The Duruthu Perahera at Kelaniya is a colorful and exciting pageant held during the month of January.
Duruthu Perahera is held to commemorate the first visit of The Buddha to Sri Lanka in the ninth month of his enlightenment. According to the Sinhala calendar, the visit occurred on Duruthu Poya or the full moon day of the first month to Mahiyangana and The Buddha, accepting an invitation extended by the Naga King Maniakkikha visited Kelaniya. The Buddha preached the Doctrine seated within a gem-studded enclosure or Mandapaya during this visit. The Kelaniya 'Chaitya' is believed to have been built on the spot where this sacred event took place. According to legend, the gem-studded Mandapaya is enshrined in this Chaitya.
King Yatalatissa who reigned in the 3rd century BC is credited with building the city of Kelaniya and the temple while enlarging on the original Chaitya built by King Maniakkikha. Built on a rocky platform in the vicinity of the Kelaniya River, the temple has been destroyed and rebuilt time and again throughout the past centuries. The most recent time, when the temple was destroyed, was in the 16th century during the Kotte period, when the Portuguese invaded the maritime region of Sri Lanka. It was rebuilt in 1767 by Kirthi Sri Rajasinghe, the King of Kandy. The temple was again in a neglected state by the latter part of the 19th century. Improvements to the temple were initiated by Helena Wijewardena, a philanthropist, in 1888 when she commissioned Solius Mendis, the famous temple artist to restore the temple. For over 20 years, Mendis worked in the temple restoring earlier frescoes and adding new paintings depicting incidents from Buddhist history.
It was in 1927 when Helena Wijewardena's son, Don Walter Wijewardena was the Basnayake Nilame and the Venerable Mapitigama Dharmarakkhita Thero was the chief priest of the Kelaniya temple that the Duruthu Perahera was first held. The Perahera takes place on three days in January, the last day being the Full moon Poya day.
The first day, is the Udamaluwa Perahera when the relic casket will be carried three times around the Udamaluwa by the Basnayake Nilames of the temple.
The second day is the Veediya Perahera, when the parade takes place within the precincts of the temple. A representative gathering of drummers and dancers from the temple and the three devales participate in this event.
The third day, is the Duruthu Poya when the Maha Perahera or the main Perahera wends the streets around the Kelaniya temple in all its grandeur.
About 100 elephants are expected to take part in the final Perahera.
This is a must see pageant if you travel to Sri Lanka during month of January.