Looking for a travel + festival adventure? Sri Lanka is the place to be!
This tear drop of a country happens to be a hidden gem when it comes to it’s culture and traditions. It’s festivals are happy, grand and absolutely beautiful, just like the country itself. If you are looking to explore a new country this year, we suggest it be Lanka, with all its natural beauty and rich culture.
And of course, we’ve made you a list!
1. Vesak Festival
When: May 21
It’s one of the biggest festivals that take place on Lankan soil. It is also known as Buddha Day or Buddha Purnima. The festival is said to mark the birthday of Gautam Buddha. It also celebrates his life and enlightenment, with festivities continuing all day. This day is not just celebrated in Lanka, but in India, Nepal, Tibet, Singapore, Vietnam and Myanmar. The festival is celebrated by hoisting the Buddha flag and singing hymns in praise of the holy triple gem The Buddha, The Dharma and The Sangha.
2. Esala Perahera
When: August 8-18
This is probably one of the grandest yet most culturally rooted festivals in Lanka. The festival takes place for 10 days when the entire country comes to life. It is held in the months of July or August because it is believed that was when the first teaching by Buddha was delivered in the form of a sermon. The term ‘Perahara‘ means a procession of dancers, performers, musicians and acrobats accompanied by a large number of decorated elephants. The streets and houses are decorated with lights as people step out in their finest.
3. Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil
One of the most famous temples in all of Lanka, the Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil temple is known for its majestic façade. People from various countries including India visit the temple to seek the blessings of Lorg Murugan. The temple is located in the northern province of Nallur and hosts a lavish festival once a year. It is no small affair and is spread over a period of 25 days during which grand poojas and yajnas (holy fire) are conducted to please the lords. During the festival, the glamorously dressed idol of Lord Murugan is brought out to be seated on the special silver throne.
4. Thai Pongal
When: January 13-16
Thai Pongal is a Tamil harvest festival that is celebrated with great gusto. The festival is celebrated to thank the Sun Lord for his bountiful gifts bestowed upon the farmers. The festival is also celebrated in Singapore, Canada, US and Mauritius and has roots tracing all the way back to medieval times, to the days of the Chola empire. The festival also has an Indian version known as Makar Sankranti, which is mainly celebrated by flying kites and distributing sweets.
5. Poson festival
Another festival that is centred around the celebration of Buddha. Poson celebrates the arrival of Buddha in Sri Lanka in 3rd century BC. It also celebrates the day when Buddha converted the King Devanampiyatissa to Buddhism, thus kick-starting the rise of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. The festival is second only to Vesak in its importance for which people head out to the main city squares dressed in their best to celebrate the fateful day when their religious idol set foot in their country. The festival is particularly celebrated in Mihinthalaya, where it is said that Buddha lived during his time in Lanka.
6. Kataragma Perahera
This festival is like an extension of Esala Perahera. The elephants take centre stage here as well, this festival is more of a celebration of the regional culture of Sri Lanka. Regional dancers, ceremonial fire walkers, fire eaters, musicians and artists from different parts of the country come together to perform, with an equally enthusiastic crowd watching them. This is one of the most enthusiastic Perahera, with its vibrant colours and musical celebrations. The preparations of this festival start about a month in advance from its actual date.
7. Duruthu Perahera
Also known as the Kelani Perahera, it’s a magnificent four day festival that is celebrated by the Kelaniya temple. A grand procession of drummers, dancers, torch-bearers, elephants and acrobats make this Perahera the most colourful and popular country procession of its kind in Sri Lanka and a night of splendour. It celebrates the day when Gautam Buddha visited Kelaniya and blessed the people there with his teachings. The week long festival celebrates by hosting food, art and performances from all the cultures of Sri Lanka. Stalls are set up that sell goods made in the vicinity.
Sri Lanka is one of the many countries that celebrate Maha Shivratri quite avidly. It is considered a public holiday and massive pujas are held all over the country. Many people are strict devotees of Lord Shiva so this festival happens to be a very important festival for them. The most important ritual, the Shivratri Puja is held in the wee hours of the night with devotees standing in long queues to witness the grand ceremonies.
Sri Lanka is a country of great diversity and Ramadan is celebrated with equal fervour as most of the Hindu festivals. The fair majority of Muslim families begun celebrating the festival from the early hours of the morning to night. Ramadan ends with the celebration of Id’ul Fitr festival, where people go to the mosque in the morning just after sunrise putting on new clothes, praying and then listen to a sermons. Afterwards they give Salaams, hug each other as a blessing and gesture of happiness, just like Easter.