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Sri Lankan Festivals

Sinhalese and Hindu Festival

Celebrations and festivities are some inevitable activities that are greatly much part of our life because through them, cultures are born or created.  Celebrating a special event most often are more than just about rejoicing, but rather they are celebrated to commemorate an important part of history, religious teachings or a tradition that has long been in existence.  Through celebrations, all races and nationalities are united that is why having them is definitely something that should never be extinguished no matter the reason or cause may be.

One important event for the Sinhalese people that they celebrate is the Sinhalese New Year Festival.  The significance of this event for the Sinhalese is very much the same as that of the Hindus and the Tamils. This festival is also called Aluth Avurudda and is one of the most important events that both the Sinhalese and the Sri Lankans honor each year.  It happens every 13th of April or 14th during the leap year and is considered a public holiday.

At this time, the weather is nice because it is not hot and it is simply a wonderful period that is filled with so much abundance.   During this time prosperity is evident everywhere.  Pantries are filled with stocks because harvest just ended; trees are simply beautiful as flowers are in bloom, and every home is painted anew to welcome the coming of the New Year.

This New Year is definitely a fun filled moment because it is a time that is most especially reserved for merriment and good cheer.  It is also a time to display fondness and warmth to the elders, as well as a perfect time for families to be reunited with each other, so the Sinhalese and Hindu Festival are truly something that can be personal and certainly joyful because it allows people, specifically families to spend time with each other and rekindle their bonds.

During this festivity, a lot of activities take place.  There is the poetry contest, as well as competitions between teams of drummers from nearby villages.  You can also expect to see beautiful ladies play the rabana, an instrument that looks like a big tambourine.  Different games are also played such as Pancha Keliya, Onchili Pedeema and Olinda Keliya among many others.  These games exhibit the sense of team spirit.

Religious activities and rituals are definitely some of the main highlights of this important celebration as well.  One of the rituals is that the father, who is the head of the family, feeds his wife and children while they are gathered around the Avurudu table.  After which, both husband and wife give money to each other to symbolize good harvest and a stable economic condition for the entire year.

 

Getting to Know More About the Vesak Festival

One of the important events that Buddhists celebrate each year is the Vesak Festival.  This event is also called Buddha Purnima or one that is more popularly known as Buddha Day.  This major happening is celebrated by all Buddhists from the different parts of the world, and is observed in different days in countries such as the Philippines, Nepal, Tibet, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia and Indonesia.

During Vesak Festival, the life of Buddha, meaning from his birth to his enlightenment and up to his death is honored by his devotees.  This special day usually takes place during a full moon in the month of April or May, or during leap year, it happens on the month of June.

Vesak Festival is also considered as Buddha’s birthday, and at this time several religious activities are observed and organized such as Sil campaigns, Bodhi Poojas and the Dansalas where in Buddhists give food, coffee and tea to the people for free.  Also during the celebrations, you can expect to hear Vesak devotional songs and witness pandols and lanterns.

Buddhists go to their temples and spend their entire day there as well and do their worship as they offer flowers, burn incense and light lamps.  The devouts wear a white dress and take part in some traditional rituals that happen inside the temple.  On Buddha’s birthday, the Dana which is about showing acts of generosity is followed inside the Buddhist temples makes an essential role as well because they believe that by doing good deeds on this auspicious day, their blessings will be rewarded many times.

It is also about sharing or giving peace and joy to other people and everyone around them.  To display this important celebration, Buddhists adorn their homes as well as other public areas and organize different cultural events to spread the merriment.  Since this is a religious event that is filled with giving and sharing, selling of flesh and alcohol are not definitely not allowed at this time.

To add to their acts of generosity, many young Buddhists also organize blood donations at hospitals.  Other activities that can be expected to be witnessed during this day is the chanting of mantras as well as the releasing of caged birds and animals.  More than the festivities, what is even more essential during Vesak Festival is the remembrance for Buddha’s dharma and sangha and at the same time to renew the practice.

 

Kandy Perahera

Buddhists commemorate almost everything about Buddha that is why they have so many celebrations to honor him.  There is the Vesak Festival which is also known as Buddha’s birthday where in Buddhists remember the life and times of Buddha including his enlightenment and death.  After Vesak Festival, another most important event for Buddhists is the Poson Festival which celebrates the coming of Buddhism in Sri Lanka.

Aside from these two major celebrations, there is also the Kandy Perahera Festival.  This significant event is about revering the Sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha which is the most adored object of worship for Buddhists.  This sacred relic is found in Kandy, Sri Lanka a place that is considered as the most sacred spot of worship for all the Buddhists in all parts of the world.

The Kandy Perahera Festival remembers the triumph of Deras as opposed to the Asuras right on the day after the new moon during the month of Esala.  This celebration begins with the planting of the kap in the 4 devales of Natha, Maha Vishnu, Kataragama and Pattini when the new moon comes out in Esala.  During this time, the Esala tree is in abundance because it is in full bloom.  Kandy Perahera Festival happens in Kandy, Sri Lanka in July and August.

A grand festivity takes place during this time and you can expect to witness some elegant costumes.  One amazing highlight of this event is the parade of more than 100 elephants that are dressed in elegant and flamboyant costumes that are made of colorful silk, and several enchanting bright lights change the streets into a such magical sight.

During the Kandy Perahera Festival, a traditional procession in honor of the Sacred Tooth Relic of the Lord Buddha can be witnessed by all the spectators.  At the said parade, people can take pleasure in seeing some very customary dances such as fire dances, whip dances, Kandyan dances as well as other forms of dances which displays their culture.  Kandy Perahera Festival is known to be one of the most ancient and the most lavish of all Buddhist celebrations.

More than the traditional dances, this event also features other forms of entertainment such as jugglers, fire breathers and musicians.  This is perhaps one of the most exciting celebrations as well as the most colorful religious parades that take place in Asia.  This event happens for 10 days and ends with the customary diyakepeema ritual which is a water cutting rite that is held in the Mahameli River.

Sri Lanka - Triangle d'or

 

Poson Festival

Buddhists greatly commemorate the life of Buddha in many ways that they can pay homage to him—to give reverence and most especially to have remembrance of his teachings and way of life.  Poson Festival is one of those very special and important events that Buddhists celebrate every single year because in the 3rd BC in Sri Lanka, it was during this time when Buddhism first became known in this country.

Poson Festival is definitely a very essential event for Buddhists in Sri Lanka as it provides an enormous significance both religiously and historically.  This highly important event takes place in June on the day when the moon is full, and is well celebrated in two equally significant places which are Mihintale and the Anuradhapura.

Mahintale is the focal point of the festivities as it is the place where the royal missionary monk named Mahinda delivered his first sermon to the then ruling king.  This highly historical space was once a monastic complex which is why it is considered sacred by the Buddhists in Sri Lanka.  Anuradhapura on the other hand, is another place of celebration during the Poson Festival because aside from being Sri Lanka’s ancient capital, it is also where pilgrims come together and gather.

On this day, several religious practices are observed, and part of the festivities is the illuminations parade as well.  Poson Festival is certainly a celebration that Buddhists take to heart as it is one of their foremost remembrances of Buddha, after the Vesak Festival.

Some of the religious activities that happen on this day are Sil campaign, Bodhi Poojas and the Dansalas among many others.  The Dansala is the Buddhists’ way of showing generosity by giving food, coffee and tea without any charge to other people.  Other activities that take place during this event are the singing of Poson devotional songs, another is that the devotees wear white clothes without any other adornment such as jewelry or make up to signify humility.  They then go to the temple and stay there for 24 hours in complete meditation.

Other people from the village congregate at the temple grounds while doing related activities as well such as reading of holy books and listening to the monk as he tells about some early stories on Buddha.  This celebration is a moment of faithfulness and purity, and at the same time it also centers on the value of compassion to all creatures that live.