The Esala Perahera starts off with a dozen or so 'whip-crackers', who pick up coins thrown onto the road by onlookers, followed by groups of young men who swing around flaming coconut husks that are on the end of wires tied to their teeth or feet.Then they are followed by these stilt-walkers who perform acrobatic stunts with these flaming torches tied to frames made of bamboo or tree branches.
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Next come the flag bearers . . .
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Then the first of the thousands of drummers . . .
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Then the first of more than 100 elephants decorated in colourful covers and fairy lights. I think the man riding this elephant is the Kariya Korala (Master of Ceremonies).
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There are no women in the Perahera -- only men and boys -- until almost the end of the parade when a few groups of female dancers appear.
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In front of this elephant you can see men twirling plates on the top of bent sticks -- not one of them dropped a plate.
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As the sacred Maligawa Tusker approaches, carrying the casket containing the tooth relic, the crowd gets excited and everyone stands on their feet.
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The attendants riding the two tuskers flanking the Maligawa Tusker bless the tooth relic by showering it with jasmine petals.Note the white cloth spread out along the road in front of the Maligawa Tusker, so that his feet never have to touch the bare ground.
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The traditional costumes worn by the dancers are very colourful and ornate.
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I believe this man, who seemed to be the main 'VIP' in the parade, is the Diyawadana Nilame (the Lay Custodian of the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic).
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The man riding this elephant looked like some sort of royalty in his resplendent gold outfit.
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The dozens of bands of drummers added a lot of the atmosphere to the Esala Perahera.
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These boys were dancing around this medieval type roundabout, as it was pushed along the road on wheels.
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Another casket being carried by an elephant, but I don't know what this one contained.The crowd didn't stand up as this passed, so it must not have been important as the tooth relic.
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I believe these men are either temple officials or may be the Basnayaka Nilames, the custodians from different devales (shrines) around Kandy.
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And the drummers keep coming!
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The front tusker here had the longest tusks of any of the elephants in the Perahera.
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More dancers . . .
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and more elephants carrying caskets . . .
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and another important looking man.
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I assume he must have been important because the dancers in front of him were working themselves into a real frenzy.I bet they were tired out at the end of three hours of continuous dancing!
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Towards the end of the parade I took this shot looking along the porch where I was sitting, just to illustrate how crowded it was watching the Esala Perahera.
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At the end of the Esala Perahera, these large boxes which looked like coffins were carried behind the parade.I couldn't find out what they contained.Does anyone know?
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As the parade finished, the crowd followed it down the road.The reason some of these people are looking up, is that they are passing the Queens Hotel and looking up at the balcony from where the President sometimes watches the parade. There were a few politicians there, but I don't think the President watched the 2004 Esala Perahera. For more information on the Esala Perahera, please see the article I have posted in the 'Asia Travel Articles' section of this website.