Through the Window … the Clouds and the Stars of the Perahera

After choosing a perahera fire basket to illustrate ‘fire‘ for this week’s Travel Theme challenge, Dallas asked me about them.  Really, after the clouds (the elephants) they’re the stars (sic) of the perahera, lighting the path ahead, spotlighting the action, and along the way acting as portable lighters for the fire dancers.  Most of all, they provide the background razzamatazz for the show, containing the fire but adding its flair to the spectacle.

Incapacitated one year, I watched from the windows of the Queens Hotel, so I thought I’d use these window shots to put the spotlight on the clouds and the stars of the perahera.

A perahera is basically a parade, or procession.  The greatest perahera – the capital P perahera – is the Kandy Esala Perahera, which progresses – on an ever longer, more encompassing route – through the streets of the hill capital on the ten nights leading up to the Esala full moon in August.  Think of the pomp and power of kings, of exotic and colourful costumes, dances and instruments, of the deep-rooted piety of a society seeking the blessings of the gods for an abundant harvest, factor in the jolly old British raj and the modern state aligning themselves with tradition and power, and you get several nights of parades that boggle the eyes, assault the ears and thrill beyond imagining.

32 thoughts on “Through the Window … the Clouds and the Stars of the Perahera

    • Being able to get there at all seemed like a miracle, EllaDee – the whole three days was like one electric high, the planning of which had sustained me through the previous few months of enforced inactivity and concern. Really, if you like that kind of thing – and obviously I do – it’s gotta be among the greatest shows on earth. 🙂

  1. Razzamatazz indeed! Beautiful scenery passing before my hotel window like that would make me feel better instantly! Glad you got there so we could have a front row seat alongside you.

  2. The golden elephants in your perahera are magical. It seems your window offered you the perfect position to capture them as they went by.
    You will miss your elephants in all their glory.

  3. Spectacular shots! I so want to time my visit for a Perahara! The monsoons don’t let up until mid September do they? Would it be difficult to move around with all that rain?

    • Oh yes, I think Perahera time is the best time to come. There are other peraheras, of course, Gangarama here in Colombo in Jan/Feb, Belanwila in June, I think, Kaleniya has one and any number of towns and villages too, but for the Full Monty, nothing beats The Perahera!

      We have two monsoons: Yala (May-August) in the South and West, and Maha (Oct-Jan) in the North and East. Except during exceptional storms our monsoons are a bit like Camelot – afternoon rain followed by brilliant mornings (or even weeks, if it’s a bad one like last year), and although it might be foggy or cloudy in the mountains it will be quite cool and comfortable and accommodation (except in Kandy, where it will be scarce and highly inflated!) readily available and cheap. So I’d try to plan around The Perahera.

      They announce the tentative dates about this time of year and there’s a couple of sites where you can buy hugely expensive ringside covered seating nowadays, which is a good idea for one night at least, I think. Space on the pavements will be jam packed with locals who come early in the day to reserve it. Getting around after the parade has begun is a bit difficult these days because of security but there’s always a spare seat somewhere you can grab for free, or a little tip, once it’s under way.

      The route, and the number of participants, grows every night in the build up to the full moon but really any of the last three or four nights are indistinguishable from our point of view, I think (not forgetting there’s a ‘day perahera’ on the day of the full moon).

      Don’t forget your tripod, spare memory card and a couple of extra batteries!

    • The lights are fantastic, aren’t they? It’s a fairly recent development, since the inception of the LED light. For a while back there they lit up the Maligawa Tusker, with the relic casket, and the face pieces of some of the leading elephants, using car batteries and Christmas lights – but these new lights are just magical.

  4. Pingback: How Can They Compete with the Clouds? | The Wanderlust Gene

Comments are closed.