The season of peraheras and festivals
Continued from last week.
are many Esala and Nikini festivals and peraheras in the low-country,
some very old like that at Munneswaram near Chilaw and the Paththini
Devala in Nawagamuwa, near Kaduwela. Some were started after Sri Lanka
gained independence (in 1948) like the Bellanwila Perahera, started in
1950 by the then Viharadhipathi Somaratana Thera.
The Kumara Bandara Perahera and the Paththini Devala Perahera, which
are now part of the Ridee Vihara perahera (Kurunegala district), may be
going back to the time of King Keerthi Sri Rajasinghe who founded these
The last in the series of Esala peraheras in the low-country, which
was under foreign rule from about 1520
is the Kotte Perahera which was started in the late 19th
Many peraheras have their own special items like Maha Bamba, the
two-faced giant that leads the Ratnapura Saman Devala perahera, the "Gon
pita perahera" at Nawagamuwa, and the "dodam (oranges) perahera of the
aadivasi community at Mahiyangana. The more recent peraheras like those
at Bellanvila and Kotte have a mal (flower) perahera on one day and a
pavada perahera on another before the grand procession on the final day.
Whatever the special features of the different peraheras, there are
certain common items in the festival. First is the planting of the 'Kapa'
- the sacred post which is a branch of a jak tree that has not borne
fruit, before the festival commences. In some places, instead of
planting the 'Kapa' , the flag of the god is hoisted.
This is done at the Ishvara Kovil in Munneswaram and at the Kandasamy
Kovil in Nallur. All peraheras end with the "water-cutting" ceremony,
the "diya Kepeema" in Sinhala and "theertham" in Tamil. Taking the
emblems or "vel" of the god in procession is also a "must". Kandy's
Esala perahera, is led by the Maligawa perahera which carries the Sacred
This list of festivals and peraheras is not complete if I do not
mention the "vel" festival of Colombo. This is known as "Aadi Vel". Aadi
is the name of the month corresponding to Esala in the Hindu calendar.
"Ther", the chariot carrying the sacred statue of God Subramanium,
wends its way from the Kovil in Chetti Street, Pettah to the
Bambalapitiya Kathiresan Kovil, where poojas are held.
The return journey, about two or three days later, starts in the late
afternoon, reaches Galle Face at about 9 or 10 in the night and reaches
Chetti Street in the wee hours of the morning. The journey takes so long
as the chariot moves very slowly, allowing devotees to make their
obeisance to the God. This perahera or procession is the most attractive
part of the Vel festival, attracting large crowds of all religions and
Coinciding with the Nallur Kovil festival is the Ther festival of the
Arulmihu Siva Subramaniya Swamy Kovil in Slave Island, Colombo. The
Murugan Vel festival of the Sri Sivasubramania Swamy temple in
Gintupitiya (Colombo north) is also at this time of the year The "Vel" -
insignia of the God - is placed in a silver chariot and taken in
procession on the streets around the temple.
These festivals may go on for three or four days, for weeks, or even
a month. The month-long Nallur Kandasamy Kovil festival is a spiritual
as well as a cultural event. In the kovil ground, there is music and
dancing for the devotees to feast their ears and eyes upon.
The local festival and perahera is the most important event in the
calendar of the people of the area. Devotees go to the shrine to pay
their obeisance to the God, thank him for favours granted and ask for
more favours and their blessings and protection.
Outside the shrine is a fair ground with amusements, and stalls full
of sweetmeats, trinkets and things for everyday use like clay pots and
reed baskets - plenty to choose from as souvenirs for oneself or as
gifts for those who were unable to come to the festival or to see the
Gateway walks for children
The Gateway College celebrated its tenth anniversary recently and a
walk titled 'Walk for the Child' was held on July 28 to wrap up the
"Our anniversary celebrations began earlier this year with a
carnival," said Dr. Harsha Alles, Director, Gateway Group. "We wanted
our closing celebrations to give a special message to society. So, we
decided on a charity walk; the proceeds will go to two deserving causes
related to children, the Children's Heart Project of Sri Lanka and the
Maithri Lama Nivasa," he said.
"We chose the Children's Heart Project of Sri Lanka because the
problem of children with congenital (acquired from birth) heart disease
in the country is severe and heart-rending. Around 1,800 children are
diagnosed each year with congenital heart disease and the government can
cope with only about 600 operations. Therefore, at any given time, there
are over 1,000 children waiting for a life-saving operation and because
of the large number, the wait for an operation is about two years.
Many children do not survive this wait. With a timely operation
however, most can go on to live a normal life," Dr. Alles aid.
The Children's Heart Project of Sri Lanka aims to eliminate this
waiting list by collecting funds primarily to support the Government to
increase capacity; in the short-term, it provides financial assistance
to a limited
A scene from the street drama The Bully.
number of children requiring urgent intervention and having
to seek private sector facilities.
Each class participating in the walk had the chance of expressing its
creativity by way of a theme in dress, decor and music. The walk started
at Borella and finished at the Gateway College premises in Rajagiriya,
which was a hive of activity with street dramas, and an exhibition by
the primary school titled 'A Child's World'.
Three street dramas focused on issues that affected children. The
Journey focused on children affected by conflict and street children,
while The Clock dealt with the hectic pace of modern life, with which
today's child has to cope; The Bully tackled the ever-present problem of
bullying in school.
All activities were conducted amidst a lot of fun and frolic, but the
fact that they were all for a worthy cause added further value to the