The Kandy Esala Perahera (the Esala procession of Kandy) also known as The festival of the Tooth is a grand festival celebrated with elegant costumes and is held in July and August in Kandy Sri Lanka . This historical procession is held annually to pay homage to the Sacred of Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha, which is housed at the Sri Dalada Maligawa in Kandy. A unique symbol of Sri Lanka, the procession consists of many traditional local dances such as fire-dances, whip-dances, Kandyan dances and various other cultural dances, in addition to the elephants who are usually adorned with lavish garments. The festival ends with the traditional diya-kepeemaritual, a water cutting ceremony which is held at the Mahaweli River at Getabe, Kandy.
The Esala Perahera, which is thought to date back to the 3rd century BC, was a ritual enacted to request the gods for rainfall. The Dalada Perahera is believed to have begun when the Tooth relic of the Lord Buddha was brought to Sri Lanka from India during the 4th century CE, eight hundred years after the passing away of Lord Buddha.
According to tradition, the Tooth Relic was taken in procession to Sri Lanka by Princess Hemamala & Prince Dantha.
The relic casket, which is a substitute for the Tooth Relic, is placed inside the ransivige affixed to the Maligawa Elephant, the Maligawa Perahera joins the awaiting Devale Peraheras and leads the procession. Whip-crackers and fireball acrobats clear the path, followed by the Buddhist flag bearers. Then, riding on the first elephant, is the official called Peramuna Rala (Front Official). He is followed by Kandyan Drummers and Dancers who enthrall the crowd, and are themselves followed by elephants and other groups of musicians, dancers and flag bearers. A group of singers dressed in white heralds the arrival of the Maligawa Tusker carrying the tooth relic. The Diyawadana nilame (traditionally required to do everything in his power to ensure rain in the correct season) walks in traditional Kandyan-clothed splendor after the tusker.
The second procession is from the Natha Devale, which faces the Sri Dalada Maligawa and is said to be the oldest building in Kandy, dating back to the 14th Century.
The third is from the Vishnu Devale (Vishnu being a Hindu god), also known as the Maha Devale. It is situated in front of the main gate of the Natha Devale.
The fourth procession is from the Katharagama Devale (dedicated to the God of Kataragama, identified with the warrior god Kanda) which is on Kottugodalle Vidiya (a street in Kandy). This procession includes Kawadi, the peacock dance, in which the pilgrim-dances carry semicircular wooden contraptions studded with peacock feathers on their shoulders.
The fifth and final procession is from the Pattini Devale (Paththini being a goddess associated with the cure of infectious diseases and called upon in times of drought and famine), which is situated to the West of the Natha Devale. This is the only procession that has women dances.