Events & Festivals
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Sinhala & Tamil New Year
The Sinhala and Tamil New Year in Sri Lanka is celebrated at the beginning of the lunar year when the zodiacal circle completes its cycle transition from Pisces to Aries. The dawning of a new year is celebrated quite festively as Sinhalese and Hindus of the whole island come alive with mirth and joy in the spirit of a new beginning. Celebrated in April, the locals prepare themselves well ahead of time by cleaning and decorating their homes. On the days of the new year, a handful of traditions are practised among many other festivities including fireworks, local games and home-cooked feasts. The New Year festival is also known as the harvest festival where the locals worship the sun in a request for the prosperity of their lives.
Celebrated every year during the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, the Ramadan festival is a celebration rooted in culture, faith and history. With vibrant celebrations that are unique to their region have passed on through generations, Ramadan is celebrated for as long as a month by devotees committed to fasting and cleansing. A ritual is thought to strengthen one's relationship with God. Prayers, charity and generosity make the month even more reverent. As it is the most sacred month of the year in the Islamic culture, Ramadan is a festival celebrated with joy and revelry. Prophet Mohammed preached, “When the month of Ramadan starts, the gates of heaven are opened and the gates of hell are closed and the devils are chained."
Vesak Full Moon ‘Poya’ Day
The full moon in May marks the most hallowed of celebrations in the Buddhist calendar. Streets decorated in brightly lit lanterns, oil lamps and dramatic pandal displays are a sight to witness as the locals commemorate the birth of Siddhartha Gautama; his enlightenment, when he became the Buddha; and when he attained Nirvana. A myriad of faithful devotees gathers at the local temples in a sea of white to pay their homage and worship Lord Buddha in hushed tones while the monks clad in orange robes quietly chant Pirith in their harmonious and almost spellbinding voices.
Poson Poya, which commemorates the arrival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, is another grand Poya celebration. It usually takes place during the full moon in June and l ike all Poya days, there are celebrations all over the island. However, the main festivities for Poson Poya take place at Mihintale where the Buddhist monk Mahinda is said to have first discussed Buddhism with King Devanampiyatissa at the Mihintale rock outcrop.
The Kandy Festival of Perahera
The Kandy Festival of Perahera is one of the most iconic celebrations that take place in Asia in July and August. Almost symbolic, this stately festival is celebrated with poise and grandeur that spans for several days in Kandy. The ceremony while honouring the Lord Buddha's tooth relic also serves as a procession beseeching blessings from the gods and showers them with rain to cultivate their crops. During the festival days, Kandy's streets come alive with lively and magnificent parades at night featuring richly draped dancers, drummers, and majestic elephants adorned in bejewelled robes. A 300-year-old tradition that is still celebrated today with many grandiose festivities and traditions. The most detailed account of the Esala Perehera can be found in the book written by the Chinese pilgrim 'Fa Hien,' who visited Sri Lanka in the 5th century A.D.
Dedicated to Lord Murugan, another spectacular event held in the Northern Penninsula of our island pearl is the grand Nallur Festival. Held from August to September, the Nallur Festival runs for a whopping 25 days parading with rituals and colourful traditions, rivalling the grandest of celebrations of those at the Kandy Festival of Perahera. Recognised as Sri Lanka’s longest holy festival, the Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil Festival is dedicated to Lord Murugan, the Hindu god of War.