Kandy Pera Hera is the most spectacular religious procession in Asia. This traditional festival held in the heart of Kandy, begins with the full moon poya day on the Buddist month of Esala and continues for 10 days in an explosion of Sri Lankan culture.
The beating of the traditional drums, the bells on the Kandian dancers singing in tune, the extravagant dancing and traditional outfits, the richly decorated elephants, the smell of burning fire, the cracks of the whips hitting the firelit street, surrounded by the hustle and bustle of thousands of Sri Lankans crowding to be a part of this sacred Pera Hera, the atmosphere was bursting with energy.
Elephants from all over Sri Lanka travel to Kandy for the biggest Pera Hera of the year. We were extremely lucky to get great seats on some tree roots right at the very front, probably left free due to the very short distance between them and the fire burners! But a few flying embers was a great exchange for seats that were practically in the procession!
Every elephant that approached we scanned for recogisable features to see if we could spot our elephants. Soon came a giant male that we knew must have been Saliya, and sure enough there was Veejay walking beside him. The look on his face was to be treasured, as his eyes lit up on seeing a group of us volunteers there to see him and Saliya. Then came Rani and Chandana with another grin from ear to ear. The mahouts, along with every other person participating, must be incredibly proud to partake in this extraordinary event. A minature elephant approached and sure enough, it was baby Sandaka, walking in his first ever Kandy Pera Hera.
Elephants, being so embedded in Sri Lanka’s culture and religion, play a huge role in these sacred events. As spectacular as it was, I find it hard to see these peaceful giants amidst all the lights and noise. What was good to see, was the lights on many of the elephants head dresses were replaced this year with LED bulbs, making them less heavy and hot. We were all very happy to see our elephants return safely to the MEF to rest once more.
Kandy Pera Hera truly is a spectacular parade and a cultural experience unique to Sri Lanka.
For an interesting article about the Pera Hera click Here!