9 Best Events and Festivals in Sri Lanka

By Niyati Shinde on Mar 07, 2016
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festivals in Sri Lanka

Are you culturally inclined? Do you love to explore the pulse of a place rather than its popular tourist attractions? While travelling, do you love to interact with the locals rather than sitting in your hotel room sipping on wine? Well, then this blog is for you. If you are planning a trip to the stunning island nation of Sri Lanka, here’s a list of festivals and events you should not miss witnessing and maybe even participating in:

Duruthu Poya:

Image Source: Mal B/flickr.com

The Duruthu Poya celebrates Gautama Buddha’s first ever visit to Sri Lanka. Celebrated on the first full moon day of the year, a procession is carried out at the sacred temple of Kelaniya near Colombo, which attracts a lot of worshippers and devotees. A grand spectacle, the procession depicts the culture of the nation in its true sense. It is a vibrant amalgamation of folklore, traditional dance forms and folk music.  

Thai Pongal:

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Thai Pongal is a harvest festival celebrated in the month of January. Celebrated by the Tamil community in Sri Lanka, it is a sort of a thanksgiving to the sun god and the cattle for helping out with a bountiful crop. For people not related to agriculture, this festival provides them with an opportunity to thank the farmers. If you are visiting Sri Lanka during January, do make it a point to join in the traditional and homely festivities. We bet you would be hogging on delicious Palakaram throughout the celebrations!

Independence Day:

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Celebrated annually on 4th February, Independence Day in Sri Lanka marks the independence of this island nation from the British. A national holiday, this day is celebrated with fervour all over the country. You will witness flag-hoisting ceremonies, parades, street dances and cultural performances all across the nation. In the capital city of Colombo, the President raises the national flag and delivers a speech at an event which is televised nationally.

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Sinhala and Tamil New Year:

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Coinciding with the end of the harvest season, the Sinhala and Tamil New Year festivities are a family affair. According to Buddhist traditions, people take a break from their work and responsibilities and focus on meditation and doing good deeds. This is also the day when households make delicious Kiri Batha (milk rice). Many families celebrate the beginning of the New Year by bursting crackers. If you walk down the streets of Sri Lanka in the evening of the New Year, you will be treated to Kawun and Kokis (traditional sweets).

Must Read: Festivals in India

Vesak Poya:

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One of the most colourful festivals of Sri Lanka, Vesak Poya is also an important celebration in the country. It commemorates 3 phases in Gautama Buddha’s life- his birth, his attainment of enlightenment and his passing into Nirvana. The entire nation comes alive with lights and people decorate their houses and streets with colourful lanterns. Different local organizations arrange lantern competitions on huge grounds and open spaces- it is a sight to behold.  

Poson Poya:

Image Source: Gerry Popplestone/flickr.com

A significant day in Sri Lanka, it was on a Poson Full Moon Poya day that Buddhism was introduced to Sri Lanka. This significant event occurred in the city of Anuradhapura. Similar to Vesak festivities, Poson Poya is celebrated with dansal (alms giving stalls) set up everywhere. Families adorn their homes and streets with beautiful coloured lanterns. Many of the Buddhists in Sri Lanka head over to the temple at Anuradhapura with offerings of incense and flowers.

Kandy Esala Perahera:

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

One of the most famous festivals of Sri Lanka, the Kandy Esala Perahera takes place in the days leading up to the full moon in August. During the festivities, a brilliantly decked up elephant carries a golden casket containing a replica of the tooth of Gautama Buddha, through the streets of Kandy. The elephant is followed by revellers dancing, beating drums, blowing conch shells, singing and performing devotional acts. The parade also includes fire performance and hundreds of other decorated elephants.

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Image Source: alfonso venzuela/flickr.com

The Hindu festival of Deepavali is celebrated with joy and enthusiasm in Sri Lanka. Marking the victory of good over evil and the return of Lord Ram to Ayodhya, oil lamps are lit at many households. Families decorate their houses with lanterns and sweets and snacks are distributed.

Check Out: Which Countries Celebrate Diwali


Image Source: Amila Tennakoon/flickr.com

Ho ho ho! Santa Claus is coming to town! Christmas in Sri Lanka is a grand affair with malls, hotels, restaurants, shops and streets decorated in the colours of red and green. The churches conduct special Christmas masses during this vibrant festival. It also the best time to shop till you drop as many malls and shopping destinations offer huge discounts.

Other significant festivals and events in Sri Lanka include the Sangamittha Perehera, Medin Poya, Bak Poya, Mahashivaratri, the Kataragama Perahera, the holy month of Ramadan and the Hindu Vel Festival.  

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