The Dalada Perahera in Kandy | Sunday Observer

The Dalada Perahera in Kandy

The Dalada Perahera or the Esala Perahera is held during the Sinhala month of Esala (between July and August) as we know it today annually. It is a grand pageant held to honour the Dantha Dathuwa or the Sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha which is housed in the Dalada Maligawa or the Temple of the Tooth Relic in Kandy.

The Sacred Tooth Relic was originally in India in the state of Kalinga now known as Orissa. It was brought to Sri Lanka by Princess Hemamala and her husband Prince Dantha in the fourth century. The Princess hid the Sacred Tooth Relic in her hair and brought it to our country. They handed it over to the then Sinhala King in Anuradahapura King Kirthi Sri Meghawarna (King Kithsirimevan).

While here the Sacred Tooth Relic was taken in a procession to the Abhayagiri Viharaya and the Dalada perahera in Kandy is thought to have originated from this.

King Vimaladharmasuriya (AD 1591-1604) brought the Sacred Tooth Relic to Kandy then called Senkadagala.

At this time the four Devales (shrines dedicated to different gods), in this case, the shrines dedicated to the Gods Natha, Vishnu, Kataragama and Godess Pattini had their own peraheras while the Dalada Maligawa had its own perahera. King Kirthi Sri Rajasinghe (AD 1747 -1781) on the advice of the Sangha Raja Velivita Sri Saranankara ordered that all five peraheras be combined and this was the start of the Esala Perehera as we know it today.

The Diyawadana Nilame is the lay custodian of the Sacred Tooth Relic and Esala Perehera arrangements are done under his supervision. The official who leads the Dalada Esala Perehera is the Peramune Rala and he carries the lekammiti. This is a record of the duties of the Dalada Maligawa officials duties written on an ola leaf manuscript.

The Gajanayake Nilame is in charge of the elephants and in the perahera he carries a golden goad or ankusa (symbol of the mahouts) to show he is in charge of the royal elephants.

The most important elephant in the Perahera is the tusker who carries the Dalada Karanduwa (Golden Casket) with the Sacred Tooth Relic.

The Kap Situweema ceremony is done before the perahera at the four devales according to a nekath or auspicious time given by the Nekathrala (Nekath Mohottala). He also selects the auspicious times for the perahera.

The Dalada Perehera is held for ten days and the first five days are devoted to the Kumbal Perahera (Devale pereheras) which goes round the devales and is only within the Dala Maligawa premises. The next five nights are given over to the grander Randoli Peraheras (Procession of the Golden Palanquins) which parade the streets of Kandy. On the last Randoli Perehera night the Sacred Tooth Relic is kept in the Gedige Vihara of the Asgiriya Temple and returned to the Dalada Maligawa the next day.

The day following the last Randoli Perahera is the day pereahera (dawal perahera) and the Water cutting ceremony (Diya Kepima Mangalle). This is done at Getambe ford on the Mahaweli River. The lay custodians of the four devales go to this place at first light and go to the middle of the river in a boat. They carry golden swords and the water collected the previous year. The boat is surrounded by a white cloth and the ritual of water cutting is performed. The lay priest empties the caskets of the previous year’s water, draws a circle in the water and immerses the casket within it to collect fresh water striking the water all the while with a golden sword.

The lay priests return to the city with the caskets of fresh water. The Dalada Perahera and the devale peraheras join them and return to the Dalada Maligawa and the devales before noon and there ends the Dalada Esala Perahera.

Then the Diaywadana Nilame and other officials inform the King that the Perehara has been successfully finished. Today, they inform the President. This year the Dalada Perehera will be held from the 5th of August to the 10th of August according to the auspicious times.