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Festivals of Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, like India has a penchant to celebrate festivals in a grand way. In fact, both the neighbouring countries share their festivities too. Festivals like diwali, Buddha Poornima or Vesakh are celebrated in both the countries. Similarly, India and Sri Lanka both have their calendars filled with holidays, festivities and celebrations. Not a single month passes without festivals and ceremonies.
In January, Thai Pongal, a Hindu winter harvest festival honours the sun god Surya. It is important to Tamils in Sri Lanka and South India. Look for the special sweet dish, pongal, which is made with rice, nuts and spices.
Independence Day here is celebrated on 4 February every year with festivals, parades, fireworks, sporting events and more across the nation.
Navam Perahera is the biggest and the flamboyant of all peraheras. Held on the February poya or full moon night, the festive parade starts from the Gangaramaya Temple and travels around Viharamahadevi Park and Beira Lake in Colombo.
In late February or early March, the Hindu festival of Maha Sivarathri based on the marriage of Shiva to Parvati is celebrated among devotees with all-night vigils and more. It’s the most important day for Shaivites, who comprise the majority of Sri Lanka’s Hindus.
Next major festival is celebrated every year on April 13th by Sinhala and Tamil people in the form of New Year festival. Next important festival to be celebrated in the country is Vesakh, dedicated to Lord Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and final mahaparinirvana. Aurudu (New Year) falls on the very next day as a non-religious holiday.
Vesak Poya is a prominent Buddhist festival celebrated for two-consecutive days, commemorating the birth, enlightenment and death of the Buddha. Amid the festivities, the high point is the lighting of paper lanterns and oil lamps outside of every Buddhist home, shop and temple.
Poson Poya day celebrates the bringing of Buddhism to Sri Lanka by Mahinda, the son of Mauryan Emperor Ashoka. In Anuradhapura there are festivities in the famous temples, while in nearby Mihintale thousands of white-clad pilgrims ascend the 1843 steps to the topmost temple.
Vel celebrations include ceremonial hauling of Murugan’s gilded chariot. Dedicated to the god of war, the festivities surround the cities of Colombo and Jaffna.
Another prominent festival as per Tamil beliefs is celebrated in Jaffna’s Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil temple. The festival is famous as Nallur Festival and is celebrated over 25 days in July and August. The conclusion of the festival is a visual delight where parades of juggernaut floats are paraded as a part of festivity.
Deepavali, another big Hindu festival of lights is celebrated between October to November. (Dates vary). Thousands of flickering oil lamps are illuminated to celebrate the triumph of good over evil and the return of Rama to his kingdom after his period of exile.
Last, but not the least, December also brings with its two major Sri Lankan festivals, Unduvap Poya and Christmas. Unduvap Poya’s full moon night celebrates Sangamitta, the revered saint who brought a cutting from the sacred Bodhi Tree in India in 288 BC to Anuradhapura. The resulting tree, the Sri Maha Bodhi, is considered the oldest living tree in the world. The festival celebrates the reason why Anuradhapura is a celebrated world heritage site of Sri Lanka.
Next major festival, Christmas also unites the cultural fabric of Sri Lanka. Western Christmas traditions can be found across the nation, from bone-thin Santas in strange masks to garish artificial trees.
Such a series of festivities comprise the festivals of Sri Lanka. While planning a tour to Sri Lanka, make sure you have a Sri Lankan calendar to prevent extra accommodation and transportation charges. This exercise is also essential to derive the most of Sri Lankan experiences during this pleasurable holiday.