perfect introduction to Sri Lankan festivities!
We got there quite early as the information we got regarding the schedule of the parade was quite vague. Around the temple, the locals were busy setting the chairs in front of their house or renting out the space to small shops as it was a strategic location. We headed towards the temple where all were busy preparing and adorning the temple, everything was lit even the Bo Tree and the huge Dagoba was decorated with a colourful Buddhist banner: blue, white, orange, yellow and red. Behind the temple, elephants were being fed as children watched in awe. The crowd came with tons of offerings and walked around the holy tree. This tree is an offspring of the Anuradhapura Maha Bodhi tree which itself originated from the Bodhgaya tree in India where Buddha was enlightened.
The street vibe before the parade…
We managed to get good seats at a very reasonable price after few negotiations. Sense of humour and patience turned out to be the keys to our successful negotiation, I believe.
At 8PM the prayers and chanting started, heralding the start of the Randoli Perahera, the last of the Bellanwila Festival and the most impressive one.
All of a sudden a rhythmic whip-cracking echoed and everybody became silent as the whip-dancers led the procession and the Perahera started! Fire dancers followed displaying amazing skills and conveying tremendous energy. Beautifully decorated elephants followed nicely adorned with traditional costumes. Drum and percussion set the pace of the march as the traditional kandyan dancers showed their amazing skills along with jugglers and flag bearers. The Perahera truly reflects the Sri Lankan history and traditions, a spectacular show not to be missed!
The crowd stood and bowed in front of the elephants bearing the sacred relic as it passed. At around 3 AM the procession ended as we tried to beat the traffic and find our way out which turned out to be quite an adventure itself!
If you’re interested in the Perahera, don’t miss the impressive Kandy Esala Perahera in August. If you have planned holidays in January then don’t miss the Kelaniya Perahera, if you come around September make sure you make time for the Bellanwilath, Kotte and Matara Perahera.