Navam Perahera

Whip cracks ring out, signifying the start of one of the much awaited events of the year. A promise of visceral splendour, ‘Navam Perahera’ is a grand procession of tuskers, dancers, drummers, torch bearers, fire-eaters and acrobats making their way down the streets of Colombo 2 as per annual tradition. Spanning a period of 2 days, the event makes for a magnificent sight to see for devotees and individuals of all ages.

Harking back to 1979, ‘Navam Perahera’ tells a tale of timeless traditions and cultures deeply embedded in Sri Lankan history. The event is primarily held in veneration of the Triple Gem (the ‘Three Jewels’ which are Lord Buddha, the ‘Dharma’ which are the teachings of Lord Buddha and the ‘Sangha’, the Buddhist monastic order which practices Lord Buddha’s teachings). An endeavour by the ‘Podi Hamuduruwo’ (priest) of the ‘Gangaramaya Temple’ to revive the traditions and culture of the island’s rich heritage, ‘Navam Perahera’ brings together individuals from all castes and creed, irrespective of race or religion in an additional bid to foster harmony.

Why You Should Go

A burst of colour, sound and infectious ambiance, the ‘perahera’ advances from the sacred ‘Gangaramaya Temple’ and journeys around the streets. Trailing behind whip crackers will be devotees, young and old, bearing either flags, banners or trays of flowers. Expect a line-up of torch bearers illuminating the surroundings and flag bearers proudly carrying the national flag of Sri Lanka.

Blazing circles of fire cut through the air, artfully spun by many a fire-dancer. Commanding the attention of one and all, ethereal tuskers traverse through the streets, clothed in costumes heavily adorned in fairy lights and decorations. With elephants noted to invoke a sense of awe-inspiring majesty, it is only fitting that they carry the sacred relics of Lord Buddha.

Adding a touch of traditional dance to the line-up, Kandyan, low country and Sabaragamuwa dancers gyrate to the pulsing beat of the drum. Clad in resplendent head dresses and signature white and red attire, the dancers sing ‘Vannams’ (a type of recitation which acts as the background song in their performances).

The throbbing of the drum reverberates in the air courtesy of traditional drummers. Keeping time with the dancers, the drummers bring forth a variety of drums the likes of ‘Gata Bera’, ‘Yak Bera’, ‘Udakki’, ‘Pantheru’, ‘Mangul Bera’, ‘Daula’, ‘Thammattama’ and ‘Rabana’.

Further hyping up the atmosphere will be conch shell blowers, producing warm notes for an extended period of time. Towering above the masses on 2 wood pieces, the stilt walkers or ‘borukakul karayas’ entrance one and all. Make your way over to Colombo 2 and witness one of Sri Lanka’s age-old traditions come to life once again.

Interesting Facts

  • 2018 will see ‘Navam Perahera’ taking place post ‘Navam Full Moon Poya’, the event which it usually coincides with. With the dates of the ‘Duruthu Perahera’ (a magnificent procession of elephants, acrobats, fire-eaters, flag bearers, acrobats, dancers and drummers. This event bears a substantial amount of similarities to ‘Navam Perahera’ yet has its own schedule and process) and the ‘Navam Full Moon Poya’ falling in close proximity to each other in the month of January, it was decided that ‘Navam Perahera’ be pushed back to the end of February.
  • ‘Navam Perahera’ will commence after the casket containing the sacred relics of Lord Buddha is placed on the main tusker at the auspicious time.
  • The month of February is referred to as ‘Navam’. The decision to hold the ‘perahera’ in the said month is due to the fact that February was said to be a period which lacks tourism arrivals.
  • The purpose for which ‘Navam Perahera’ is held may vary due to differing beliefs. It is said that the ‘perahera’ is in commemoration of the 1st sermon of Lord Buddha which was held at ‘Isipathanaramaya Temple’ whereas another belief is that it is in commemoration of the appointment of the priests Arahant Sariputta and Moggalyana by Lord Buddha as his chief disciples.

Helpful Tips

  • It is likely that special traffic plans and the blocking of roads may take place to ensure the ‘perahera’ takes place smoothly. Best arrive early to avoid any ensuing traffic jams and to obtain good parking and viewing spots.
  • Tickets for the ‘perahera’ could be obtained from the ‘Gangaramaya Temple’. One could also witness the ‘perahera’ from the streets free of charge however one might not get a proper view of the event due to the overwhelming turnout.
  • Local street delicacies could be purchased during ‘Navam Perahera’ from a host of vendors.
  • There isn’t a stringent dress code for the ‘perahera’ therefore one is free to wear what they want. As the event may go on for some time, make sure that you wear comfortable attire.
  • Despite the weather forecast predicting a partly sunny atmosphere, ensure that you pack in preparation of showers due to the unpredictability of forecasts.
  • One has many affordable accommodation options to choose from in Colombo. Best pick a stay which in close proximity to the ‘perahera’ as well as retail and commercial precincts.

General Information

  • Tickets for foreigners could be purchased for USD 30 at the ‘Gangaramaya Temple’. The ticket prices for locals will be updated soon.
Title image by: Kimaya Wickrama-Adittiya

Event info



USD 30
Locals - Free of Charge

Tickets At


Cultural and Religious

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