What's on in ? Sri Lanka

Public Holidays of Sri Lanka - 2017


January




Tamil Thai Pongal day

Thai Pongal, the Hindu harvest festival, is celebrated on January 14 in Hindu homes and temples throughout the country. Worship at the kovil (temple) is mandatory for adherents to the faith. Special rituals are held at home too, such as the cooking and ceremonial consumption of traditional sweetened rice called pongal. An observance of a creative nature, kolam, involves making intricate floor motifs with flour. In rural areas, a sequel known as Madu Pongal follows. Domestic animals are washed and fed, auspicious red colour smeared on their foreheads, and finally they are garlanded with marigolds.

Navam Full Moon Poya Day

Duruthu Poya, the initial full moon day of the Gregorian calendar, commemorates the Buddha's first of three visits to Sri Lanka. The Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya or Kelaniya Temple, near Colombo, hosts a perahera, literally procession., to mark this symbolic event. The perahera is a spectacular aspect of Sri Lanka.s festivals in which an array of traditionally-attired dancers, drummers, whip-crackers, acrobats, and enrobed elephants, participate. For visitors it's one of Sri Lanka's most appealing cultural attractions.

March




Maha Sivarathri

The Hindu festival of Maha Sivarathri, or .The Great Night of Shiva., is celebrated in late February or early March in Hindu homes and temples across the country. This is the most important religious festival of the year for Shaivites, who comprise the majority of Sri Lanka.s Hindus. It is a deeply symbolic occasion: poojas are held at kovils during the day and can be witnessed by visitors, and every Hindu household keeps an all-night vigil.

Bak Full Moon Poya Day

May




May Day

Vesak Full Moon Poya Day

The most important Buddhist full moon day is in May . Vesak Poya - which marks the Buddha.s birth, enlightenment and passing away (Pariniwana). Large pandals (bamboo frameworks) hung with pictures depicting events in the life of the Buddha are erected in the streets, illuminated by flashing coloured light bulbs. Roadside dansalas (stalls) offering free food and soft drinks to passers-by are notable features of the event. Among the many striking Vesak decorations are intricate paper lanterns of different shapes and sizes, and little clay coconut oil lamps (pol-thel pahana) that flicker throughout the island. Visitors to Sri Lanka at this time will not fail to witness and be moved by the beautiful displays of lanterns outside every Buddhist home, business and temple.

July




Hikkaduwa Beach Festival

The Hikkaduwa Beach Festival brings this town to life at the end of July for four days of beach-based activities, cultural events and musical shows for the whole family. International DJs, local dancers and musicians headline the event. During the day this famous beach hosts many fun activities - sandcastle building competitions, kite flying, beach rugby, and even movies, to keep everyone entertained.

Kataragama Festival

In the southeast of the island, the sacred site of Kataragama is brought to life with its unique annual Esala festival, which commemorates the victory of the six-faced, 12-armed Hindu war god, Skanda, over an army of demons at Kataragama. Naturally, many Hindu devotees make the pilgrimage to the shrine, but Buddhists, Muslims and some Christians also honour this god. During this 10-day festival pilgrims demonstrate their sincerity by performing astonishing acts of penance and self-mortification. These include walking barefoot atop hot coals and spearing themselves with hooks.

At Dondra, Sri Lanka's southernmost point, just five kilometers from Matara, a notable festival dedicated to Lord Vishnu featuring low-country dances, traditional rituals, a perahera and a handicrafts fair, is held in July. During the same month and commencing on the Esala Poya day is a seven-day festival with a perahera in Unawatuna, near Galle, where thousands of devotees descend on the village and beach.

At Bellanwilla, just south of Colombo, another perahera takes place during the week-long poya festivities held at the historic Rajamaha Vihara.Hindus celebrate a festival known as Vel in July to mark the triumph of Lord Murugan (another aspect of the war god Skanda) over evil powers. A magnificent silver-plated chariot bearing a statue of Lord Murugan leaves a kovil in the Pettah district of Colombo and is pulled to a shrine in another district, Bambalapitiya, followed by musicians and devotees smashing coconuts and singing songs of praise to Lord Shiva. Along the route there are stalls selling sweet delicacies, souvenirs, and handicrafts to passers-by.

The Munneswaram Temple, three kilometres from Chilaw, is another focus of celebration for Hindus in July as they celebrate with fire walking in devotion to Lord Shiva while another small festival is held at the seaside shrine of Udappuwa.

September




Binara Full Moon Poya Day

Commemorates The Buddha's visit to heaven to preach to his mother and celestial multitude. Also the commencing of the Bhikkhuni (nun's) Order. Pajapati Gotami approached The Buddha and implored him to establish the Bhikkhuni Order.

Ramazan Festival Day

Coming with the new moon, the festival marks the end of 'Ramadan a month when Muslims fast throughout the day and eat only at night Prayers, feasts and family get- together are the major highlights of the celebrations. It was during this month that the holy Koran was revealed. Eid means recurring happiness or festivity. Eid is celebrated in India with much enthusiasm and fervor and Muslims from all strata of life can be seen adorned in beautiful new clothes, visiting the mosques to attend Salatul Eid (Eid prayers). Greetings of "Eid-Mubarak" or "a blessed Eid" are exchanged.

November




Id Ul Alha (Hadji Festival Day)

Eid ul-Adha ,or the Festival of Sacrifice is a public and bank holiday in Sri Lanka. Muslims all over the world celebrate this holy day. It falls approximately 70 days after Eid ul-Fitr (end of Ramadan) and is celebrated in honor of the prophet Abraham willingness to sacrifice his son as a proof of his loyalty to God. Celebrations usually include presenting an animal (usually a cow or a sheep) sacrifice, and the meat is shared with family, friends and those in needs. The festival also marks the end of the Pilgrimage or Hajj to Mecca. During the Hajj, male pilgrims are required to dress only in a garment consisting of two sheets of white un hemmed cloth, with the top draped over the torso and the bottom secured by a white sash; plus a pair of sandals.

Il Full Moon Poya Day

Deepavali Festival Day

The Hindu festival Deepavali, or the Festival of Lights (known in India and elsewhere as Diwali) celebrates an aspect of the epic poem, the Ramayana - the homecoming of the hero, the Indian Prince Rama, after a 14-year exile in the forest following his victory over Lanka.s evil King Ravana. In the legend, the people welcomed Rama by lighting rows of lamps, and that.s exactly what happens today. Devotees all over the country wear new clothes and cook sweet dishes to propitiate the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi, who is also associated with the festival.

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