Lighting up the night skies with kaleidoscopic pandols and exotic lanterns of various shapes and sizes, the Festival of Vesak commemorates the birth, enlightenment and passing away of the Lord Buddha in one colossal event. This religious and cultural festival celebrated on the full moon in the month of May, is one of the main highlights for Buddhist devotees.

Vesak is to Sri Lanka what Christmas is to the West. Devout Buddhists spend this public holiday at their respective temples, partaking in religious observances. As dusk draws in, old and young alike take to the streets to witness the dazzling festivities that occur across the island.

This memorial is celebrated with Vesak pandols known as ‘thoranas’ that depict various folklore of the 550 past lives of Buddha, lighting up myriads of Vesak lanterns and countless other entertaining events inclusive of various exhibitions, ‘bakthi gee’ ceremonies (Buddhist equivalent to carol services), dances and dramatisations.

Bathed in the glow of the milky white full moon, the festivities of the Vesak celebration are a unique experience altogether. Festivity zones known as ‘Vesak Kalapayas’ are hosted throughout the island. Buddhist flags, Vesak lanterns and festive lights adorn the sides of the road during this period. The homes too, take a vibrant glow of its own as families get together to decorate their houses to celebrate Vesak in their own way.

‘Vesak Kalapayas’ are a great way for travellers who are visiting Sri Lanka during the month of May to experience this iconic celebration on the island. Special festivities are hosted in some of the iconic cities of Sri Lanka such as Colombo (particularly the Gangaramaya Temple’s Vesak Zone), Kandy, Anuradhapura, Mihintale, Polonnaruwa, Kalutara and Kataragama. Here one can feast for free from all food stalls, known as ‘dansals’, enjoy the creative flair of Sri Lankans in the form of Vesak pandols and elaborate lanterns, theatrical performances and choral singing. While some travel by vehicles and others by foot a great way to cover many areas as possible.

Come May 18th, step out onto the colourful streets of the isle; experience Sri Lanka’s Buddhist culture at its finest.

The information displayed is provided by Vesak

Date and Time

May 18, 2019


Multiple Locations


Cultural and Religious

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