When the Buddhist month of Esala arrives, the city of Kandy, Sri Lanka puts on an annual pageant where the men fulfil their vows to Skanda, a Hindu god as they walk with their backs covered in spikes and are joined by a colourful procession.
This procession features fire-juggling acrobats, traditional dancers, wonderfully decorated elephants, banners, musicians, palanquins, torch bearers, whip crackers, along with thousands of swordsmen and barefoot pilgrims.
This amazing event has taken place annually since around 300 AD and this year’s spectacle will run from Aug 10, 2010 to Aug 25, 2010.
There’s a parade every night of the festival and it grows longer each day until the last night of the pageant, which climaxes as the biggest and most colourful of them all.
The event is a combination of Buddhist and Hindu beliefs and a dedication to Buddha as well as Skanda.
The festival is used to ask the gods to supply good health, fertility, rain, and successful crops. The elephants are featured because they’re known as symbols of fertility and abundance and are essential in attracting rain for a good harvest.
The biggest elephant carries a golden container which is believed to house a tooth that belonged to the Buddha. This is considered to be the most valuable item in the parade.
For more information on the Kandy Perahera (Esala Perahera), visit www.daladamaligawa.org