Updated: Jan 5
Sri Lankan Culture
Sri Lanka is one of the few countries with a very vast and rich cultural diversity. The culture is itself very unique and thereby contributes to the Sri Lankan identity. Sri Lankan culture includes a lot of customs and rituals, which date to more than 2000 years which were handed down from generation to generation. The most prominent feature of the Sri Lankan is its colorful festivals , which is one of the main tourist attractions. Religion plays an important role in molding the Sri Lankan culture and traditions.
Sri Lankan culture if often reflected by the use of art, architecture, sculptures ,and even food. Some people would say that Sri Lanka has a more conventional culture which is obviously influenced by the prominent religions prevailing the country such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam , etc. The Sri Lankan way of life is very simple and filled with humility and happiness , this is one of the reasons why the Sri Lankan's have a very great sense in appreciating the simple things in life such as nature.
Festivals in the Country
1. Vesak Poya – Festival of lights (Buddhist)
Vesak is the Poya festival that falls on the full moon of the month of March. According to the Buddhist moon calendar, it’s the first full moon of the new year. Vesak Poya is a triple celebration of Buddha. It is on this day that Buddha was born, found enlightenment, then many years later passed away. The Vesak festival takes over the city and most of the island. Every home and place of business hang white paper lanterns that are lit up at night. Areas like Baudaloka Mawata and Biera Lake are specially decorated. People hand out food and drink to passers-by on the streets and worshipers spend hours at the temples.
2.Kandy Esala Perahera (Buddhist)
Perahera means procession in Sinhala. This is another huge Poya celebration on the Esala full moon poya day in Kandy. Esala Poya is the day that celebrates the arrival of the Buddha Tooth Relic to the famous Temple of the Tooth. Peraheras take place every Poya holiday on small scale in Colombo and other places around the island, but none compare to the week-long celebrations in Kandy during Esala Poya. With a Perahera procession every day for a week, the experience is unbeatable. Dancers, musicians, dressed elephants, rituals and more, every day until the last night which is the biggest Perahera of all.
3.Maha Shivarathri (Hindus)
Maha Shivarathri is the celebration of the Hindu God Shiva. Festivities take place in June in the Hindu Shiva temples all over the island. Devotees take a purification bath at dawn and fast all day. Many of them take part in mediation rituals with the help of the Panchakshara mantra “Om Nama Shivaya“. Shiva statues are also bathed in milk and honey and covered in red vermillion to represent purification of the soul. Some temples, like Sri Kaileshwarar temple in Colombo, have dance and music performances as part of the celebrations.
4.Sinhala and Tamil New Year
The Sinhala and Tamil New Year marks the beginning of the Lunar year. It usually takes place sometime in April. Festivities are colorful and fun all around the island. Just like the Poya holidays, all formal or government businesses close and the island takes on a relaxed festive state. This is a festival celebrated by the entire population. Sri Lankans love friendly competitive games and the New Year is when you will find these kinds of games happening everywhere.
Deepavali is the Hindu festival of lights, it is the celebration of Lord Rama’s defeat of Ravana, symbolizing the defeat of light over darkness. Homes will be decorated with little clay lamps and buildings and streets are illuminated in celebration. In Western calendars, it takes place usually in October or November. Deepavali celebrations last for five days but the biggest and most important day is the last. Devotees will wear new clothes and give each other gifts, usually of sweets.
Ramadan is the month long Muslim festival of cleansing and fasting. The festival begins at the first sighting of the new moon. A lot of restaurants will have special nighttime menus for Muslims to come together and break their fast. Eid, on the last day of Ramadan is big celebration of feasting and giving.
Even though only about 20% or less of the population in Sri Lanka is Christian, Christmas is still a big celebration on the island. Every mall, store, business and bakery is colorfully decorated with trees, lights and garlands. Religious places or businesses owned by Christians, will have nativity scenes. All big hotels serve Christmas dinner on the 24th and the Cinnamon Grand Hotel decorates the lobby to a great extent. Just a visit to the hotel is a big enough Christmas experience in Colombo. Don’t forget to try the Sri Lankan Christmas cake, the richest and most spiced cake in the world.