The Esala Perehera is a 15 day festival that takes place each year in the small town of Kandy, Sri Lanka. The festival venerates Buddha’s tooth which is significant because it symbolizes the introduction of Buddhism to this small island nation nearly 2000 years ago. Every night of the festival, there is a parade of elephants accompanied by Kandyan performers and musicians. The festivities culminate in the last night with a procession of over 1000 performers and 100 elephants!
Each elephant is dressed in a silk embroidered robe complete with a lighted head mask; the colors of the lights identify which of the 4 participating temples the elephant belongs to. The larger elephants have their tusks capped in gold and draped with silk tassels; some even wear beautiful ankle bracelets.
The larger elephants walk on their own and the smaller ones, in groups of two or three. Each elephant is preceded by a group of performers – there are acrobats, musicians, drummers and dancers. Accompanying the elephants are handlers and there are riders atop the larger tuskers.
I have seen many a parade and I can honestly say that this is truly a spectacle like no other!! If you have plans to go to Sri Lanka, try and time your visit around the Esala Perahera. The Sri Dalada Maligawa Temple hosts the festival and announces the dates around January of each year. Check the temple’s website for information when planning.
Here’s a snippet: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MPTMPv6whyI