<< Back | Cultural and religious events in Sri Lanka throughout the Year
Sri Lanka celebrates diversity within its multiethnic population; as Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Catholics and many other communities’ live together. Thus, the country enjoys a high amount of public holidays; with 25 public holidays it’s one of the highest counts in Asia. Not only a pleasant side-effect for its population, but also for Sri Lanka’s tourists. Even every poya day (full moon) is celebrated and is declared an official holiday every month. Most Sri Lanka’s poya celebrations are organized and held by Buddhist temples, which usually include a parade with drums, dancers and elephants throughout the respective city. Here is a list of cultural and religious events in Sri Lanka around the year to guide you in your travels in the island.
January: Duruthu Perahera (January procession)
The Duruthu Perahera takes place in Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya in Colombo in January, which was built in the 3rd century BC to honor Buddha’s first three visits to Sri Lanka. Thus, every January on Poya day (full moon) people gather together along the four-day celebration to be reminded of Buddha’s visits. This particular celebration attracts up to 3000 participants and more than 50 elephants on the final night.
February: Navam Peraha (February procession)
Navam Perahera is held by Colombo’s famous Ganagaramaya Temple in February and known to be one of Sri Lanka’s biggest and most famous poya celebrations. This procession lasts for two days, starting at Gangaramaya temple. Navam Perahera starts every day at around 8pm. It is best spotted at Perahera Mawatha Street. If you arrive early enough, you might be lucky to grab a chair on one of the platforms.
March: Maha Shivaratri
Maha Shivaratri is the night of Shiva and thus represents one or even the most important Hindu celebrations throughout the year. It always takes place on the 14th of Panguni month, based on the Hindu calendar. This is why the date varies, but in most cases it is celebrated at the end of February or early March. There is no specific Hindu temple, where this religious event is spotted the best. Just visit one of the closest Shiv temples and enjoy a beautiful and colorful celebration.
April: The Sinhala and Tamil New Year (Avurudu)
The Sinhala and Tamil New Year (Avurudu) is a very unique cultural event, as it is not celebrated in any other country as a national festival. It is held as a matter of saying thank you for a fertile harvest and is therefore especially important for the farming community. Avurudu is celebrated on the 13th and 14th of April and is usually only celebrated within the family. However, we are always happy to celebrate New Year with our guests and staff few days after the actual New Year celebration.
Vel (temple anniversary)
Throughout the year you will find many Hindu temple anniversary celebrations in Sri Lanka. People will celebrate the year of foundation and it is therefore a great opportunity for tourists to observe all those traditions and rituals of these cultural and religious events. Well-known bigger Vels are best spotted in Matale, and Colombo. However, very small villages celebrate them as well which is an even more intimate occasion for tourists.
May: Vesak Festival
This cultural and religious event is celebrated on the poya day (full moon) in May. Buddhists celebrate the birth, enlightenment and passing away of Lord Buddha. Vesak Festival is best observed in Colombo and lasts for an entire week; whereas the very first two days attract most of the visitors. The area surrounding the Gangaramaya temple which is lit up with manifold shaped lanterns should not be missed.
June: Poson Festival
The arrival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka in the 3rd century BC is celebrated during this time of the year. This festival is held on poya day (full moon) of June. Even though it is celebrated throughout Sri Lanka, it is best spotted in Anuradhapura and Mihintale. You will observe a lot of Buddhists, dressed in white, climbing those many steps to the top of Mihintale hill.
July: Esala Perahera Kandy (Kandy procession)
During July and August many diverse cultural and religious events are held in Sri Lanka. One of the most famous is the Esala Perahera in Kandy; which is held by the famous Temple of the Tooth Relic in the end of July, and beginning of August. It lasts for approximately 10 days. There are two specific days when the parade also passes by Clock Inn Kandy.
July: Esala Perahera Kataragama (Kataragama procession)
Whereas Esala Perahera in Kandy is the most famous, the perahera in Kataragama might be the more spiritual. It is known to be one of the most historical and cultural procession in Sri Lanka. Kataragama is especially famous for its fire-walking ceremonies held in the main temple yard after the procession.
August: Udappu Festival
This 18 daylong event is celebrated in Udappu, a fishing village situated north of Chillaw. The distance from Colombo to this village is 110 km. This cultural and religious event starts in the end of July and lasts till the beginning of August. On the last day of the festival the male population of the village will perform fire walking in front of the Draubathi Amman temple.
Diwali means chain of lights and is celebrated all over the world and thus can be observed in Sri Lanka as well. It is the Hindu light festival celebrated at the end of October or in early (November, depending on the Hindu calendar). Since there is no specific place to watch Diwali in Sri Lanka we highly recommend visiting a Hindu temple in your area in order to observe the many intimate ceremonies.