Esala perahera draws less crowds this year
With the annual Esala Perahera concluding on Thursday after parading the streets of Kandy for 10 days, there were mixed reactions from officials, police, shopkeepers and hotel owners among others.“The crowd and the traffic this year at the Perahera were significantly less than in previous years,” Kandy Deputy Mayor K.L. Suminda Wickremasinghe said.
He said one of the reasons could have been that the Kataragama Perahera was also on simultaneously. “In the past, people came by train from places such as Badulla and Matale, but this year, there were not as many.”Dr. Anura Dantanarayana, owner of Day’s Inn Kandy, said there weren’t as many tourists this year compared with last year.
“Up until the last two days, there weren’t many people,” he said. “Before, there were people crowding up and down Rajasinghe Mawatha. Last year was much busier. I think this might be because prices have gone up for transportation and hotels have just upped their prices.”
Kandy Suisse Hotel also saw fewer guests, about 200 to 300 less than average, Assistant Manager Kanishka Mallikarachchi told the Sunday Times. He felt the smaller crowd may have been due to the ongoing London Olympics that can be viewed on TV.
However, Kandy Deputy Inspector General of Police P.M.M.G.B. Peramune said the crowd this year was similar to last year, and definitely bigger than in the years before the war ended.
“Maybe there weren’t as many tourists as before, but a lot of locals including those from villages came,” he said.
The festival this year began on July 19 with the traditional placing of a sanctified tree branch (‘kap’) dedicated to the four guardian gods Natha, Vishnu, Kataragama and goddess Patthini.
The first Kumbal Perahara began on July 23, the first Randoli Perahera began on July 28 and the festival concluded with the Day Perahera last Thursday. The iconic “water-cutting” ceremony took place on Wednesday, the day of the final Randoli Perahera, to ask for rain from the gods.
“For the first time, the Kandy Municipal Council conducted two dansalas to thousands of spectators,” Mr. Wickremasinghe said, adding that the first day drew about 10,000 spectators, while Wednesday night, a food packet dansala drew a crowd of about 12,000.
The Kandy Municipal Council also continued with the ‘no-polythene’ rule, which was heavily publicised around the city during the Perahera season, while the Kandy police also kept the roads opened, in a move aimed at not disrupting the traffic flow.“We didn’t close any roads, like last year,” DIG Peramune said. “We assed the progress of the Perahera and kept the roads open up to 15 minutes prior to the start of the perahera.”
A spectator Ananda Nihal Singaravel, who has seen the festival for over 30 times, described it as “more orderly and colourful” than last year.
“I think I saw over 70 elephants,” the lawyer said. “Most of all, this Perahera signifies the harmonious relationship between Hindus and Buddhists that has lasted for centuries. Especially, if you analyse the Kataragama part of the Perahara, you find the Hindu tradition, exemplifying the tolerance and understanding. People often forget this fact.”
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