Buddhism corresponds to a much thoughtful religion and holds a nontheistic base with incorporation of certain diversified beliefs, practices, teachings and traditions. The religion is solely attributed to its founder, Siddhartha Gautama. With Theravada and Mahayana as the two major sects of Buddhism, the religion thrives mainly in Asian countries, such as, China, Japan, Singapore, Tibet and Mongolia etc. There have been arguments over the exact number of its followers, but approximately they count to around 350-550 million.
Festivals in Buddhism
Holidays and festivals in the Buddhist community are mostly related to the birthdays of the Bodhisattvas in the Mahayana branch of Buddhism. The people under this religion witness lot of days, seeking the celebrations on the holidays. Buddhist New Year, Vesak, Asalha Puja Day, Magha Puja Day, Kathina Ceremony, Uposatha, Anapanasti Day, Songkran, Abhidhamma Day, Loy Krathong, The Ploughing Festival, The Elephant Festival, Ulambana, The Festival of the Tooth, and Avalokitesvara’s Birthday are some Buddhist festivals that mark participation of almost all the Buddhism followers around the globe.
The Festival of The Tooth
EsalaPerahera, more commonly known as the Festival of The Tooth is a phenomenal and elegant Buddhist festival that is exclusively celebrated in Sri Lanka. Held with prosperous and pious rituals and customs in the city of Kandy, the festival has become a unique symbol for Buddhism in Sri Lanka. The particular festival mainly incorporates the colorful decoration of elephants and various forms of cultural dances.
The Esala is considered to be an amalgamation of two similar processions (Peraheras), namely the Esala and the Dalada. The EsalaPerahera is thought to be sacred ritual which is carried out to the rain gods for ample rainfall. Being as old as 3rd century BC, the Dalada and EsalaPerahera are attributed to the Sacred Tooth Relic of Siddhartha Gautama.
The processions that decorate the festival mark with the plantation of the Jackfruit tree in the premises of the four Devales, which stand dedicated to Natha, Katharagama, Vishnu and the goddess Pattini – the guardian gods. It is known as the KapSituveema or Kappa. The next five nights include the celebration of the ‘DevalePeraheras’. The sixth night marks the procession of KumbalPerahear for another five days. This includes the assemblage of the DevalePeraheras in the Temple of the Tooth. Under massive fireworks and religious dance and music, the DiyawadaneNilame, the NathaDevale, the Vishnu Devale, the KatharagamaDevale, and the PattiniDevale walk in the temple, with cultural Kandyan-clothing along with a tusker. The RandoliPerahera and the DiyaKapeema mark the end of the ceremonial pageant.
The teachings and the messages of Gautama Buddha have remained unaltered and unaffected even with the immense expansion of knowledge. The festival of EsalaPerahera has been positive in inculcating such norms of Buddhism amongst its followers. It aggrandizes the prominence of another ritual of Sri Lankan Buddhists. Furthermore, the processions stand as a prototype for other peraheras held in places, such as, Kataragama, Lankatilaka, Bellanwila, Aluthnuwara etc.