Kandy Tooth Festival

Guide to Kandy Tooth Festival 2024 A Travel Handbook

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The Ceremony of the Tooth is among the most magnificent celebrations in Sri Lanka and within the Buddhist realm. Annually during the summer, it takes place in Kandy to venerate the revered tooth relic of Lord Buddha and show reverence to Sri Lanka’s ancient deities. For the inhabitants of Sri Lanka, it marks a period of rejoicing in the nation’s diverse heritage and past. For explorers, it presents a prime opportunity to partake in the distinctive customs of this tropical nation and revel in the festivities! Utilise our handbook for an unforgettable encounter with this exceptional celebration.

What constitutes the Festival of the Tooth?

The Celebration of the Tooth is known as Esala Perahera in Sinhalese. “Esala” represents a lunar month appearing in July or August. “Perahera” signifies a procession or parade. The Kandy Esala Perahera is thought to be a distinct amalgamation of two separate yet intertwined processions – the Esala and Dalada.

The Esala Perahera initially served as a ceremony to request divine intervention for rainfall to support crop cultivation, tracing its origins to the 3rd century BC. Conversely, the Dalada Perahera aims to pay homage to the revered tooth relic of Lord Buddha, reportedly transported from India to Sri Lanka in the 4th century CE.

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Celebration Date of the Tooth Festival

The Celebration of the Tooth occurs during the Esala month (July or August), believed to honour the Buddha’s inaugural teaching post-enlightenment. The festival dates fluctuate annually, ensuring its conclusion aligns with a full moon.

Observers lining the streets, anticipating the parade

Proposed Dates for the Celebration of the Tooth

2023 August 21 – August 31
2024 July 10 – July 20

 

Celebration Methods of the Tooth Festival

Amidst the Tooth Festival, crowds journey from all over Sri Lanka to Kandy, drawn to witness the grand parade. Encompassing around 5,000 dancers, drummers, whip crackers, fire jugglers, and numerous other contributors, the procession unfolds. Adorned in intricate traditional attire, these performers captivate. Additionally, over 100 embellished elephants grace the spectacle.

The Celebration commences by severing a consecrated juvenile jack tree. Following this, branches from the tree are positioned in proximity to the sanctuaries of the four guardian deities: Natha (a Buddhist redeemer), Vishnu (guardian of Buddhism in Sri Lanka), Kataragama (guardian of the southern region), and the deity Pattini (goddess of well-being and fertility). Historically, this rite entailed beseeching the gods for blessings upon the monarch and the populace.

Throughout the subsequent five evenings, joyous dances and drumming festivities take place adjacent to every temple. On the sixth night of the celebration, marches commence from each sanctuary, proceeding towards the Temple of the Tooth. Over the ensuing three nights, the processions grow lengthier and increasingly splendid.

The climax occurs during the ultimate evening of the marches: a colossal 13377x elephant transports a golden casket housing a duplicate of the Tooth Relic, captivating the audience along the path with drummers and dancers. Following the drummers and dancers are additional elephants and various ensembles of musicians, dancers, and standard bearers.

Subsequent to evenings of parades, a water-severing ritual concludes the festival at daybreak. At this time, clergy from each of the four temples venture into the Mahaweli River, using a sword to “cut” a circle in the water and replenishing pitchers with water from within the circle. 

Travel Tips for the Festival of the Tooth

Secure accommodations well ahead due to heightened demand during the festival period, as bookings may be extensive.

While observing the grand procession from the streets alongside locals is an option, it’s strongly tamilmv advised to pre-book seats (approximately USD 100 each) in designated viewing galleries for optimal viewing. Note that viewing galleries may not be accessible along all parade routes.

Refrain from displaying public affection, such as embracing or kissing, as it may not be culturally accepted by the locals.

Prepare beverages and snacks as the event duration can be lengthy (4 – 5 hours). Many eateries close for seating during the parade. Alcohol sales are prohibited on Poya (full-moon day of the month) days, but tea, coffee, and Thambili (king coconut water) are available, providing a safe and refreshing alternative.

Conclusion

Dive into the vibrant fabric of Sri Lanka’s cultural legacy with the Festival of the Tooth in Kandy. From sacred processions to mesmerising performances, this event provides a captivating insight into the nation’s heritage. Prepare in advance, honour local customs, and relish each moment of this unforgettable journey. Come, be part of this enchanting experience through an iconic festival.

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