June Through to August is part of the dry season in Sri Lanka, and surrounding the site of The Great Elephant Project, there are heaps of cultural experiences waiting to be explored!
Kandy City, Sri Lanka.
The Esala Perahera is one of the oldest and grandest of all Buddhist festivals in Sri Lanka held in the capital of Kandy. The event is held in the Esala, which is July or August as this is believed to commemorate the first teaching given by the Buddah once he had attained enlightenment. The Kandy Perahera lasts for 10 days, with many festivities and rituals taking place. The Sinhalese term ‘Perahera’ translates to a parade of musicians, dancers, singers, acrobats and various other performers such as jugglers and fire breathers!
The event is celebrated to honour the Sacred Tooth Relic and the four ‘guardian Gods’. When the Buddah died in 543 BC, his left canine was retrieved and given to the King for veneration. It has become belief that whoever holds the Sacred Tooth Relic has divine right to rule the land. The Tooth Relic is carried through Kandy City, and renowned as one of the most beautiful pageants in all of Asia. This ritual is to beseech the blessings of the Gods, to obtain rainfall so that crops and land can continue to flourish.
The Temple of The Tooth Relic.
This began following the decree of King Kirthisiri Meghawanna, stating the relic should be taken around the City of Anuradhapura once a year, which was followed by many successors. However foreign invasions did interrupt this process. Sporadic invasions caused the seat of the kingdom to shift to many other cities, and in each a temple was made to honour the Sacred Tooth Relic. Since the shift of the capital to Kandy, the Sacred Tooth Relic has laid undisturbed, and Esala Perahera has occurred annually ever since
The event features five processions that are organised by the most respected Buddhist temple in Sri Lanka, the Sri Dalada Maligawa and also 4 shrines in honour of the 4 Hindu Gods. Some of the well-known pageants are Mahiyangana Temple which is just one hour from The Great Elephant Project site. Additionally there are the pageants of the Kelani, Kotte and Gangarama Temples. These are all in the greater Colombo area. If you would like to know more about what is occurring during the Esala period, a timetable of events can be found here.
Kandy is located in the scenic central mountains and is 3 hours by vehicle from the field site. Kandy is a very popular weekend destination for our volunteers as it is a great place to visit during any time of the year due to its warm climate, scenic landscapes, tea estates, and exciting cultural places and events!
Situated in the East coast of Sri Lanka, Trincomalee or Tinco is another beautiful place that you can visit over the weekend. Particularly between now and August as it is the dry season, you can enjoy fun in the sun, relaxing in the balmy climate at the stunning white beach surrounded by natural biodiversity.
Trinco is a natural deep-water harbour that actually played a defining role in the second World War that prevented the Japanese invasion of South Asia. Beneath the vibrant blue waves 27 species of whales and dolphins can be found, and you can go on whale and dolphin watching safaris! Wildlife biologist Vimukthi Weeratunga told the Sunday Observer;
“Whale and Dolphin watching at Trincomalee is a unique experience, as its waters are home to the deepest sea canyon in the country which meets the nutrient rich waters of the Mahaweli River, creating the ideal conditions required for a thriving congregation of marine mammals.”
The Indian Ocean was declared a whale sanctuary in 1981, and the shimmering rippling waters of Trinco are home to one of the world’s largest sperm and blue whale populations. The blue whale is the biggest mammal on the planet, growing up to 29 metres long, and you will not appreciate the blue whale’s sheer colossal size until you experience it first-hand. Here you can also partake in other boat excursions and scuba activities!
Statue of the Hindu God Shiva at Fort Frederick.
There are many other historic and religious landmarks, such as Fort Frederick, built by the Portuguese in the 1600's and the renowned Hindu Temple of Sri Koneshwaram Kovil that resides inside it overlooking the handsome harbour from great heights!
The Portuguese erected the temple using debris from an ancient temple they destroyed during their invasions of Sri Lanka. This was then captured by a Dutch fleet in 1639, and rebuilt in 1665 to defend themselves against the advances of the British and the French.
Additionally, if you keep heading south along the eastern coastline, you will reach the idyllic beach resort area of Arugam Bay, featuring some of the world’s most renowned surfing beaches!
These events are of course occurring between now and August, and these activities will be subject to your free time and come at an extra cost. We still have spaces for you to join The Great Elephant Project this summer, so if you are interested,then you can view the project on our project page.
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