The Gangaramaya Temple is located within the city of Colombo and is one of the most famous temples in Sri Lanka. It was built over 120 years ago, over the swamps of Beira Lake, as a place of learning and worship. With one of the best collections of Buddhist artifacts and texts around the world, Gangaramaya is now viewed as an institution of international reckoning. Another significance of this beautiful temple located by picturesque Beira Lake is that it is the venue that hosts the Nawam Maha Perahera to signify Navam Full Moon Poya Day, annually.
What to expect:
The highlight of this festival is the colorful elephant pageant when the streets of Colombo transform under the weight of beautifully decorated tuskers. The inaugural parade is attended by over 1000 performers of various kinds of arts and dances and school children who wave colorful flags on the way. Giving a befitting company to the procession, there are percussion bands, conch shell blowers, stilt-walkers, flutists and drummers who fill the air with sound and music.
Every year since 1979, the Navam Perahera has enchanted countless locals and vacationers from the world over with its refreshing mixture of culture and festivity. Taking place in Colombo, the island’s commercial capital, this traditional procession thrives in the limelight.
A variety of performers parade the city streets displaying their talents, accompanying brightly decorated elephants, moving slowly along. Organized by the Gangaramaya Temple, the Navam Perahera supports the longevity of culture, arts, and age-old traditions.
Dance ensembles form a major part of the Navam Perahera, comprising of upcountry, low country, and Sabaragamu performances, each diverse in their talent and costume.
Masked dancers also perform a regionally distinct style of dance, showing off true acrobatics in sessions of Ves, Naiyyandi, Hanumantha, Devol and Raban dances. These routines follow flag and torch bearers and hundreds of parading monks, thus completing a true spectacle.
A large tusker carrying the relic on its back symbolizes the integrity of such a procession and completes a magnificent festival celebration.
This year, the 2-day religious festival which attracts thousands of local devotees and foreigners is organized under the guidance of the Chief incumbent of the Hunupitiya Gangarama Temple Chief Sanga Nayaka of the Colombo Hathkorale Ven. Galaboda Gnanisara Thera.
A total of about 45 elephants are expected to participate in the Perahera which also displays a pageant of fine cultural performances involving hundreds of dancers
The parade route is, roughly, around the Beira Lake and past the Gangaramaya Temple. The best place to watch is from the corner of the Beira Road (Sir James Pieris) and the Gangaramaya temple road (Sri Jinaratna). Or, Perahera Mawatha alongside the lake is nice, as are any of the roads it circumvents around.
This Perahera isn’t as packed (or expensive) as the one in Kandy, but you should still show up a bit early. They shut down traffic there around 6:45 p.m. and the action starts not too promptly, so around 7:30. Also, in the days before and after the Perahera, you can catch the elephants moving around Colombo during the day which if you ask us makes for some interesting traffic.