Sri Lanka is a land of pageants and processions, dating back over 2,500 years. Every year, in the lunar month of August, the scenic hill capital of Kandy comes alive with the grand spectacle of the “Kandy Perahera.”
The Buddhist festival is famous throughout South Asia for its dancers and elephants adorned with embroidered cloths. For 11 days each year the capital of Sri Lanka’s hill country, Kandy, is transformed into a fantastic spectacle. The narrow streets hang with strips of coloured electric lights, chairs and benches are squeezed together on the pavements, and people hang out of balconies, roofs and windows to watch the grand festivities.
The Perehera celebrates the sacred tooth relic of the Buddha, said to have been brought to the island more than 2,000 years ago in the hair of a princess. It is now housed in the Temple of the Tooth – Kandy’s most famous building. A replica of this tooth is carried in a golden casket at the head of each night’s procession, on top of a large tusked elephant covered in bright cloths lined with tiny lights. The original tooth is considered too precious to be allowed to leave the temple precincts.
The Perehera in its present form has been going for more than 300 years, but this year is said to be the largest ever. As the August moon begins to wax, the misty hills of Kandy will give itself up to a new excitement in preparation for the spectacular festival of the “Kandy Perahera”.
For ten nights, as the old cannon booms after dusk, the Perahera, the event for which Kandy lives each year, will take to the streets growing longer each night until on the final night of pageantry, the past shatters the present. The whips crack like pistol shots, the torches gild the pallid moonlight, the drums roll like thunder down the narrow streets, the oboes wail, the braying conchs re-echo from the hills, the pious cries of ‘Sadhu-Sadhu’ lift in thanksgiving to the sky, the dancers leap and whirl in flashing crimson, white and silver, the stately chiefs strut by, rank upon rank of elephants loom up and dwindle, and the glitter of the Sacred Casket fades as the mile long magnificence passes…
Few spectacles, if any, in the world could surpass the splendor of this annual feast of sight and sound, custom and ritual. We have heard of none- confirmed by the thousands of visitors from all parts of the world who come to Sri Lanka each year for this festival. The “Kandy Perahera” is a unique ritual, a grand pageant, a scintillating spectacle and a deeply felt religious festival. It is the public expression of the culture and ritual, life and faith of the Sinhala people. A living growth of this island nation’s heart and history. Come and be transported by the sweet scent of jasmine, mingling with the heady aroma of burning incense and copra. Come for a memorable trip and an experience of a lifetime.
Arrival in Colombo Singapore Airlines. Met at the airport and transfer to the hotel.
Morning independent to rest. Afternoon, a half day tour of the fascinating city of Colombo a perfect blend of the East & West. We proceed from the hotel to the bazaar area of Pettah and afterwards to the Fort where the foreign influences of the past are visible in the architecture of the ancient buildings. We proceed past the old Parliament and the scenic Galle Face area to the Gangarama Temple. We will visit to the Museum, established in 1877 and best known for its collection of antiques. Afterwards, we visit the Capital of Sri Lanka- Sri Jayawardenapura built on the banks of Diyawanna Oya. We proceed past the Bandaranaika International Memorial Conference Hall, the New Exhibition Centre- and the large Buddha Statue, replica of the one in Aukana.
After breakfast drive (4.5 hr) to Anuradhapura, visit Aukana enroute, ( one hour’s drive from Anuradhapura). Famed for its magnificent 39 foot rock-cut statue of Lord Buddha, Aukana is considered one of the finest ancient stone sculpture in Asia. Anuradhapura was the first capital of ancient Sri Lanka – (5th century BC to 10th century AD). It is the city of stupas and monasteries, steeped in antiquity. Visit the oldest historically documented tree in the world. This is a branch from the original peepul or bodhi tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment. The tree continues to be venerated today after an unbroken period of 23 centuries. The ruins of the Brazen Palace, the twin ponds, the queens’ baths and other relics of a bygone age speak of an ancient grandeur that is almost tangible even today. Visit the monuments Lovamaahapaya – The Brazen Palace, the center of Buddhism, was a 7 story building which sheltered more than 3,000 monks at that time; the sacred bodhi tree in Sri Lanka, considered one of the best known trees in the world with the recorded history of 2,500 years; Thuparama Dagaba – The most ancient dagaba in Sri Lanka; Abhayagiri Vihara (1st century BC) housed 5,000 monks with the second tallest (370 feet or 113m) stupa in the world, the monastery of Jetavana (3rd century AD) housed 3,000 monks with the tallest (400 feet or 122m) stupa in the world, was constructed of 62 million large bricks, The Kuttam Poku Twin ponds, Ruwanveli Maha seya, Thuparamaya, Isurumuniya. Lunch at Palm Garden Village.
After breakfast drive to Polonnaruwa – the medieval capital of Sri Lanka from the 11th to 13th century AD. Archaeological evidence for the early habitation in Polonnaruwa goes back to the 2nd century. The ancient city of Polonnaruwa covers an area of about 122 hectares and is the “Renaissance Jewel” of Sinhala architecture. See the great monuments such as an immense figure sculpted in white rock probably represents King Parakramabahu, “rotunda” shaped Potgul Vihara building, Royal Palace & Audience Halls of King Parakramabahu I and king Nissankamalla, Thuparama, Vatadage, Hetadage, Pabalu Vehera, Menikvehera monastery complex, Alahana Parivena (University), Kirivehera, Rankot Vehera, Baddha Simaprasada, Lankatilalaka image house. Also see the one of the greatest and best known masterpieces of Sri Lanka art – Gal Vihara, a group of four statues of Lord Buddha cut into a granite escarpment and surviving in a perfect state of preservation. The image house or Tivanka-pathimaghara contains a unique collection of 12th century murals of the classical painting. The great man made lake Parakrama Samudra, 2,500 hectares in extent has a capacity of 134 million cubic metres.Finally you will see the New Museum where you will find all above places displayed with modules. After lunch at restaurant, we proceed to Dambulla. Check in at Hotel Rest of the Day at leisure.
Morning visit The Golden Mountain Temple, of Dambulla which was a monastic settlement as early as the 2nd century BC which is now among the seven World Heritage Sites of Sri Lanka. The rock rises over 400 ft. above its surroundings and consists of 5 cave temples spread out of about 50 acres. There you could see one of the richest collections of 154 Sri Lankan sculpture in the form of a large number of Buddha images in standing, seated & recumbent postures as well as a few outstanding figures of gods. Well preserved massive wall and ceiling paintings covering 22,000 sq. ft. has made this temple complex more important to the world. Lunch at a local restaurant. Proceed to Sigiriya to climb the 5th century A.D. Rock Fortress which is among the 7 World Heritage Sites of Sri Lanka. The vision of a patricidal king named Kasyapa transformed an awesome monolith into a cloud swept city. The mirror wall, which, protects a series of exquisite murals (frescoes of celestial maidens using natural pigments) and the Lion’s Paw entrance to the ruined palace on the summit are well worth the effort of the ascent. One of Asia’s major archaeological sites which presents a unique concentration of 5th century urban planning, architecture, gardening, engineering, hydraulic technology and art. The Apsara paintings give an outstanding example of the classical school of Sri Lankan painting. A 1.2 hectare extension on top of the rock of Sigiriya is a mosaic of low brick walls, terraces, platforms and pools carved out.
Morning visit the Aluvihare Temple where the first Buddhist script was documented. Visit the Spice Garden & Batik factory in Matale, afterwards visit to the Elephant Orphanage in Pinnawala a large herd of Elephants held captive on 60 acres of land. See the baby elephants being fed at 1.15 pm in the afternoon after which they proceed to the nearby river for a bath. Lunch at the Restaurant. After lunch, drive to the city of “Senkadagalapura” today known as Kandy.
Morning tour of Kandy , a World Heritage City which lies in a triangular valley surrounded by mountains, Green velvet tea plantations covering the hills, and the river Mahaweli, the longest river in the country. Kandy is now a thrilling mixture of the old and the new. Most of the old structures either have been rehabilitated or are still in its original use, such as the ancient religious monuments which continue as living monuments. Visit the “Dalada Maligawa” where the Sacred Tooth Relic of Buddha is placed and preserved is undoubtedly the greatest attraction of the city. It is one of the most sacred places for Buddhists all over the world. Walk to the Royal Palace complex Raja Wasala, Council Chamber known as “Magul Maduwa” an unique Wooden pillared hall dated from 1784 and Devale complex. After lunch visit the Gadaladeniya, Lankatilaka and the Embekke Temples belonging to the 14th century. Gadaladeniya is built of stone and reminds us of the South Indian influence of the period. Lankatilaka temple is a magnificent brick building in white and in the shrine room is found a superb seated image of the Buddha. Embekke temple is famed for its carved wooden pillars with intricate designs. At 7:00 pm, we will watch ancient cultural rituals and ceremonies which began in the 4the century and are performed daily with great devotion.
Poya (full Moon) Attend pooja at Kandy Temple. After early dinner view the Kandy Grand Perahera (called Randoli on this its final night), the annual pageant of gaily caparisoned Elephants, dancers, drummers, torch bearers, whip crackers, torch spinners. The Maligawa Tusker carries the bejewelled, golden relic casket; stepping gracefully on the yards of white cloth laid on the road. Enjoy this spectacular event from your reserved seats at the Queens hotel.
Morning at leisure. Afternoon return to Colombo(3 hrs drive). Day room at Airport Garden hotel for wash/change/dinner. Evening transfer to the airport.
Early morning depart for Bentota (5 hrs). Enroute visit Galle and its’ natural harbor. Lunch in Galle. Afterwards tour the Dutch Fortress (walled city) with its towering ramparts and medieval Dutch buildings; the mask carving centre at Ambalangoda and the turtle hatcheries at Balapitiya.
At leisure enjoying the beautiful golden sandy beaches of Bentota. Optional: water sports, boat rides are available. Aug 13 Morning at leisure. Afternoon return to Colombo. Day room at Airport Garden hotel for wash/change/dinner Evening transfer to the airport.