Duruthu Poya, the initial full moon day of the Gregorian calendar,
commemorates the Buddha.s first of three visits to Sri Lanka. The Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya or KelaniyaTemple, near Colombo, hosts a perahera, literally procession to mark this symbolic
event. The perahera is a spectacular aspect of Sri Lanka’s festivals in which an array of
traditionally-attired dancers, drummers, whip-crackers, acrobats, and
enrobed elephants, participate. For visitors it’s one of Sri Lanka`s most
appealing cultural attractions.
Thai Pongal, the Hindu harvest festival, is celebrated on January 14 in
Hindu homes and temples throughout the country. Worship at the kovil
(temple) is mandatory for adherents to the faith. Special rituals are
held at home too, such as the cooking and ceremonial consumption of
traditional sweetened rice called pongal. An observance of a creative
nature, kolam, involves making intricate floor motifs with flour. In
rural areas, a sequel known as Madu Pongal follows. Domestic animals are
washed and fed, auspicious red colour smeared on their foreheads, and
finally they are garlanded with marigolds.
Kala Pola Colombo’s grandest open-air art festival, Kala Pola, is
held on the third Sunday of January at the exhibition grounds of the ViharamahadeviPark in Colombo’s CinnamonGardens. Sri Lankan artists and sculptors from all over the island are
given a chance to display their creative exhibits in a convivial
atmosphere filled with music and song. The end of January is home to the
very popular Galle Literary Festival, a special four-day event that
welcomes world-class writers and audiences from all around the world to take
part in and witness a host of talks, workshops and literary events at
venues in and around this heritage city.
Celebrating independence from Great Britain in 1948 falls on February 4. Parades, dances,
processions and national games are organized all over the island. But the
main event is held in Colombo, attended mostly by politicians.
Gangaramaya Navam Perahera - 8th
February - 9th February
Started in 1979, the Gangaramaya Navam Perahera has since developed into
one of Sri Lanka´s finest. Held at night on Navam Poya at the Gangaramaya
Vihara in the heart of Colombo, it’s a popular tourist attraction that can be viewed from stands
located along the roadside of the procession’s route. The fascinating
preparations, particularly the arrival of over 100 tame elephants at ViharamahadeviPark during the daytime, can also be observed.
The Hindu festival of Maha Sivarathri, or The Great Night of Shiva, is
celebrated in late February or early March in Hindu homes and temples
across the country. This is the most important religious festival of the
year for Shaivites who comprise the majority of Sri Lanka`s Hindus. It is
a deeply symbolic occasion: poojas are held at kovils during the day and
can be witnessed by visitors, and every Hindu household keeps an
Sri Lankan New Year
Sri Lankan New Year, which occurs usually on the 13th and 14th of April, is
a non-religious festival celebrated by the whole population. Originally a
harvest thanksgiving, it does not begin at on the designated day, because, like many
events in Sri Lanka, the precise (auspicious) timings are decided
upon astrologically. It’s believed New Year commences not when the old
one ends, but a few hours later. The interval between the old and the new
is called nona gathe, or neutral period, during which all activities
cease. When the New Year commences, fresh activities begin: a fire is lit
and new clothes are worn. Then comes the gana-denu, or give and take. in
which money is exchanged. The festival culminates when oil is mixed with
a herbal paste and a anoints the head of each family member. Over the
festive period traditional games, both indoor and outdoor, such as kotta
pora (pillow fighting) and havari hengima (hiding the wig) are played in
homes and villages, bringing together families and communities. Many
shops are closed for up to a week over New Year as people travel en-masse
with gifts and specially prepared festive food to offer to family and
The most important Buddhist full moon day is in May. Vesak Poya - which
marks the Buddha.s birth, enlightenment and passing away (Pariniwana).
Large pandals (bamboo frameworks) hung with pictures depicting events in
the life of the Buddha are erected in the streets, illuminated by
flashing coloured light bulbs. Roadside dansalas (stalls) offering free
food and soft drinks to passers-by are notable features of the event.
Among the many striking Vesak decorations are intricate paper lanterns of
different shapes and sizes, and little clay coconut oil lamps (pol-thel
pahana) that flicker throughout the island. Visitors to Sri Lanka at this time will not fail to witness and be
moved by the beautiful displays of lanterns outside every Buddhist home,
business and temple.
Poson Poya is second in importance to Vesak since it commemorates the
introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka in 247BC. The focus of this festival is the
ancient capital of the country, Anuradhapura, and the mountainous MihintaleTemple, reached by 1,840 steps, where King Devanampiyatissa was
converted to Buddhism in the third century BC. During Poson, the mountain
is illuminated and devotees climb the steps in their thousands to pay
homage to the event.
Kandy Esala Perahera Sri
Lanka’s most prominent festival is the magnificent Kandy Esala
Perahera, held in the hill capital of Kandy over 10 days in late July to early August and
climaxing on Esala Poya. The perahera´s origins date back to the third
century BC, but the modern event originated in the mid-18th century when
the Kandyan king decreed that once a year the sacred tooth relic of the
Buddha, kept at the Dalada Maligawa, or Temple of the Tooth should be displayed in a
procession for the people to venerate. Today, thousands - including many
visitors - flock to Kandy during this dazzling ten-day festival, where,
under a star-studded moon-filled sky, the streets of the city appear as
flowing threads of fire, colour, and stylized motion, mostly created by
flaming torches and enrobed and light bulb-encrusted elephants led by the
Maligawa Tusker, on whose back is a gold casket containing the relic.
The air is filled with the pulsating throb of a
multitude of drums, the ethereal-sounding wail of wind instruments, the
wicked crack of whips, even the occasional trumpeting of an elephant.
There is quieter participation too, from stilt walkers, acrobats, and the
most aesthetically pleasing and traditionally important of all the
performers, the dancers.
The Nallur Festival in Jaffna in August is the island's longest festival. Spanning 25 days of vibrant
chariot processions, drumming, dancing and acts of self-mortification,
held in honor of the war god Skanda.
The Hikkaduwa Beach Festival brings this town to life at the end of July
for four days of beach-based activities, cultural events and musical
shows for the whole family. International DJs, local dancers and
musicians headline the event. During the day this famous beach hosts many
fun activities - sandcastle building competitions, kite flying, beach
rugby, and even movies, to keep everyone entertained.
Festivals dedicated to various
Hindus celebrate a festival known as Vel in July to mark the
triumph of Lord Murugan (another aspect of the war god Skanda) over evil
powers. A magnificent silver-plated chariot bearing a statue of Lord
Murugan leaves a kovil in the Pettah district of Colombo and is pulled to
a shrine in another district, Bambalapitiya, followed by musicians and
devotees smashing coconuts and singing songs of praise to Lord Shiva.
Along the route there are stalls selling sweet delicacies, souvenirs, and
handicrafts to passers-by. In the southeast of the island, the sacred
site of Kataragama is brought to life with its unique annual Hindu
festival commemorating the victory of the six-faced, 12-armed Hindu
war god, Skanda, over an army of demons at Kataragama. Naturally, many
Hindu devotees make the pilgrimage to the shrine, but Buddhists, Muslims
and some Christians also honour this god. During this 10-day festival
pilgrims demonstrate their sincerity by performing astonishing acts of
penance and self-mortification. These include walking barefoot atop hot
coals and spearing themselves with hooks.
At Dondra, Sri
Lanka's southernmost point, just five kilometers from Matara, a
notable festival dedicated to Lord Vishnu featuring low-country dances,
traditional rituals, a perahera and a handicrafts fair, is held in July.
During the same month and commencing on the Esala Poya day is a seven-day
festival with a parade in Unawatuna, near Galle, where thousands of devotees descend on the
village and beach.
The Munneswaram Temple, three kilometres
from Chilaw, is another focus of celebration for Hindus in July as
they celebrate with fire walking in devotion to Lord Shiva while another
small festival is held at the seaside shrine of Udappuwa.
Almost three hundred of wild elephants gather each evening during this
season along the banks of the Minneriya Tank for food, water, shelter --
and match-making. Asian elephants are renowned as highly social animals
and the reservoir or tank meetings demonstrate their complex group
dynamics in action. The atmosphere gives an ideal setting for a world
phenomenon, where a high concentration of Asian elephants can be found at
a single location during July to October each year. Hotels in the
Minneriya area use the “Gathering” – as it is known- to organize safaris
to the MinneriyaNational Park during the season "The Gathering” giving
tourists the chance to observe the elephants feasting and frolicking on
the water's edge. Hotels in Sigiriya, Dumbulla, Habarana and Giritale, in
close proximity to the MinneriyaPark could be earning a billion rupees collectively
in revenue during the Gathering season.
Binara Full Moon Poya Day - 4th
Commemorates The Buddha's visit to heaven to preach to his mother and
celestial multitude. Also the commencing of the Bhikkhuni (nun's) Order.
Pajapati Gotami approached The Buddha and implored him to establish the
Ramazan Festival Day - 21th September
Coming with the new moon, the festival marks the end of 'Ramadan a month
when Muslims fast throughout the day and eat only at night Prayers,
feasts and family get- together are the major highlights of the
celebrations. It was during this month that the holy Koran was revealed.
Eid means recurring happiness or festivity. Eid is celebrated in India with much enthusiasm and fervor and Muslims
from all strata of life can be seen adorned in beautiful new clothes,
visiting the mosques to attend Salatul Eid (Eid prayers). Greetings of
"Eid-Mubarak" or "a blessed Eid" are exchanged.
Tuk Tuk Rally - 5th September to
15th September (annual)
The Lanka Challenge 2009 is a first ever rally featuring auto rishaws or
trishaws more commonly known as ‘tuk-tuks. Travellers from all over the
world will descend upon the island nation of Sri Lanka to take part in the 2009 Lankan challenge
which. The point of this challenge is twofold. One it tests the
participants racing skills; driving a tuk tuk is no mean task.42 people
will be divided into 20 teams will cover 1200 kms in 10 days with a
chance of winning 1000 USD. For more information visit www.lankachallenge.com
Art Biennale - 10th September to
14th September (annual) Colombo will host the first ever Art Biennale at Park
Street Mews. The Theme for this year's event is Peace. Joining Dubai, Bangladesh, Singapore, New York, Sydney and Venice, Colombo's Biennale aims to encourage and show contemporary art from Sri Lanka. International artists have shown interest and,
plans are underway to accommodate artists from the region and EEC. For more
information contact email@example.com
or call 115353332
World Tourism Week - 27th
September to 3rd October (annual)
A host of events have been planned for the Week. including a shramada by
school children, all Island essay writing, painting and poster
competition under the patronage of HE President Mahinda Rajapakse and
direction of Honorable Minister of Tourism, Nandana Gunathilake, have
been planned in order to celebrate the first World Tourism Day in a
united and peaceful Sri Lanka.
Vap Full Moon Poya Day - 3rd October
Even before the birth of Buddhism, Asian ascetics in the ancient times
when there were no calendars, made it a practice on full moon days to
cease worldly pursuits and engage themselves in religious activities. The
Buddha adopted this practice and from this devel2009-07-10oped the
preaching of the Buddhist texts and commentaries (bana) in monasteries
and temples on full moon Poya days. And when the Venerable Arahat Mahinda
Thero introduced Buddhism to this country in 247 BC he also introduced
the Poya tradition. Following is a brief description of the 12 Poyas in
the Buddhist calendar and their significance. Vap (full moon Poya day in
October) The significant events commemorated during this month are: the
conclusion of The Buddha preaching of the Abhidhamma for three months to
his mother in the Heavenly realm (devaloka), King Devanampiyatissa of Sri
Lanka sending envoys to King Asoka requesting him to send his daughter
Arahat Sanghamitta Theri to Sri Lanka to establish the Bhikkhuni Sasana
(Order of Nuns).
Deepavali Festival Day – 17th
The Hindu festival Deepavali, or the Festival of Lights (known in India and
elsewhere as Diwali) celebrates an aspect of the epic poem, the Ramayana
- the homecoming of the hero, the Indian Prince Rama, after a 14-year
exile in the forest following his victory over Lanka`s evil King Ravana.
In the legend, the people welcomed Rama by lighting rows of lamps, and
that´s exactly what happens today. Devotees all over the country wear new
clothes and cook sweet dishes to propitiate the goddess of wealth,
Lakshmi, who is also associated with the festival.
Il Full Moon Poya Day - 2th
Celebrates the obtaining of Vivarana (the assurance of becoming a Buddha)
by the Bodhisatta Maitriya and the commissioning of 60 disciples by The
Buddha, to disperse his teachings.
Eid Ul Alha (Hadji Festival Day) -
Eid ul-Adha (Hadji Festival Day), or the Festival of Sacrifice is a
public and bank holiday in Sri Lanka. Muslims all over the world celebrate this holy
day. It falls approximately 70 days after Eid ul-Fitr (end of Ramadan)
and is celebrated in honor of the prophet Abraham willingness to
sacrifice his son as a proof of his loyalty to God. Celebrations usually
include presenting an animal (usually a cow or a sheep) sacrifice, and
the meat is shared with family, friends and those in needs. The festival
also marks the end of the Pilgrimage or Hajj to Mecca. During the Hajj, male pilgrims are required to
dress only in a garment consisting of two sheets of white un-hemmed
cloth, with the top draped over the torso and the bottom secured by a
white sash; plus a pair of sandals.
Spice Festival - 6th November to
14th November (annual)
The culinary delights of the World Spice Festival draw on a real mixture
of Sri Lankan spices and cooking methods as well as the talents of
visiting chefs and the signature spices from their home countries. This
year's World Spice Food Festival promises all the excitement and culinary
delights that have endeared by visitors in the past. Participating hotels
and restaurants will conduct the food festival for one week in their
National Bird Month - 1st December
to 31st December Sri
Lanka is home to many colorful birds. Over 400 birds including 33 endemics
and 200 migrants have been observed on Sri Lankan soil. The Field
Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka (FOGSL) the national affiliate of BirdLife
International declared the month of December as the National Bird Month.
December is the peak of the Bird Migration season and will record the
highest number of birds. Many activities are being organised to educate
the public on the subject of birds . Participants can simply go out
bird-watching to as many places as possible. This data can be fed online
and will be later analyzed and used for conservation purposes. Organized
by: Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka (FOGSL) Visit: www.fogsl.lk
Unduvap Full Moon Poya Day - 1st
Unduvap (full moon Poya day in December) Arrival of the Bo-tree sapling.
This was brought to Sri Lanka from India by Buddhist Theri Sanghamitta, and it is this
very tree that is venerated by Buddhists in Anuradhapura. It is also the oldest documented tree in the
world. Sanghamitta Theri established the Bhikkhuni Sasana (the Order of
Hatton Adam`s Peak or Sri Pada is an important pilgrim site. The devotees
of many religions climb the mountain to invoke blessings. Buddhists
believe the impression on the summit is the footprint of the Buddha.
Sripada is the 4th highest mountain of Sri Lanka and it takes 4-5 hours to reach the peak by foot. The mountain is
also named as Samanola Kanda or ButterflyMountain. The area is rich in biodiversity and surrounded by the Peak
Wilderness Sanctuary. The pilgrimage season starts on Unduvap Poya from
December to May.
Christmas Day – 25th December Sri
Lanka is home for many Christians who celebrate Christmas in grand
style. The festival season is marked by street decorations in many places
of the city. Christmas carols are common and most of the major corporate
companies customarily throw Christmas parties, especially on the eve of
Christmas. City hotels plan Christmas programmes ahead and hold gala
dinner dances on the eve of Christmas. Most of the churches also hold
mid-night mass on the eve of Christmas. It is a public and bank holiday.
NegomboBeach Festival (annual)
The festival will be based around themed beach activities varying from
traditional fishing activities, dolphin watching, family activities,
water based activities to the highlight of the festival which would be a
beach rave which has proven to be the most attractive method to attract
visitors to festivals of this nature. In addition to beach activities
there would be various activities happening on the streets such as road
side restaurants, bars, festival transport services which will provide excursions
to historic sites of the city.
For more information on
Events and Festival in Sri Lanka, please visit the following websites: