A perahera is a Buddhist festival and parade with drummers, traditional dancers and costumed elephants.
Sri Lanka was known as Serendib by early Arab traders, finding the Perahera was our serendipity moment of the trip.
A few days earlier, on our way into Colombo from our big tour, I was using my GPS app to help Anu, the driver to get through the Colombo traffic. Just as he exclaimed that he didn't know where he was, Shyana said this was the Buddhist Temple she visited as a child with her father. We wanted to stop for a quick visit and to show Christopher and Evelyn a temple off the normal tourist trail. We couldn't stop, parking bans and barriers lined the street. Anu read the banners and said the Bellanwila Perahera was happening today. A Perahera is a multiple evening celebration at the temple and a parade of increasing length. We had stumbled on the first of three nights at Bellanvila. Shyana and I were booked that evening to meet friends for dinner, so night one was out of the question, we were all having dinner with Shyana's brother on night two and we are flying home late on night three. We were all keen to see the Perahera and especially Christopher wanted to come. Our solution was that the parade is late in the evening, so night 2 after dinner we jumped in a tuk tuk (Christopher had to push it to get us going) and headed over to Bellanvila. A crowd was already lining the street when we arrived at 10:30pm, we got a great spot literally in the middle of the road, where the parade turned into a side street. A few families were seated on the floor so we all had a great view. After waiting a short while, sound of the drummers slowly built up. For a religious ceremony and parade this is a pretty raucous affair. Lots of drummers, traditional dancers, elephants with glorious robes and bright coloured lights. At the head of the parade was a large troupe of fire dancers. They had circular fire sticks with 8 balls of fire that they spin and throw into the air. This was captivating, these guys were hot, they were great at spinning and throwing fire, they looked exhausted from the Colombo heat and a little charred from the fire balls whizzing within inches.
The elephants were amazing, something like 20 - 40 elephants ranging from pretty small to truly massive, calmly walking down the street in amongst the drumming, dancers and fire. One elephant carries a relic from the temple and walks on white silk sheets laid out in front as it approaches.
After an hour of elephants, dancers, drummers and fire, in the early morning of Christopher's birthday the parade was over and everyone headed home. We somewhat irreverently called it Christopher's Perahera, a brilliant opportunity and wonderful way to wrap up a fantastic trip in Sri Lanka.
I took a short video from my phone, take a look. A longer video from the camera is coming soon.