Festivals In Sri Lanka: The Joyous Celebrations

 In Holidays, Honeymoon, Sri Lanka, Travel

Sri Lanka, a beautiful island situated in the Indian Ocean, is a well-known country for its pristine beaches, beautiful landscapes, and rich cultural heritage. Amidst this mesmerizing backdrop, there are some traditional festivals in Sri Lanka that you must know about! Planning your Sri Lanka tour amidst these Sri Lanka festivals in 2024 would be the best idea. 

Festivals are what make a culture much more immersed within people! It is a way to celebrate and feel happy with all your companions, friends, and family. So, let’s get familiar with some of the best festivals in Sri Lanka. 

Suggested Read: Restaurants in Sri Lanka 

10 Exciting Festivals in Sri Lanka You Should See

  • Duruthu Perahera
  • Independence day
  • Mahashivratri
  • Navam perahera
  • Thai pongal
  • Vesak poya
  • Sinhala & Tamil new year
  • Poson festival
  • Vel festival
  • Diwali 

1. Duruthu Perahera

Image Source : Time Out

This festival marks the beginning of the Buddhist calendar in Sri Lanka. It happens in the month of January with the grand celebrations. It is one of the biggest traditional festivals in Sri Lanka that is attended by a lot of devotees and tourists alike. Plan your Sri Lanka trip and get ready to witness the grand festival that is loved by many. It is celebrated to commemorate Buddha’s first visit 2500 years ago, with the 3 long festive days. 

The magnificent procession features a group of elephants, traditional dances, drummers, and flag bearers. These parades are a stunning display of the country’s rich cultural heritage and religious devotion, drawing both locals and tourists alike. The air is filled with the rhythm of drums, the aroma of incense, and the vibrancy of colorful costumes, making Duruthu Perehera an unforgettable experience that fosters a sense of unity and spirituality among the people of Sri Lanka.

Where: Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya, Colombo 

Highlight Of The Festival: Performances by Acrobats, singers, drummers & torch-bearers

2. Independence Day 

Image Source : Cpsctech

Independence Day in any country is treated as one of the main festivals. Sri Lanka gained its independence on 4th February 1948 from colonial rule. 

This day is marked by grand festivities and patriotic fervor that sweep across the island nation. The main event takes place in the capital city, Colombo, where the President of Sri Lanka raises the national flag, and the national anthem resonates through the air. There are multiple things to do in Sri Lanka, and various festivals to witness but this can be a unique experience that you should definitely see once. 

Parades, cultural performances, and vibrant displays of Sri Lankan heritage fill the streets. The celebration also serves as a reminder of the hard-fought struggle for self-determination and the importance of unity and sovereignty in the country’s history. It’s a day when Sri Lankans come together to celebrate their freedom and to reflect on the progress their nation has made since gaining independence.

Where: All across the country

Highlight of the festival: military parades, flag hoisting ceremonies

3. Mahashivratri 

Image Source : Time Out

It is one of the biggest festivals in Sri Lanka for devotees of Lord Shiva. This auspicious festival marks the reverence of Lord Shiva. On this day, devotees congregate in temples of Sri Lanka to offer and perform some rituals. 

The celebrations are marked by fasting, meditation, and night-long vigils, where devotees chant sacred hymns and mantras in praise of Lord Shiva. Special ceremonies are held to bathe the Shiva Lingam, a symbolic representation of the deity, with milk, honey, and water. Devotees dress in traditional attire and adorn themselves with sacred ash and vermillion, signifying purity and devotion.

Where: All across the country

Highlights of the festival: Day fasting and meditating 

4. Navam Perahera

Image Source : Time Out

It is one of the best festivals in Sri Lanka that people engage in with elite enthusiasm and joy! It is a mix of colors, parades, and some unique traditions like no other. It was celebrated for the first time in the Gangaramaya temple in Colombo. 

The festival is a dazzling showcase of traditional Sri Lankan cultural and Buddhist heritage which is beautifully celebrated by people. Pilgrims and tourists gather to witness the parade, which is not only for Buddhism but also shows the great Sri Lankan heritage. 

Where: Colombo

Highlights of the festival: performance and drummers

5. Thai Pongal

Image Source : Northern Provincial Council

Thai Pongal is a vibrant and significant harvest festival celebrated by the Tamil-speaking community in South India, especially in the state of Tamil Nadu. This joyous occasion typically falls on the 14th or 15th of January each year, marking the onset of the Tamil month of Thai. 

Thai Pongal is a time when farmers express their gratitude to the Sun God, Surya, for a bountiful harvest and offer thanks for the blessings of nature. The central element of the festival is the cooking of Pongal, a delicious rice dish prepared with newly harvested rice, jaggery, and lentils. 

The act of boiling the Pongal until it overflows symbolizes abundance and prosperity. People decorate their homes with colorful kolam (rangoli) designs, and the festival is marked by various cultural events, traditional music, dance, and cattle races, which add to the festive spirit.

Where: all across the country

Highlights of the festival: rangolis and house decorations

Suggested Read: Best beaches in Sri Lanka 

6. Vesak Poya

Image Source : Wikipedia.org

Vesak Poya is one of the most celebrated and best festivals in Sri Lanka that you must know about! It is known to be the one prominent Buddhist festival.

Vesak Poya, also known as Buddha Purnima, is a significant and revered Buddhist festival celebrated by millions of people around the world. This festival falls on the full moon day in the month of Vesak, which typically occurs in April or May, depending on the lunar calendar. Vesak Poya commemorates the birth, enlightenment (nirvana), and death (parinirvana) of Siddhartha Gautama, the historical Buddha. 

It is a time for Buddhists to reflect on the teachings and life of the Buddha, engage in acts of charity, and strive for spiritual enlightenment.

Where: All across the country, especially with the grand celebrations in Colombo

Highlight of the festival: colorful lanterns 

7. Sinhala & Tamil New Year

Image Source : Wikipedia.org

During the mid-time of April, the country is encapsulated with a festive vibe all across. This is one of the best festivals celebrated with great pomp and show to mark the end of harvest season. 

People are dedicated to cleaning their homes, making sweets, and enjoying great meals with their families.  One of the central features of this celebration is the exchange of gifts and the giving of money, symbolizing good luck and prosperity for the year ahead. Also, the special Sri Lankan cuisine is tasted in the homes and enjoyed with families. 

Traditional games, cultural performances, and processions add to the festive spirit. The rituals associated with the New Year are deeply rooted in ancient customs and are a reflection of the rich heritage of the Sinhala and Tamil people. Overall, Sinhala and Tamil New Year is a time of renewal, unity, and the reaffirmation of cultural identity, fostering a sense of togetherness among these diverse communities.

Where: all across the country

Highlights of the festival: competitive games

8. Poson Festival

Image Source : Wikipedia.org

It is also known as Poson Paya and is one of the best festivals in Sri Lanka. It commemorates the arrival of Buddhism to the island, marking the introduction of the teachings of Lord Buddha to the people of Sri Lanka. 

The festival falls on the full moon day in the month of Poson (usually in June) and holds great religious and cultural importance for the Buddhist community in the country. 

During Poson, devout Buddhists engage in various religious activities, such as visiting temples, making offerings to monks, and engaging in acts of charity and kindness. One of the most iconic rituals of Poson is the illumination of thousands of lanterns and oil lamps in temples and homes, symbolizing the light of wisdom dispelling the darkness of ignorance.

Where: Mihintale and Anuradhapura 

Highlights of the festival: Celebration of Buddhist traditions

Suggested Read: Honeymoon places in Sri Lanka 

9. Vel festival

Image Source : Time Out

Let’s talk about the most important Hindu religious and cultural festivals in Sri Lanka. It signifies the victory of war-god Skandha and evil forces and venerates his trident (vel). 

This religious festival is dedicated to the worship of Lord Murugan, the Hindu god of war and victory. It is celebrated with great fervor, typically during the Tamil month of Thai, which falls between January and February. 

The festival is known for its grand processions, where idols of Lord Murugan are carried on elaborately decorated chariots, accompanied by the rhythmic beats of traditional music and the enthusiastic chants of devotees. 

Pilgrims from all over the country gather at the renowned Murugan temples in places like Palani, Tirupparankunram, and Thiruchendur to participate in this spiritually enriching event. The Vel Festival is not just a religious observance but also a time for cultural performances, traditional rituals, and an opportunity for the community to come together in celebration of their faith and heritage.

Where: Colombo

Highlights of the festival: sound of chants and drums 

10. Diwali

Image Source : BBC

Diwali is a festival that is celebrated all across the world with great significance and value. It is one eminent Hindu festival which has utmost importance everywhere. The celebrations include lighting diyas and candles, wearing new clothes, and sweets and guests, it is a festival for celebrating good over evil. Also, Dusshera in Sri Lanka is also a very famous celebration marking the great significance. 

Also, in Sri Lanka, the festival is celebrated with friends and families to enjoy and have fun. 

Where: All Across the country

Highlights of the festival: Visiting relatives and distribution of sweets

Frequently Asked Questions: (FAQ’s)

What are the major festivals celebrated in Sri Lanka?

People in Sri Lanka give the utmost respect and importance to the major festivals and joyous occasions. Some of the main festivals that are celebrated in Sri Lanka include Duruthu Perahera, Diwali, Vel festival, and Poson festival. 

These are the main festivals which have significance among the people out there. 

Can you describe the Esala Perahera festival in Kandy?

The Esala Perahera festival in Kandy is a very grand cultural celebration that takes place every year. It has its own relevance regarding the honoring of the sacred tooth relic of Buddha, which is housed in the temple of the tooth. 

The streets have their own music everywhere with the great aroma and a lot of tourists everywhere. It is definitely one of the major festivals celebrated in the country with the utmost happiness. 

How do Sri Lankans celebrate the festival of Vesak?

Vesak in Sri Lanka has a high value in the country. People take out their time and decorate their temples with real flowers and other decorations. Also, there are mass gatherings in the temple to raise the flags before dawn while also singing hymns of their own. 

You can engage and witness this festival to experience something unique and never seen before! The celebrations hold a different level of joy within the people out there. 

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