29 August 2010

Kandy Esala Perahera - Part II

By the way did anyone notice the degree of motion blur varying with each pic? You see.. between me and the street was a parapet wall but (cause I was up on the platform) it only reached up to my knee. To get a better view I had to lean on this low parapet and take pics with a stretched arm holding out the cam. *I'm still not good at one handed snapping* =D

But I think.. my 'Leaning Tower of Pisa' pose did freak out the spectators sitting around me. Cause there was a sheer 12+ ft drop right below me. lol Oh and the weather too was biting cold, so couldn't help the extra motion blur. -__-

Putting that aside.. let's get back to the pageant.

9.50pm: Flag bearers (these were Buddhist Flags)

Different groups carried different types of flags, made of all kinds of materials from cloth to copper/ brass. Apart from Buddhist flags, they carried flags representing provinces and ancient divisions.

9.55pm: Traditional Drummers

This is a handful of our traditional percussion. The short drum at the front is called 'Dawula', and the twin drum at the center and rear is called 'Tammettama'. These two types of drums need sticks to play them. The long drum you saw last time is called 'Geta Beraya'. *hopefully in future I'll try and get some close ups of them*

10.02pm: More dancers

We have 3 main types of traditional dancing called 'Udarata' (up country), 'Pahatarata' (low country) and 'Sabaragamu'. This pageant represents not only the performers of these schools but also other types of dancing influenced mainly by Indian folk dances. Good examples are Kawadi and Wadiga Patuna.. though this time they missed out the latter. (if you want to know more about our traditional dances, click here)

10.05pm: Perahera progressing towards Maligawa (see all the torch bearers on either sides?)

That flame is sizzling hot, and it saved me from freezing into an ice block! *seriously, I'm not kidding* =D

10.13pm: Weaving pole dance (not sure of its actual name)

Here a group of dancers, each holding a thick colored cord, dance around a pole in the middle. Their dancing has to be precise and follow a certain pattern, which in turn weaves a nice colorful design across the pole. One wrong step and it won't come out nice. They undo this design by dancing the other way round.

10.24pm: Cane dance

This was a high speed dance that thrilled the spectators. The one in the middle holds two bundles of canes on each hand, and the other ends of each cane is held by the dancers standing in the circle. When the dance begins, the one in the middle drops himself on the ground and starts spinning (in both directions from time to time) while the ones around starts running at break neck speeds. They form 2 concentric circles, where the outer circle runs anticlockwise and the inner circle runs clockwise! *you'll see their dance in the videos later*

Once the dance ends, another one enters the circle and switch place with the middle performer.. before the next session begins. I think holding huge bundles of canes while they twist and turn at high speeds does take its toll on their palms.

10.25pm: Elephant costume

They said on TV that there are perennial clans involved in designing and making elephant costumes, which is of course no easy task. After centuries of evolving now the costumes have become more sophisticated and flashy, like the ones you see below, adorned with numerous tiny bulbs.

10.33pm: Glamorous pachyderms

10.38pm: Raban Spinners

Here the frisbee shaped small drum called rabana is spun at high speed atop a stick or finger. They also have branched sticks to revolve more than one drum. What's exciting is.. while they spin they also throw these drums high up.. about 15- 20 ft.. and catch them, almost simultaneously!

10.40pm: Two tuskers (doesn't this motion blur looks super cool?) =D

And now we're about to reach the culmination of Dalada Perahera, ie. the main perahera.

10.41pm: The middle tusker bears the sacred relics of Maligawa (see the three tuskers at the distance)

When the sacred tusker 'Nendungamuwe Raja' carrying the 'Ransivi Ge' (the huge golden casket that encases the stupa shaped receptacle with relics) enters our vicinity.. it is a custom to rise up (even if seated on the ground) and stand on our feet. Despite our religion, cast, creed, nationality (including foreigners) or even position (including the kings and nowadays the presidents and all levels of clergy of all religions) have to stand up as a mark of respect!

10.43pm: Kandyan Dancers

Kandyan dancers are the pride of Lankan traditional dances. It is a dance form well known throughout the world and is also one of the most popular dances performed at star class hotels here. The glamor in the costume and the elegance of the dance itself is truly spellbinding.

10.45pm: Nendungamuwe Raja escorted by two other tuskers passing before us. (see the huge golden casket on the tusker's back? within that casket sits the stupa shaped golden receptacle bearing the relics)

It is said that in the olden times the Sacred Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha was paraded along the streets during the Dalada Perahera but at some point they have stopped this custom and paraded some other relics in place since then. The stupa shaped golden receptacle carried along the perahera is called 'Perahera Karanduwa' and is usually kept right next to the big golden receptacle that encases the Sacred Tooth Relic.

Since then to date the Sacred Tooth Relic is not moved from its (7 caskets) receptacle other than every five years when the sacred relic is exhibited during the 'Dalada Exposition' at Maligawa. (The stupa shaped 7 caskets are placed one within the other, and are made of 7 different materials like gold, silver, bronze and so on with dwindling sizes, while the innermost one is made of crystal)

Now we're almost at the end of Dalada Perahera, but there's 4 more pageants (Devala Perahera) to go. I'll try to wrap it up in the next post if possible, and also include the video clips too. *oops! got to edit them first*


Sorry that this post has gotten so lengthy. *keeping short and sweet is no more the trend, right?* =D

28 August 2010

Kandy Esala Perahera - Part I

I'm going to start with a bad news first! =D Most of my pics turned up with motion blur as my cam phone can't turn moving objects into stills. Plus.. I had to deal with low lighting as the nearest street lamp was out and my cam had no flash! -__- Well.. the good news is.. I've selected the best bunch (60+ pics out of 260+ pics) to post (a few) here and (the rest) up in my album. The link will be added in 'My Albums' page once all pics are up.


Kandy Esala Perahera is the biggest, longest, most spectacular and long standing pageant in Sri Lanka. It's an annual religious pageant conducted by Sri Dalada Maligawa to invoke blessings to the entire country.. plus it also brings rain. Every night during the perahera season more than 100,000 spectators gather along the parading streets. And they include not just locals but even foreigners from all corners of the globe.

You get to see many types of traditional dancing and costumes, and listen to many types of traditional instruments. The performers represent ages from 6+ years to 70+ years. Elephants and tuskers vary from 3ft size to 15+ ft size and they are clad in striking costumes lit with tiny bulbs. Some of these pachyderms are even good at dancing.. and I've got proof too! *you'll see them later when I get to upload the videos*

Esala Perahera has three phases. Starts with the four Devala (shrines dedicated to four key deities) Perahera parading within the premises, then the Kumbal (pottery) Perahera starting to parade along the streets and finally the most spectacular Randoli (golden palanquins) Perahera. The final day pageant circles 3 times around the premises of Maligawa and is called Dawal (day time) Perahera. The four Devala Perahera also join the main perahera (Dalada Perahera) to circle the streets, adding more color and ethnic vibes.

Each perahera (the Dalada Perahera and the four Devala Perahera) have their own culminations. For Dalada Perahera you will find the tallest and the highest pedigree tusker bearing a golden casket escorted by two tuskers *on either sides*, walking in a majestic manner. The golden casket bears the sacred relics paraded in place of the Sacred Tooth Relic. Then the four Devala Perahera also have their finest tuskers carrying golden caskets, and these caskets bear 'Devabharana' or 'Devayudha' (insignia) of the respective deities.

*if you want to know more, just google 'Kandy Esala Perahera' and you'll find tons of info and pics about it*

After trying my best to enhance their brightness and contrast this is what I got. Sorry again for the poor quality. Hope to buy a good digi cam before the next perahera. =D

7.40pm: The street below us was packed with spectators on either sides of the pavements.. as far as our eyes could see. For news they said during one of the Randoli perahera the count of spectators reached a staggering 300,000!

8.32pm: Kawadi dancers of Kataragama Devala Perahera.

There are basically four devalas - Vishnu, Kataragama, Natha and Pattini. Each Devala Perahera is supposed to join the main Dalada Perahera before the entire pageant commence. And thanks to our location we watched the Kataragama Devala Perahera twice! These pics were captured when they arrived to join the main perahera.

8.35pm: The tusker bearing insignia of the Kataragama Deity, escorted by its counterparts. Notice the big glow towards the bottom of the pic? These are torch bearers, doing the perennial tradition of illumining the streets for the pageant.

8.36pm: Illumined casket and the costume of the tusker

Each Devala has a color of its own. So all the costumes of the performers, tuskers and elephants all match the same color. Vishnu Devalaya - Blue, Kataragama Devalaya - red, Natha Devalaya - yellow and Pattini Devalaya - white.

8.49pm: Traditional drummers of Kataragama Devala Perahera

9.44pm: Whip crackers marking the beginning of the Kandy Esala Perahera. The sound of these whips are always ear blasting.

9.45pm: Fire spinners.

Some even do stunts like throwing the fire wheels high up towards the sky and catching it back precisely and spinning it right away. There were also kids in the same group as well as tall stilt walkers doing the fire dances.

The sound of the whips symbolize thundering, fire spinners - lightning and the tuskers - rain clouds. It is said that initially Esala Perahera was a ritual performed to please the gods and expecting timely rains essential for growing crops.

9.46pm: Another type of fire spinning with just one fire ball fixed to strands of their hair by a lengthy cord. When they shake their heads to a rhythm the fire balls spin like this.

9.48pm: More fire spinners


Stay tuned for the rest of this episode. And don't forget.. we're still at the very beginning of this pageant. ^__^

PS: Does anyone know of a good user-friendly video editor (freeware or shareware) which can edit brightness and contrast of video clips?

22 August 2010

Left far behind

..is how I feel whenever I login and check the dashboard. I've only a handful of blogs in my blogroll but how come I can't seem to keep up? I'm the type who hates skipping topics and moving up fast, *curiosity kills, I know* but despite it slows me down, I still am too eager to read all topics *if possible* instead of reading the latest and being up to date. *how nice of me* =P

Well.. I've been having such an eventful month, should I say eventful life.. a one that got me catch the same old flu three times in a row in itself is eventful right? O__o Well.. putting that aside, the me who don't have so much to share usually.. now seem to be having tons of stories to share.. so being The lazybones of the era, kept postponing them over and over again. 

And funny enough cause of this procrastination habit I've also skipped something important, my photo blog's (ya, this very blog's) 1st Anniversary, that came and left without a word, on the 2nd of August 2010. *sigh* Yep, already 20 days have gone since then and now's such a nice time to talk about it, huh? -__-

So.. want to know what stories I'll be sharing in the future = in a day or 2, a week or 2, a month or 2, a year or 2? O__O um.. hope you won't have to wait that long. -__-

Anyway here's some of those key topics..

  1. the ruins of Medirigiriya and what I found hidden among them, critters of all sorts and surprising discoveries (remember that hidden tunnel? that's just one of them)
  2. all types of arts and perhaps architecture too, I've captured since a while within and outside Maligawa (Temple of the Tooth), I'd say the place is a treasure trove of traditional arts
  3. stories of the two Hells I've been to.. yes, H-E-L-L-S, real live.. well.. realistically sculpted ones that will give you the chills and goosebumps with just one glance! (forgot already? I did mention long ago that I'm planning to visit Dambulla temple's man-made hell, but ended up visiting two different hells! after seeing too many hells, when I die will I end up in the hell as well?) -__-
  4. as for the grand finale... the entire Kandy Esala Perahera (the biggest procession in Lanka), I've caught 250+ pics and 5 or so short video clips just yesterday in the biting cold weather! Hopefully they're intact.. still got to load them to the comp and sort them out.
Did anyone else go see Kandy Perahera by the way? I'll have a bigger and exciting post about it in the future. ^__^

Have a great week! ^__^
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