(Pics by Chamila Karunaratne)

The month of February, referred to as Navam in the local calendar, is associated with a significant event for Buddhists in Colombo. The Navam Perahera, the annual religious pageant of the Gangaramaya Temple, Colombo, takes to the streets this month.

This colourful procession, with its varying elements and religious roots, summons devotion from Buddhists. At the same time, it is no longer a mere religious festivity. Over time, it has served to be established as a cultural symbol, highlighting the grandeur and richness of the heritage, as well as an event to bring together the different ethnic and religious groups. As the  temple is situated in the capital’s hub of five-star hotels the pageant is also a popular tourist attraction.

The immediate surroundings of the Gangaramaya Temple are lit with thousands of tiny lights and reflect on the calm surface of the Beira Lake and the temple, which stands serene and peaceful in the midst of these celebrations.

According to Ven. Heenbunne Kondanna Thero of the Gangaramaya Temple, this year marks the 39th year of the annual Navam Perahera.

The funds which were to be used for the Perahera were instead donated to the families that were affected by the unfortunate incident.

“During the early part of the last century, the Gangaramaya Temple used to organize an Esala Perahera. The temple was famed for this. This stopped in 1962 when the then Chief Incumbent of the Gangaramaya Temple, Devundara Sri Vachissara Thera, became visually impaired”, said Heenbunne Kondanna Thera.

From this time, the need for the revival of the Perahera was felt. It was only in 1979 with the patronage of former president R. Premadasa and the blessings of the Chief Incumbent of the Gangaramaya Temple, Ven. Galaboda Sri Gnanissara Thera, the Navam Perahera was initiated. “From 1962 to 1979, the temple did not organize a single Perahera. Then in 1979 the Navam Perahera was organised within one month.  The Perahera was grand and magnificent”, recalled Heenbunne Kondanna Thera. “It is a Pooja to the triple gems”.
The Perahera and Navam Poya signify the recognition of Arahants Sariputta and Moggallana as the two chief disciples of the Buddha, according to Heenbunne Kondanna Thera.