Rhythm of the Perahera

Imagine somnolent afternoon sinking to dusk.  Crowds are steadily descending on the centre of the city – walking carelessly in family groups or in pairs, on the pavements, or spilling across the roads, for  traffic has been banished since late afternoon –  the Perahera holds centre stage now

At the temples, dancers and musicians, whip crackers, flag carriers, fire walkers and monks are putting the finishing touches to their costumes, marking the pattern of intricate choreography, tuning instruments and talking, talking.  There is no tension, but plenty of excitement.   The stars of the show, the elephants, are having a final bath at the fountain before being led, slick and dark, to their dressing stations, to be shrouded in cloth of gold, spangled in flashing lights and fed final titbits:  a hand of bananas, a choice piece of sugar cane, perhaps.  The buzz is building.  Viewing stands fill to bursting.  A boy from the Pizza Hut darts across the road, frantically taking last orders.

A cannon roars through the night, silencing the crowds.  A collective sigh of anticipation.

Now the sound of drums begins to reverberate from hill to hill across the lake, permeating up through the expectant stands.   From far off, the electric crack of  a whip.  Then another, followed by another and another …

Let the Perahera begin!

This post was inspired by Ailsa’s Weekly Travel Challenge: Rhythm.  Follow the link to Where’s My Backpack to see a melange of rhythmic interpretations.

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68 thoughts on “Rhythm of the Perahera

  1. This is fabulous, I adore the movement and light in these photos and I can see how anything else might seem pale in comparison to Perahera. Wonderful stuff.

    • Basically, it’s a procession. A ceremonial religious event that processes from a temple and out into the streets. The Kandy Aesala Perahera is the greatest of them, occurring on ten nights and one day!

        • In the case of Kandy, it had originally been the time the people gave thanks for the monsoon. When the Sinhalese kingdom had contracted into the hills, bringing with it the sacred relics of the Buddha given to their ancestors by Asoka of India, the rains celebration morphed into a display of might, linking pre-Buddhist rituals with ceremonies from the earlier kingdoms.

          I’ve just booked to go up for two nights toward the end of the season and will do a comprehensive post with history and the whole works. Stay tuned some time in Ausust!

  2. An amazing display. You capture it beautifully, and indeed the elephants are the brightest stars of the show but with their surrounding stars a brilliant setting highlighting them.

    • I wish I could have heard the rhythm. I’ll have to take the video camera when I go this year, so I can download the sounds for you – it really is exhilarating! Glad you liked the idea of it, Tilly:)

  3. Fabulous! I was drawn into your narrative even though this type of celebration is not new to me! The images definitely added to the mood. Great entry and thank you for sharing this with us.

  4. Amazing! I love it.
    Still catching up on things and only 250 more emails to sift through! I have been posting, but not reading others as much as I should. Oh well 2 more weeks until I have the time to catch up.

  5. Pingback: Movement « The Wanderlust Gene

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