South Asia’s most spectacular:
Kandy Perahera comes alive
First ‘Peace’ Perahera
The first Kandy Esala Perahera after the dawn of peace will be held
this time under the auspices Diyawadana Nilame Pradeep Nilanga Dela
Randoli Perahera. Pictures by Udeni Rajapaksha
Speaking to the Daily News was the spokesperson from the Diyawardena
Nilame’s office, Sunil Rambukpotha, who said that there have been
several inquiries from around the world about the Kandy Esala Perahera.
“After the Sri Lankan Government successfully won the war, we have
got plenty of worldwide interest about the Kandy Esala Perahera because
it is the first Perahera after peace,” he said.
Even though it is peace time in the country, the Dalada Maligawa will
continue with strict security measures to ensure nothing goes wrong.
Rambukpotha said,”We have adopted the same security measures just
like the previous years where we will bring many armed forces to ensure
that the security is kept optimum.”
With regard to the parade itself, there will be 90 elephants decked
in their finery to display the best of Kandyan culture to the world with
many stunning gymnasts, dancers and stunt performers.
Pradeep Nilanga Dela Bandara
“We have informed international and local media about the Perahera so
that the message is spread all over the world that Sri Lanka is a
culturally rich country,” he said. About the Perahera schedule itself,
he noted, “We started the religious observances under the auspicious
time on Wednesday and will hold the Kumbal Perahera over a period of
five days from July 27 to 30.”
He said that the dazzling Randoli Perahera will begin on August 1 and
will go on from August 4 with the finale set to take place on August 5.
“We are expecting a crowd that would exceed 100 percent because of
the considerable tourist turn-out to Kandy this season. Around the
world, Sri Lanka has garnered a good name after winning the war and with
the travel advisories to the country relaxed, we are expecting many
spectators to see the true cultural glory of Sri Lanka that is signified
by the Kandy Esala Perahera,” concluded Rambukpotha.
When you see Raberosia and Esala trees on the fringes of the
Peradeniya Botanical Gardens and around the Kandy Lake donning their
spectacular plumage of pink and yellow, you know it is time for the City
of Kandy to adorn itself with festivities of Esala Dalada Perahera (the
procession of the Sacred Tooth Relic). The Perahera this year will be of
special significance as it immediately follows the defeat of terrorism
in the country by war. Having being a target of terrorist onslaught
previously, crowds that kept away due to bomb scares are expected to
resume their annual homage to the Sacred Tooth Relic this July.
Usually, in the duration of the Perahera, many a household in Kandy
turns motelier or accommodator of guests catering to both the pilgrim
and the tourist alike. This is besides the hotels and the guesthouses in
Kandy which would be choc-a-bloc to capacity.
If you have money, you can obtain seating on offer by those who have
shops or houses on the Parahera route and see the Perahera in comfort.
The less affluent and the traditional rural folk who come from distant
area while away day and night on the pavement, reluctant to give up
their temporarily owned abode by the road side to view the Perahera.
Kandyan dancers in action
Mudiyanse Konara, Administrative Secretary, Sri Dalaga Maligawa,(the
Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic), told the Daily News that the human
influx to Kandy during this year’s Perahera season is expected to be
about four-fold of what used to be earlier. Therefore, the seating on
offer too will be competitive.
The Buddhist clergy and VIPs will be offered special seating, Konara
said. The general public can avail themselves of seating offered by the
Kandy Municipal Council, by paying for a night. There are also
arrangements to meet the needs of common amenities such as food,
toilets, first aid and ambulance facilities.
Extra bus and train services will ease the mobility of the masses.
Konara also made a plea to the crowds to minimize the goods and baggage
they bring in to the city of Kandy and to reduce the use of polythene.
This will reduce the litter lying on streets.
The Perahera of the Dalada Maligawa and the four devales, Natha,
Vishnu, Kataragama and Pattini, will be conducted according to the
recommendations of the venerable Theras of the Malwatta and Asgiriya
Chapters, Konara told the Daily News.
“From about 1400 to 1500 dance troops and ensembles of kalayathanayas
coming for rehearsals, those in conformity to the Kandyan Dance
Traditions will be selected to dance in the Maligawa Perahera,” he said.
“Not only mature dancers, but also children who must take on the
mantle from their older generation will dance in the Perahera.” Besides
the human element, about 80 elephants inclusive of the Maligawa Tusker
Raja are billed to take part in the Maligawa procession.
Decorations during Perahera time will be done in a systematic manner
to make it more attractive, he added. There will be no ad hoc
decorations and the four main bridges entering the city of Kandy at
Peradeniya, Katugastota, Tennekumbura and Lewella will be decorated in a
unique manner by the respective provincial councils.
Konara pointed out: “There will be an operational chamber run by the
Department of Buddhist Affairs to deal with any irregularities. Though
the war is over, we have not relaxed security arrangements. There will
be tight security measures,” he said offering reassurance, to dispel any
doubts that may linger in the mind of the general public.
‘The Tooth Relic and the Crown’, authored by Dharmaratna Herath,
gives some lesser known facts about the Sacred Tooth Relic with special
reference to its political significance. It says that the
interdependence of the state and the Buddhist Order was a key element of
the Sri Lankan polity. Its dominance was visible in Sri Lanka’s history
throughout centuries. The Sasana depended on the generosity of rulers.
It also bestowed a certain sanctity on the royal office - the throne and
It was assumed that ‘A ruler ascends the throne in order to protect
the Bowl and the Robe of the Master’. It was even held that none but a
Bodhisatva (one who aspires for Buddhahood) was eligible to occupy the
throne of Sri Lanka.
The book deals with eleven centuries after the Sacred Tooth Relic
arrived in Sri Lanka. The tradition of the Tooth Relic is recorded in
the Dathavamsa (The Chronicle of the Tooth Relic), the earliest works on
the left canine tooth of the Buddha, transferred to Sri Lanka in A.D.
130, from Dantapura in Kalinga.
It is composed by Dhammakitti Thera during Queen Lilavati’s second
spell on throne in the twelfth century. The legitimacy of Royal
authority flows from the possession of the Sacred Tooth Relic. Since the
introduction of Buddhism in Sri Lanka in the third century B.C., the
ruler of the land was required to perform the dual role of statesman as
well as patron of the Sasana.
Reference to the Tooth Relic, found in the reign of Buvanekabahu VI,
says that amnesty was granted to people of the four Korales in the name
of Tooth and Bowl Relics. Political significance was attached to the
Bowl Relic in the early centuries. Mahavansa states that King
Devanampiyatissa enshrined Buddhist relics in stupas like the Thuparama
but kept the Bowl Relic in his palace. This suggests that the Bowl
Relic, though it was not a Saririka Dhathu (corporeal relic), was
treated as an object of special importance but the reason is not known.
The Sacred Tooth Relic (Saririka Dhatu of the Buddha), the Bowl Relic
and Dhammacakkageha (House of the Wheel of the Law) were seen as
political symbols. In dealing with the Tamil invasion during the reign
of the Vattagamani Abhaya, the king could not take the Bowl Relic with
him in his flight to a hideout. Dhammacakkageha, in Buddhist literature,
symbolizes the Buddha’s universal overlordship of the Saddhamma or true
doctrine. An example is the Saranath Asokan pillar where the wheel is
mounted on a seat of three lions, standing on a circular plinth, adorned
with a lion, an elephant, a bull and a horse.
But the Tooth Relic superceded both the Bowl Relic and
Dhammacakkageha in political significance, as the symbol of Buddha and
Dhamma. Its possession was the clearest expression of a ruler’s
adherence to Buddhism emphasising his determination to wield his
authority in the name of the Buddha and Dhamma.
Two stages in the history of the Tooth Relic within the period A.D.
300 - 1500 is established. During the first, ending with the downfall of
the Anuradhapura Kingdom, the Tooth Relic secured a firm footing in the
religious life of the Island. In the second period, the Tooth Relic
occupied a prominent place in both religious and the political spheres.
There are reasons for the Relic’s prominence. One was the cordial
relations between Nikayas. Monks lessened sectorial feelings and came to
a compromise, venerating equally, objects entrusted to different
fraternities. The Tooth Relic was a symbol of nationalism, unifying
Sinhalese against foreign invasions. It was believed to have mysterious
powers to produce rain. It’s mobile character saved it from disasters
and enabled rulers to take it to new capitals.