Like its neighboring country, India, religion and tradition play an extremely important role in Sri Lankan culture. Throughout the year, various festivals are held in Hindu and Buddhist temples. Many "Perahera" (processions) are organized according to the lunar calendar, with their dates varying each year. Below is a list of some of the largest festivals of Sri Lanka:
- Duruthu Perahara : This festival, taking place in January, during the "poya" (full moon), at Kelaniya Temple near Colombo, celebrates the first visit of the Buddha to Sri Lanka. This important procession brings together musicians, dancers, and elephants for a colorful celebration.
- Navam Perahara : Navam Perahera is one of the largest and most flamboyant parades in the country. During the February poya, the perahera leaves Gangaramaya Temple for two evening parades in Colombo that features masked dancers and torch bearers. This festival is one of the major events in the city.
- Maha Sivarathri : This important festival for Hindus commemorates the marriage of Lord Shiva and the Goddess Parvati with a night of vigil and other rituals. It usually takes place in March.
- Avurudu : Taking place in April, Avurudu is the Sinhala and Tamil New Year. The whole country celebrates this grand festival on April 13 and 14 and the holidays last at least a week. Families get together and public transportation is usually crowded; it is the time to spend quality time with your loved ones and enjoy family celebrations around traditional games.
- Vesak Poya : This two-day festival takes place during the full moon of May and commemorates the birth, awakening, and death of the Buddha. During this festival of lights, houses, public buildings and streets are decorated with paper lanterns and oil lamps.
- Ruhunu Perahara ou le festival de Kataragama This is one of the most symbolic festivals of Sri Lanka because it brings together Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, and Hindus of the country. The streets of Kataragama light up with parades, dances and ritualistic acts which include fire-walking, piercing cheeks and tongues with needles, hanging from iron hooks, and kavadi (an arched pole decorated with peacock feathers) dancing, performed by devotees fulfilling their vows.
- Esala Perahara : Esala Perahara is Sri Lanka’s biggest perahera. It takes place during the summer, in July or August, and honors the relic of the Buddha's tooth. The streets of Kandy come alive for ten days, with large parades taking place at night. This Buddhist festival also features elephants decorated and adorned with sumptuous clothes. Different traditional dances are the main attraction of this extraordinary celebration.
- Nallur Festival : The big Hindu festival of "Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil Temple" takes place in Jaffna between the end of July and the beginning of August and lasts more than 25 days. This colorful festival ends with parades of chariots and performances of devotees in trance.
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