Parade Colombo, Sri Lanka
The Navam Perahera (peh-ruh-ha-ruh) held in Colombo is a famous parade that takes place on the Full Moon Day of February. It was first organized by the Gangaramaya Temple in 1979 and is celebrated to this day. The parade consists of dancers and elephants that are richly adorned in lavish garments. The troupe of fire-dances, whip-dances, and Kandyan dancers perform traditional routines.
I first witnessed the Navam Perahera when I was in elementary school and the sheer size and colorfulness of the spectacle has not left my memory. The elephants were draped in colorful cloth, sometimes adorned with lights as the event usually occurred at dusk. The dancers wore red and white traditional Kandyan costumes. According to my parents it was inspired by the famous Esala Perahera held in Kandy every July/August since the start of the reign of the former Kandyan King Kirthi Sri Rajasinghe in AD 1747. That particular Peraheras purpose was to enable the public to worship the Sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha held at the Kandyan Temple. While the Esala Perahera holds much religious importance, the Navam Perahera is an attempt by the Gangaramaya temple to preserve an important piece of Sri Lankas heritage.
However, some feel that it is an excuse to attract more tourists to the temple, since it does not hold any significant religious importance. But they fail to realize that this custom is not followed anywhere outside Sri Lanka, even in foreign Sri Lankan communities. Therefore, it is important to allow others to experience Sri Lankan cultural heritage and it is also an opportunity for locals who cannot travel to see the Esala Perahera to have a similar experience.
Personally, I feel it is a very important event since it enables those in the city of Colombo to experience an event that is otherwise held in Kandy, which is a 4 hour drive into hill country at the centre of the island. It is colorful and entertaining and rich in culture, there is no event similar to it anywhere else in the world and it is a must-see if ever visiting Sri Lanka.