Grand elephant parade at the Kotte Rajamaha Viharaya enthralled Sri Lankans
Posted on September 2nd, 2020

Courtesy NewsIn.Asia

It was the first Perahera” with public participation in Sri Lanka after the lifting of the country-wide COVID-19 lockdown

Grand elephant parade at the Kotte Rajamaha Viharaya enthralled Sri Lankans

Colombo, September 1 ( On August 29th, as the sun was setting, a historic Buddhist temple, the Kotte Rajamaha Viharaya located in the outskirts of Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo, held its annual Perahera” or public festivities which included a grand procession of richly decorated elephants accompanied by dancers, musicians and entertainers.

It was the first Perahera” with public participation in Sri Lanka after the lifting of the country-wide lockdown which had been imposed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Kathakali dance from Kerala in the Kotte Rajamaha Vihara Perahera. Photo: Tang Lu

Over 20 elephants wearing colorful caparisons participated in the Kotte Perahera. The dancers performed the traditional fire dance, whip dance, the Kandyan dance and also Kathakali, a dance form associated with Kerala in South India. Pipers playing plaintive tunes and drummers executing intricate rhythmic patterns entertained a large crowd of common people.

The brightly lit canopy on the elephant covers the Buddha’s relics. Photo: Tang Lu

The elephant parade is an annual religious-cum-cultural event in Sri Lanka’s Buddhist temples. Each major temple has elephants in its stables. The largest and the most famous of these elephant parades are held by the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy in Central Sri Lanka. The festivities in the Temple of the Tooth last for more than ten days, and at least 50 elephants participate in the procession.

Kandyan drummers herald the appearance of another elephant.Photo: Tang Lu

Every elephant parade has an ornately decorated lead elephant, which has the privilege of carrying a huge canopy on its back housing the Buddha’s relics. White cloth is spread on the path of the procession as a mark of respect to the relics.

Varying designs in the decorations kept audience interest up. Photo: Tang Lu

In order to avoid the spread of the new coronavirus, the Sri Lankan government had first restricted such religious celebrations. But as the threat from the virus thinned, the government gradually eased the restrictions, while insisting that the public abide by health guidelines which included wearing masks.

(The photograph at the top and video are by Tang Lu)

One Response to “Grand elephant parade at the Kotte Rajamaha Viharaya enthralled Sri Lankans”

  1. Nimal Says:

    This wonderful festival was enjoyed by our families where this perahara went past our properties right next to this temple.Our aunty supplied the coconut shells for the perahara’s lights that used burning coconut shells,prior to this they were using kerosene peromax lights and to make it very traditional they used coconut shells and this change was done in 1945 I was told but I saw to my self few petromax lights in 1948.Many burghers who lived in the area made the colourful spectators and the houses on the route celebrated with lot of drinking and even dancing and they hardly watched the passing perahara but they walked about in groups celebrating the beautiful carnival and food stalls.
    I remember women from the costal areas setting up stalls selling a special kind of sweets only unique to their areas where they were Portuguese in origin.
    What a wonderful gift given to us by the last colonials.
    I was told due to this perahara took a very short route on very narrow road,in 1943 the colonials want to extend the route to near jubilee junction and turn on to Devala road or devala Lane joining Pargoda road and back to the temple.thus giving more room for increasing number of spectators also safety of spectators in mind because the elephants felt very uneasy with crowds getting too close to them and was getting agitated and I saw to my self in 1947 there was a stampede and many injured were brought to our homes on route where they were treated in our gardens.
    New route was dropped because the Devala lane was too narrow and many of the occupants living on that lane, include one of my aunties could not be dislodged to widen the road because many were engaged in defending the country against the Japanese as their husbands were serving in Burma,Malaya and even in North Africa.One can see from the photo above the colonials erased the Dravidian temples and turned them into Buddhist temples.At the bottom of the Devala lane was a massive quarry where they made Buddhist statues to be placed in the one time Dravidain temples and they did this in Kandy too.
    They settled our families who were sheltered in the South of the island and settled them in Kotte and Mirihana and I was born in our house presently the Mirihana police station.Most of these lands were given to Arltigalles,Basnayakee,Kottyhalawalas,Dissanayakes,etc.They resettled some at Talawa and in Anuradhapura with a walawwa right next to Ruwanwalisaya.

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