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Esala Perahera In Sinhala Language Essays

Esala Perahara, 2010 Kandy Sri Lanka
licenced under CC BY 2.0 by Richard Shaw

There are special religious programs conducted in the Dalada Maligawa on every Full Moon Poya day where large numbers participate. Apart from these daily, weekly and monthly ceremonies, there are four major ceremonies held every year. They are;

  1. Aluth Sahal Mangailaya;
  2. Avurudu Mangallaya;
  3. Esala Mangallaya; and
  4. Karthika Mangallaya.

Of these the most important is the Esala Mangallaya. Esala, according to the Sinhalese Calendar, is the month of July/ August This is the months in which Kandy gets into a festive mood. Shop-keepers and hoteliers pile up their stock to cater to the massive crowds that throng the city. Maligawa and its premises are gaily decorated and are illuminated with strings of lights, including the esplanade.

Esala Perahara, 2010 Kandy Sri Lanka
licensed under CC BY 2.0 by Richard Shaw

These lights burn throughout the night. A few days before the Esala
Perahera, A Kapa, a sapling from a tree that sheds milky juice is erected in each of the four Devales. On the 5th day, The Kumbal Perahera begins and goes on for 10 consecutive nights when the sacred relic casket is taken round the streets of Kandy accompanied by exotically costumed dancers and drummers.

These dance forms vary. The most popular dance froms are the Ves, Udekki, Pantheru, Naiyandi, Hewisi, Savang and Leekeli and the dancers with years of experience reveal their dexterity in the performance of their respective dances.

Kandy Esala Perahera
licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 by chris frape

The most colorful Perahera is last 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 relics casket on the velvet cloth clonintricately 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 with one heart and one voice starts chanting sadhu, sadhu, sadhu and the chorus will go on while the Esala Perahera begins.


A red and yellow floor spread (pavada) embroidered with appliques 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 kavikara maduwa 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 a tusker decorated with a is magnificent dress embedded with colored bulbs and generally looks more colorful then the other caparisoned elephants numbering over 75 who take part in the Esala 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 Esala Perahera proper begins as the canon booms. Leading the Perahera is the band of whip crackers who crack their whips in rhythmic pattern announcing it that the Esala Perahera is on. Immediately following are two o 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, A the Maligawa official in charge of the elephants, elegantly dressed in traditional Kandyan dress carrying the ankusaya the instrument by which elephants are controlled.

Carrier of the Relic Casket
licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 by chris frape

The crowd is impatiently waiting to get a glimpse of the tusker carrying the relics casket. It’s a wonderful sight to see the tusker 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 hanging dangling above it and strings of lights flickering all the time, tread over the pavada in assured 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 Nilame who, attired in his traditional Kandyan constume, slowly walks by under a large e embroidered umbrella held by a Vidane of the Maligawa and  flanked by two troupes of Ves dancers whose performance is a lovely sight to see.

Over 75 caparisoned elephants, 1000s 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 an costumes, take part in the Esala Perahera.

After the day of the Esala Perahera, it is customary for the Diyawadana Nilame and the Basnayake Nilames of the four devalas to report to Her Excellency the’ President that the Esala Perahera was satisfactorily conducted.

As the Esala Perahera draws to an end, the onlooker is apt to conclude that it is nothing but sheer ingenuity of the Buddhists from ancient times to have organized the country’s talents in arts and g crafts including drumming and dancing into a cultural pageant of such magnitude and offer it to ‘” the Sacred Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha as a form of veneration.

Extracted from a article by Neranjan Wijeyeratne (Diyawadana Nilame)

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Posted in Attractions, Events Article, Heritage Article

The month of Esala (July), during which period this annual pageant is usually held, had been considered a month of celebrations and festivity, both among Indians and Sri Lankans. Even from the lifetime of the Buddha in the 6th century BC, the Esala festival was held to commemorate the Buddha's Conception, his Renunciation and the First Sermon. Esala is also considered to be the beginning of the raining season (Vassana) when the monks commence their Retreat. Also, this month is considered to be the period when ritual performances to the protective divinities are held, (eg Pattini puja) as recorded in the text 'Pattini-Halla'.    Being considered a 'chaste' month, the period is held sacred for the availability of water, hence prosperity.

Several records have been left behind by dignitaries and other visitors to the island such as Robert Knox, John Davy, etc. The description of the perahara. These accounts provide much evidence as to the constitution and organization of the present day perahara. Yet many features seem to have been added and some changed to suit the time and the available resources and conditions.Dalada procession and the social traditions are linked so much together; the month of Esala has been named as the procession month, because of the Esala feast. In the 18th century at the time of King Keerthi Sri Rajasinghe the four Devala Peraharas and Dalada Perahara were amalgamated and were made series of Peraharas. The procession is a complex procedure in which various customs are involved.

The preliminary preparation for the perahara commences at the beginning of every year. Immediately after the Wesak and Poson pageants steps are taken to inform the owners of elephants the number of tuskers and elephant required measures of repair the dresses worn by the elephants and prepare new dress if required. Measures are taken to repair the required implements like oil torches etc and to fulfill the requirements to make the perahara a success. The astrologer attached to the Sacred Tooth (Nakath Mohottala) is required to prepare an auspicious time for pageant to be inaugurated. Later a meeting of state official and delegates of voluntary associations with the patronage of the Mahasangha is summoned to discuss matters pertaining to services to be executed to make the perahara a glorious event.

Kumbal Perahera (Kumbal Procession)

  • The first procession of the Sacred Tooth Relic stars with the Kumbal Perhara. This is the first Kumbal Perhara shown to the infants to drive away Evil Spells and Illwill. It is a tradition that the procession parades the streets of Kandy for five days. But the Kumbal Perahara is popular and remains as an unfinished procession or a semi procession. The reason is that Nilames do not work in this procession. But the Drummers and Tuskers take part without any ceremonial costumes.

Randoli Perahera (Randoli Procession)

  • This could be seen only with the procession of the Sacred Tooth Relic and parade the streets for whole five days which is a tradition. In the days of the Kings the Chief Queen of the Kings paraded in this procession in Palanquins. As the participation of the Queens was not proper to the procession of the Sacred Tooth Relic they were stopped but a palanquin is taken in the procession as an honor to the Queen. Today it is taken as the last item of the procession.

Maha Randoli Perahera (Grand Randoli Procession)

  • The Maha Randoli  Perahara is the last Procession. It is the grandest event of the festival. The Tuskers come with garlands and decorated with ceremonial costumes. The Diyawadana Nilame adds a novel glamour to the procession by wearing newly stitched costume.

SOME OF THE MAIN EVENTS IN PERAHARA.

The Permission

  • Until the sound of shots for the start of the procession is heard the tuskers, drummers, dancers and other artistes are lined up. Permission for the start of the procession is granted by Diyawadana Nilame. All the officials Kariya Korala, Gajanayake, Kapuwas Vidanes, Kankanam Rala, Mohottala and Wattorurala greet the Diawadana Nilame and proceed. These traditions are carried out regularly

Sound of Shots in the Perhara

  • It is the custom to fire three rounds of shots before commencement of the pageant. At the first sound the processions of the four devalas line up and move to join the procession of the Maligawa. The Second sounds indicate that the casket is placed in the Ranhilige on the ceremonial tusker. The Third sound indicates that the pageant is set off.

Kasakaruwo (Whip Crackers)

  • When the procession parades the streets the first participants you see are the whip crackers. It is believed that the noise of the whips depicts thunder and lightning. There are thirty of them. They intimate the arrival of the King. Generally they are used to make room for the Sacred Tooth Relic to be taken in the procession.

Buddhist Flags

  • To indicate that Kumbal Perahra and Randoli Perahahra are Buddhist rituals, Buddhist flags are taken in the procession. The youth clad in white cloth carrying Buddhist flags and their solemn walk is a spiritual and pleasant sight. The cool breeze from the Kandy Lake and the colours of the Buddhist flags add glamour to the procession.

Provincial Flag Bearers

  • According to the traditions of Kandy era the provincial flags are added to the procession and at that time Nilames in charge of provinces carry these flags. This tradition could be seen even today. First is the Sun and Moon flag of Sathara Koralaya, second the white flag of Matale, third the Silk flag of Sathara Koralaya,second the white flag of Matale, third the Silk flag of Sabaragamuwa, fourth the mythical bird of Thun Koralaya,the flag of the Peacock of Uva Walapane and the flag of the Lotus Flower of Uda Palatha taken in the Procession.

Sword Carriers

  • From the time, the Sacred Tooth Relic arrived in Sri Lanka and established in the temple it faced so many hostilities and hazards. However the swords which were raised to prevent these hostilities are remembered by the feature of these sword bearers in the procession. They walk with raised swords along the path of the procession of the Sacred Tooth Relic. They do not perform any dance but walk.

Fire Ball Dancers

  • The glow of lightning is magnificently shown by these Fire Ball Dancers. Turning of the Fire Balls is called 'Pandampaliya' which drives darkness of the night illuminating the procession.This Fire Ball Display is dangerous but with a balanced mind and body it is a simple exercise.

Peramune Rala (Front Runner)

  • Traditionally after the whip crackers comes the Peramune Rala on a tusker with his set of documents of tailpots containing the religious activities of procession of the Sacred Tooth Relic as well the duties with regard to the properties of the temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. This set of documents should be taken with both of his hands.He wears a white costume and a triangular hat(Thuppottiya).

First Hewisi Group

  • They come behind the tusker with the Peramune Rala (Front Runner). They are the first four Hewisi Players of the Temple. Their Presence in the front of the procession is a tradition. They Perform with a majestic skill.

Gajanayake Nilame

  • He is in charge of the group of tuskers of the King. Symboling this Gajanayaka Nilame walks as if he is in charge of the Elephants and tuskers who walk as if he is in charge of all the Elephants and tuskers who walk in the procession. As a tradition Diyawadana Nilame hands over a Goad to Gajanayake Nilame. He carries this pointing it to the sky and walks majestically dressed in a colourful costume.

Drummers

  • These hereditary Drum Beaters beat their drums as a religious ritual to the Sacred Tooth Relic. The procession consists of a collection of several generations of Drum Beaters who play the tunes pertaining to their own tribe. Start of the beat,Welcoming beat,Walking beat,Walinada beat are performed. These professional musicians perform with great respect and honor.

Horanekaruwo (Trumpet Blowers)

  • Trumpet is a well tuned instrument and is to be mastered. It has been popularized as the sound of Dalada Perahara. The tune Gajaga Wannama is well played right throughout the procession.Trumpet is made with skills pertaining to generations. It is an essential instrument of the Dalada Procession. White dress red cotton belts and shoulder are parts of the trumpet blower’s costumes and bare chests.

Coconut Flower Dancers

  • Coconut Flower is the symbol of prosperity. That is because they decorate the Punkalasa with Coconut flowers. The purpose of the Dalada Perahara is to wish prosperity to the country. To symbolize this, dancers carry coconut flowers in their hands. They perform a simple dance reciting verses changing the coconut flower from hand to hand.

Thammattamkaruwo    (Thammattam Players)

  • The drum tied round the waist produce the rhythm by beating with the help of two sticks. The hands and feet are free for them to dance and play the drum easily. Their costumes are made of white and red cloth.