The Esala Perahera in Kandy is celebrated to honour the Sacred Tooth Relic and the four ‘guardian’ Gods Natha, Vishnu, Kataragama and Goddess Pattini. The Kandy Maligawa Perahera is followed in order by those of the Natha, Vishnu, Kataragama and Pattini ‘Devales’ (Temples dedicated to these Gods) which are situated in the vicinity of the Kandy Maligawa (Temple of the Tooth).
After the Kandyan Kingdom fell to the British in 1815, the custody of the Tooth Relic was handed over to the Buddhist Clergy. In the absence of the King, a lay custodian called the Diyawadana Nilame was appointed to handle routine administrative matters. The purpose of the Kandy Esala Perahera Procession is to beseech blessings of the gods to obtain rain for the cultivation of crops and to enrich the lands of the kingdom.
This ritual is performed by carrying the sacred tooth relic of the Buddha through the streets of the Kandy city which is done with exceptional panache. This is considered as one of the most beautiful festivals in Asia.
The parade is split in 2. The Kumbal Perahera and the Randoli Perahera.
The Kumbal Perahera takes place during the first 5 days of the festival. This gorgeous parade starts here exactly at the auspisious time set for that day. Legend has it that the first Kumbal Perahera is shown to infants to drive away any evil spells or spirits. In tradition the Kumbal Perahera does not expect a presence of the Nilame and the Tooth Relic (custodian of the Sacred tooth Relic), however the drummers and tuskers take part without any ceremonial costumes.
The Randoli Perahera takes place during the last 5 days of the event. The Sacred Tooth Relic can be seen kept on an elephant back protected by the custodian during all 5 days of the parade. There are 4 main events dedicated to 4 hindu gods that takes part in the parade. This cannot be seen during the Kumbal Perahera. All the elephants are colorfully dressed and all the events take place through the night on the designated route around the Kandy City.