Colombo has a perahera (elephant, fire and awesome parade). Well everywhere has a perahera, but Gangarama Temple in the city has a boss one. Briefly interrupted by war, the colorful Podi Hamduruwo has brought it back in style. I attended for the first time and it was pretty awesome, and well organized. The Kandy Perahera is a bit of an endurance event, but this one was more modern.
As much as I love the elephants, that’s becoming my least favorite part of the perahera. Some of them are chained too short to walk at their natural gait. Others were just babies, covered in sheets and paraded out in front of thousands of people amidst fire, whips and raucous noise. The ancients rode elephants into war, so they have a high tolerance for both stress and nonsense, but I still don’t think they’re enjoying the scene.
This great tusker above, however, did get the white carpet treatment. What’s funny is that the elephants are dropping mad bombs during the perahera, ie, pooping great elephant poops. Normally it just sorta sits there (which is why the elephants usually come after walking dignitaries). This time, however, they had Abans solid waste management guys with shovels. Thing is, those guys just shoveled the poop off to the side, right in front of unlucky spectators. Elephant poop isn’t that bad as far as poop goes, but still.
When these Buddha statues passed by, everyone stood up, and some people prayed. At one point I thought this idol veneration was silly, but recently I was in Thanamalwila and I saw an old achchi (grandmother) wheeled out to pray in front of an LED pulsing Buddha statue they’d erected in the front yard. Then her daughter joined her, quite fervently. I’d always thought those LED things were tacky, but I’ve been rethinking that. I guess meaning is wherever you find it. I can’t really begrudge that to anybody.
Here’s some Kandyan drummers, drumming it. When the Kandyan dancers get into it (especially the old guys) it’s amazing, but the Perehera is quite long for them, so they only turn it on at certain points. I went to a friends house and came back later to find people still parading, and they were obviously tired. Some of my favorite proceeders were the fire, uh, acrobats and the stilt-walkers, of whom one seemed to be about 6 years old. Have video of that which I shall upload in time.
For future reference, I recommend sitting at the end of the Gangarama Temple road, on the banks of the Beira. That’s where Podi Hamdurowo and various dignities stand and where the performers put on the best show. Also show up a bit early but not insanely so, and if you want decent photos, get out of the stand. Also avoid the roti with the isso vade sauce. Bad idea.