Explore Vibrant Sri Lanka with These Festivals

In its purest sense, Sri Lanka is the land of festivals where people celebrate different aspects of life with unparalleled zeal. To support the all-year enthusiasm, you must know that the Sri Lankan calendar has 25 public holidays.

Here are the biggest festivals in Sri Lanka, which you must know about: 

1. Sinhala and Tamil New Year

Sinhala and Tamil New Year Marking the end of the harvest season, Sri Lanka celebrates its new year also known as Aluth Avurudda. The people in Sri Lanka have the notion that the Prince of Peace, Indradeva, comes down to earth to bless the people with happiness and peace and thus, this is also the time for the change of thoughts. Both Sinhalese, as well as the Tamil people in the country, have their rituals such as the playing of a Raban, a drum, by women in the community, preparing Kiribath ( a rice preparation in milk), Kavum (an oil cake) and Kokis (a sweetmeat snack). The date of the auspicious new year gains its significance through astrological calculations.
Date: 13th or 14th April
Where: Throughout Sri Lanka

2. Vesak

Festivals in Sri Lanka
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A festival of great importance for the Buddhists, Vesak sees numerous religious activities organized by the people such as Bodhi Poojas, Dansalas (distribution of free food in roadside stalls), Sil campaigns, singing of Bhakti Gee or devotional songs and lighting of lanterns (Vesak Kudu). The idea behind celebrating Vesak is to pay honour to Gautam Buddha for his birth anniversary, enlightenment and death, which are believed to have coincided on the same day. The locals also decorate their vehicles around this time. The next day of Vesak is a holiday, and the sale of liquor and meat is not allowed for a week. The main attraction around this festival is the pandals which brilliantly exhibit the significant events in the life of Buddha.
Date: Full moon of May
Where: Celebrated throughout Sri Lanka but on a larger scale in Colombo

3. Poson Festival

Festivals in Sri Lanka
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Noted to be the second most important Buddhist holiday among the festivals in Sri Lanka, celebrated annually, Poson Poya is the occasion to celebrate the arrival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. Similar to Vesak celebration, Poson also has lantern lighting, thorana decoration and food stalls as an integral part. Buddhist disciples dress up in white and indulge in various religious activities, of which climbing the steps of the Mihintale Rock is an important part.
Date: June
Where: Anuradhapura and Mihintale

4. Kandy Esala Poya Perahera

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Sri Dalada Maligawa or The Temple of the Sacred Tooth in Kandy wears a festive hue around The Festival of the Tooth when it is worshipped through massive celebrations. Perahera or Procession of Kandy Esala began with the custom of sanctifying a jackfruit tree, cutting it into four pieces. And then planting each one as a tribute to the guardian gods Natha, Katharagama, Vishnu and the goddess Pattini to seek their blessings for the well-being of the king and his kingdom. Grand processions with fire-dancers, Kandyan dancers, whip-dancers, decorated elephants, drummers throughout the city for a week is a significant part of this festival. If you wish to witness the spectacle, you must book a seat in advance through any of the local travel agencies.
Date: Full moon of either July or August
Where: Kandy

5. Kataragama Festival

Festivals in Sri Lanka
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With celebrations lasting for over for two weeks, this Hindu festival attracts visitors in large numbers to the Kataragama town in southern Sri Lanka. People of different religious faith seek atonement through the means of self-mutilation and piercings. The festive enthusiasm is high and can be seen more pronounced in the processions of musicians, lavishly garmented elephants, dancers, acrobats and fire-eaters. As a part of the parade, some of the devotees also walk on fire. Devotees also offer garlands of red flowers to Skanda, the son of Shiva.
Date: July or August
Where: Kataragama town

6. Vel Festival

Festivals in Sri Lanka
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This festival is a celebration of Lord Skanda’s victory over the demons and also honour his sacred trident known as Vel. The devotees with ash-smeared faces pull the spectacular golden chariot in which the Vel is placed, and the procession makes its way around the city. The starting point of the parade is the Sea Street Temple in the Pettah district to end at the temple in Wellawatta or Bambalapitiya. The drummers, dancers, elephants, the chants and bells fill the streets and are sure to be an exciting watch to anyone who is visiting the country.
Date: July or August
Where: Colombo

7. Deepavali

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Popularly known as the Festival of Lights, Deepavali is a Hindu festival that renounces the victory of evil over good. The Tamil community in Sri Lanka celebrates Deepavali with great splendour by lighting lamps, bursting firecrackers, singing, dancing, wearing new clothes, visiting Hindu temples, exchanging gifts and meeting their loved ones over lavish meals. The idea behind lighting oil lamps is to seek blessings from the Goddess Lakshmi (goddess of wealth).
Date: October or November
Where: Throughout the island

8. Duruthu Perahera


Duruthu PeraheraThis festival in Sri Lanka marks the beginning of the Buddhist New Year and is known for one of the largest and most beautiful processions in the country. Duruthu Perahera is to commemorate Buddha’s first visit to Sri Lanka, 2500 years ago. The pilgrimage to Adam’s peak for a period three months also starts with this festival. The vibrant procession of the Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya is one that flaunts the country’s festive glamour. While the Perahera on the first day with less number of participants is called the Uda Maluwe Perahera, the grandest affair on the last day is Randoli Perahera. The three-day-long full display by the drummers, dancers, elephants and acrobats render a majestic vibe to the festival.
Date: Full moon in January
Where: Colombo

9. Nallur Festival

Festivals in Sri Lanka
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Another grand occasion that involves a 25-day long festivities as a tribute to Lord Murugun, Nallur Festival, sees people from all over the country gathering at the Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil. The deity seated in a bedazzling silver throne is carried in a gigantic chariot by the devotees chanting “Aro Hara” around the town to mark the festival and showcase the devotion for Lord Murugun. Special ceremonies or poojas take place during the Nallur Festival.
Date: Full moon in January
Where: Jaffna

10. Thai Pongal

Festivals in Sri Lanka
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According to the Tamil calendar, Thai Pongal is celebrated in the tenth month Thai on its first day. Thai Pongal is celebrated to offer prayers to the Surya, the Rain God Indra and the cattle for a good harvest. Kolams or Rangolis are drawn in front of the houses using rice paste or powder. The first harvest from the paddy fields is prepared with rice, jaggery and milk. The boiling preparation, when over-turned, is said to determine the course of luck for the remaining year.
Date: Mid of January
Where: Throughout the island
In case you are planning a trip to Sri Lanka, make sure you consider the festival calendar first to chalk out the itinerary to witness the grand celebrations. So, if you are looking forward to the stereotypical good time in a country like Sri Lanka, a land of traditions, the festivals will give you a better glimpse of their idea of happiness, culture and history.

This post was published by Deepshri Mishra

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