Events Sri Lanka

  • independance day sri lanka
  • sinhala tamil new year sri lanka
  • vesak festival sri lanka
  • surfing season arugambay sri lanka
  • elephant gathering minneriya sri lanka
  • kandy esala perahera sri lanka
  • kandy perahera sri lanka
  • horse races sri lanka
 

While the nation of Sri Lanka is predominately made up of Sinhala Buddhists, we also have many other ethnicities and cultures represented that have shaped its history and flavoured its diversity.

There are many events, festivals and celebrations that take place monthly and each one is celebrated by intermingling of faiths and ethnicities. Cultural events are a mish-mash of dance and colour and you must make sure your travel guide books a great seat for you to witness gala events such as the Kandy Perehara, which is one of the major Kandy events in the Sri Lanka cultural calendar.

There are many cultural dances and feasts that are an integral part of the local entertainment and one needs to keep updated as during certain months of the year there are multiple events.


JANUARY

The Duruthu Perehera is a procession to celebrate the initial visit of the Buddha to Sri Lanka. It is held in the month of January or ‘Duruthu’ at the sacred temple of Kelaniya, a few kilometers away from Colombo, and attracts hundreds of thousands of devotees and multi-faith visitors. This very colourful pageant comprises of gaily dressed elephants, dancers, drummers, and musicians playing traditional wind instruments. The procession begins with the firing of a cannon.

The Randoli Perehera, the magnificent event finale, is the conclusion of the Duruthu celebration and usually held on the day prior to the January full moon.
January is also a month to celebrate the creative arts in Colombo and Galle. Towards the end of January, local artists gather to exhibit their creative talents at the Annual Kala Pola – which literally means ‘Art Fair’.

At the end of January, the Galle Literary Festival takes place in Galle, and is usually the host to a myriad of local and international book lovers and story-tellers. Writers, poets and artists travel from across the world to the historic 17th Century Galle Fort to celebrate not just writing but also photography, music, architecture, music, ecology and fantastic cuisine. The Galle Literary Festival has been listed by Harpers Bazaar as one of the six most appealing literary festivals in the world.

FEBRUARY

The warmer month of February brings the Navam Perehara which conclude on the February full moon and is a fantastic pageant with over 100 elephants brought from all over the island. Since its inception in 1979, this particular perahara (or procession) has attracted approximately a million spectators who throng to the Gangaramaya Temple in Hunupitiya – a temple in Colombo that is adjacent to the Beira Lake.

MARCH

Big Match Cricket Fever hits boys’ schools in Sri Lanka and many school’s take part in week long test cricket and one day cricket encounters. Some of these rivalries have carried on for over a century, such as the annual Royal - Thomian cricket encounter.

In addition, the Annual Hot Air Balloon Festival also takes place during March. Many international participants attend this festival.

APRIL

The Sinhalese and Tamil New Year Festival for Sinhalese Buddhists and Tamil Hindus in Sri Lanka heralds the end of harvest season. The New Year dawns on either the 13th or 14th April, with exact timings predicted by local astrologers and determined by the movements of the planets. Most people residing in Colombo and its suburbs will return to their ancestral homes and villages to spend time with family and relatives. Many household rituals (like cleaning, lighting the hearth and cooking milk rice are once again dictated by astrological timing. The celebrations can then begin with families visiting each other, playing traditional games in the village as well as wearing specific colours deemed lucky during this period.

Horse Racing – Local Ascot in Nuwara Eliya After New Year Celebrations are complete, most families then escape to the cooler climate of Nuwara Eliya. This holiday retreat boasts of various activities ranging from golf tournaments, flower shows, motor cross races, as well as the famous ‘Local Ascot’ horse races.

MAY

Vesak falls on the full moon in May which is a month to reflect and find inner peace. Vesak is considered the primary Buddhist religious festival in Sri Lanka. The day is generally spent in reflective prayer by the Buddhists as well as various religious observances at temples and roadside shrines. However, the streets will be festooned with bright pandals that tell stories of the Buddha’s life as well as massive vesak lanterns. Thousands of people throng to the streets to admire the sights and sounds of these brightly coloured attractions and also to enjoy some free refreshments from roadside stalls referred to as ‘dhan-sal’
May also welcomes the start of the surfing season in Arugam Bay – located in the South East of the island. Arugam Bay is listed as one of the top ten surf spots in the world and is also a popular venue for backpackers and holiday makers.
Sri Lanka’s undiscovered jewels, the white sandy beaches off the East and North East coasts, Trincomalee, Uppaweli ,Kalkudha, Passikuda and Arugam Bay come into season and are picture perfect during the month of May and will stay in season right up until the end of October. These areas are perfect for snorkeling, wreck diving, reef diving as well as whale and dolphin spotting.

Another religious festival, Adivel Festival is a Hindu Religious festival. It is held to honour Lord Murugan. The festival is generally held annually between the months of May and August - the auspicious date is announced 45 days prior to the event. Hindu devotees fashion a silver plated chariot and draw the garlanded idols of Lord Murugan, Sri Valli and Theivaanai from the Kathiseran temple in Pettah ( a very busy commercial area of Colombo) to the ornate temple in Colombo 4 – which overlooks the Galle Road. The procession will also crack many fresh coconuts and burn incense to add to the sanctity of the ritual journey. All of this is meant to drive away evil forces.

JUNE

The conversion of Sri Lanka to Buddhism in the 3rd Century BC is commemorated by the Poson Festival in June. The ancient city of Mihinthale is especially venerated at this time as it is built in the approximate area where King Devanampiya Tissa converted to Buddhism after hearing the words of Arahat Mahinda, the son of Mauryan Emperor Ashoka.

Kite SurfingOne of the best places in the world for Kite Surfing is Kalpitiya in the South West of Sri Lanka. This is due to the unique wind condition in Kalpitiya. The Kite Surfing season runs from May right up until September.
International Surfing Championships The month of June is also marks the height of the surfing season in Arugam Bay when many international surfing championships are held.

JULY

Minneriya – ‘The Gathering’
This is considered one of the most magical months for wild life enthusiasts and elephant lovers. The dry season from July to October means water is in short supply in the North Central Province and wild elephants from all around this area will migrate to Minneriya National Park’s large Minneriya Reservoir. Popularly known as ‘The Gathering’, herds of over 300 elephants can be seen flourishing by the Minneriya Water Tank bathing, playing and drinking water with their young.

AUGUST

Annually, the full moon ‘poya’ day in August heralds the Esala Perehara in Kandy. The golden casket encased sacred tooth relic of the Buddha will be taken on a magnificent procession around the city of Kandy on the back of the sacred temple elephant. This sacred ritual is said to have been carried out for centuries ever since the sacred tooth relic was moved to Temple Palace of the Tooth Relic. The procession begins at the boom of the ancient cannon gun and every night it runs longer and longer. The final ‘perehara’ of the fortnight is the grandest and most spectacular of them all. While mere words cannot express the grandeur of the procession, the pagent consists of more than a hundred elephants dressed in meticulously embellished finery, thousands of dancers, flag bearers, drummers, acrobats juggling fire, musicians, pilgrims and whip crackers as well as devotees. Thousands line the streets of Kandy to get a glimpse of the procession and the golden casket. Considered one of the most magnificent and colourful fire-torch lit processions in Asia, one has to make sure that tickets are booked well in advance to avoid disappointment.

Bellanwila Perehera in Colombo - Prior to the Esala full moon the Bellanwilla temple located on the outskirts of Colombo holds a colourful Perahera. This popular Buddhist temple is visited by many devotees as its sacred Bo tree is believed to be one of the thirty two saplings from the sacred Bo tree in Anuradhapura.

The Katharagama Esala Festival at the Kataragama Shrine in the South honours the God Katharagama. During the two week festival, thousands of devotees bear chariots; pierce their flesh with hooks, and commit acts of remorse mostly to honor vows pleading for the compassion of the God Skandha. Not for the faint hearted, the devotional rituals conclude with the “water-cutting” ceremony. A blessed casket is dipped in the Manika Ganga, the sacred river. Once this is done, thousands of pilgrims submerge themselves in the river with their arms raised chanting “Haro Hara”. After the dip in the river is concluded (usually around 4am) an area in front of the main temple is cleared and covered with burning Tamarind firewood. The same pilgrims slowly walk barefoot across the burning coals, as they believe their piety and devotion protects the soles of their feet.

SEPTEMBER

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OCTOBER

Gold Classic Set in the magnificent Kandyan hill country, The Victoria Golf and Country Resort, a design of Donald Steel, is a true test of all your golfing ability.

The much anticipated annual Sri Lankan Airlines Golf Classic is held annually in October. (The Victoria Golf and Country Resort’s was reviewed as ‘Best Course in Asia 2005’ Asian Golf monthly ranked in ‘Top 100 Most Beautiful courses in the World,’ by Golfers Digest.)

Annaiwilundawa Migratory birds In the Tamil language the word ‘Annaiwilundawa’ means ‘seven wetlands or tanks’ and points to a group of freshwater tanks inside the sanctuary and is considered an important wetland for resident and migratory birds. Numerous species of birds can be spotted between the months of October and April in Annaiwilundawa. The wetlands are nesting sites for water birds such as Asian Open-bills, Painted Storks, all species of Egrets, Little Indian as well as the endangered Great Cormorants, Spot-billed Pelican and Black-headed Ibis. This sanctuary is also a great place for butterfly and dragonfly watching.

NOVEMBER

Deepawali Festival is also known as the ‘Festival of Light’ which indicates the triumph of good over evil. The festival is illuminated with clay and brass lamps as well as the fashioning of figures out of sugar known as ‘Misri’. An open invitation to the Goddess of Wealth, Lakshmi by the pretty oil lamps that are lit in and around ones home.

November is also the month of the Annual Feast of St. Anne in Kalpitiya. Roman Catholics believe she is the mother of the Virgin Mary. St. Anne’s Church is situated in a stretch of beach in Kalpitiya in the South West of the island. This church and shrine is reputed by the faithful to be a place of miraculous healing, so many pilgrims flock to the festival which has been held annually for more than three centuries.

Sri Lanka Design Festival
Sri Lanka Design Festival brings many facets of fashion, from the drawing board to the cutting room and beyond, to the ramp; one of Asia’s and the world’s largest and most eco friendly apparel manufacturing industries, to the emerging design and craft based sectors. SLDF cohesively sews together all these industries, harnesses their creativity, examines their manufacturing capabilities and potential on a global runway with doors wide open to continuous networking and business-to-business prospects. Annually held in November, there are also more events popping up during the year.

Hot Air Ballooning
An experience of a lifetime, watch the sun rise over the centuries old Dambulla rock temple and bathe the Sigiriya Rock Fortress in hues of gold. This is a view of Sri Lanka that you will carry with you forever. The best season for Ballooning trips is from November to April as the winds are lighter and the sky is at its bluest. Trips are scheduled on a daily basis.

Whale and Dolphin watching in Kalpitiya & Mirissa
One of the best locations in the world for spotting Blue Whales, Sperm Whales and Spinner Dolphins is the South of Sri Lanka beyond Dondra Head.

Another great location to spot pods of Spinner Dolphins and whales is the North West coast off Kalpitiya. The best time for boat excursions into the deep seas is during the season from December to April as the seas are calm and large pods of Dolphins, sometimes by the hundreds, can be seen a couple of miles off of the coast. It should be noted that whale watching excursions in deep seas can take upto three hours per excursion.

Beginning of migrant bird’s season
Sri Lanka is a bird lovers’ delight. The islands tropical climate attracts a diverse bird life of more than 490 species. Out of these, 111 migrant species have flown south for the winter. A few, like the sandpipers and plovers, come from as far north as the arctic tundra. The migrant season starts in November and continues on till March.

White water rafting in Kitulgala
Experience the thrills and spills of an exciting rafting adventure in Kitulgala. Most rafting excursions mix the excitement of the rapids with calm sections that give you a chance to catch your breath. We can promise you breathtaking scenerey. November to April is the best season for white water rafting in Kitulgala when the rivers are full and rapids are fantastic.

Yala's leopards
November to December is probably the best time of the year to visit Yala and spot leopard Cubs. These endangered leopard subspecies - Panthera Pardus Kotiya is found only in Sri Lanka and is difficult to spot at any given time. Yala National Park situated in the south east corner of the island, is also home to many other animals such as the sloth bear, some wild elephants, deer,crocodiles and of course numerous species of birds.

DECEMBER

Shri Pada / Adam's Peak
‘Shri Pada’, or ‘Adam’s Peak’, is sacred to Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and the Christians in Sri Lanka. The season begins in December and goes on until April and during this time thousands of devotees make the pilgrimage to the pinnacle of this 2,234 meter mountain. It is said that one should recite prayers while climbing as it gives strength to weary bones. Many veterans advise that it is best to attempt the climb at night since you can reach the mountain top in time for the sunrise and the awe-inspiring view from the top. It may be also because it is too warm to climb the highest peak in Sri Lanka during the day.

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