The tiny teardrop shaped isle, Sri Lanka is well-renowned for its religious festivals apart from the endless beaches, spectacular national parks and timeless ruins. The island-country celebrates its festivals with great zeal and turns into a true delight during the celebrations, drawing visitors from far and wide. Below is the list of five top-most festivals celebrated in Sri Lanka; take a look and be a part of them if you happen to visit the country around them.
Counted among the greatest and most wonderful cultural festivals in Sri Lanka, Duruthu Perahera is considered to mark the beginning of Buddhist calendar in the country. This 3-day long festival is celebrated with great enthusiasm by devotees and tourists alike to commemorate Gautam Buddha’s first visit to the country 2500 years ago. It is held at Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharayacan where you would love a stunning sight on the final day with decked up elephants, acrobats, drummers, singer and torch-bearers conjuring up a grand procession.
Called the “Festival of Lights”, Deepavali is one of the most celebrated festivals among the Tamil Hindus of Sri Lanka. It is the starting of the New Year for Hindus in the country and you’ll get to see all the homes beautified with Kolam and Rangoli – the multi-coloured drawings of folk art signifying sacred figures. People illuminate their houses with candles and diyas, and pray to Lakshmi – the Hindu Goddess of wealth fortune and prosperity on this prosperous day. Another interesting thing about the festival is people dress up in new clothes and distribute sweets and gifts to their near and dear ones.
Ramadan is the month of fasting celebrated in Sri Lanka like other countries. The Muslim people all over the country wake up before dawn to have a meal just before the Fajr prayer, keep fast the entire day and wait for the call of evening prayer to break their fast. They have scrumptious snacks like pakoras, samosas and Kanji to break their fast, which is known as Iftar. The entire nation turns into a delight during the month and kids studying in Muslim schools get a month holiday.
Also referred to as Tai Pongal, Thai Pongal and the First rice festival, Pongal is a multi-day Hindu harvest festival of South India when farmers honour the Sun God ‘Suriyapakaran’. The three days of the festival are called Bhogi Pongal, Surya Pongal and Maattu Pongal; and it is said that the festival marks the end of winter solstice and the start of the sun’s six-month-long journey northwards. The celebrations include decorating rice-powder based kolam artworks, offering prayers in the homes as well as temples, getting together with family and friends and exchanging gifts to make the social bonds stronger.
Held by Sri Lankan Buddhists, Poson is an annual festival celebrating the arrival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka in the 3rd century BC. Also known as Poson Poya, it is the most important full moon holiday of the year and the second most important Buddhist festival of the year. While the festival is celebrated all throughout the country, the most important ceremonies are held in Anuradhapura and Mihintale. The Buddhist monastic complex on the mountain of Mihintale is the focal point of this religious festival where Arahath Mahinda Thero, a Buddhist monk preached Buddhism to one of the kings of Sri Lanka.