One of Sri Lanka’s most spectacular and colorful festivals is Esala Perahera, a 10-day event in the central city of Kandy. Held to commemorate an ancient Buddhist tooth relic, this festival features processions through the streets, dancing, and music. It all ends with a peculiar ‘water cutting’ session (with swords) in the river.
Vel Festival sees the ceremonial chariot of the God of War, Skanda, pulled between two of Colombo’s major Hindu temples. Over two to three days, body painting and colorful outfits can be seen alongside painful displays of religious devotion, where participants dangle themselves by piercing their skin on their backs with metal hooks.
This important Hindu festival takes place in the pretty pilgrimage town of Kataragama in the south of the island. On the day/night of the full moon in July (somtimes in August), devotees subject themselves to various ritual torture techniques in a bid to appease their deities. It’s not for the faint-hearted, but certainly an unforgettable spectacle.
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