Sri Lanka, the tiny teardrop shaped isle, offers myriad experiences ranging from world-class cultural and historical sites to palm-fringed beaches, verdant tea plantations and spectacular national parks teeming with wildlife. Home to the four main religions of the world, ‘the pearl of Indian Ocean’ is also a land of never-ending festivals and events celebrating all facets of life. Celebrated with great fervor and fanfare, festivals in Sri Lanka offer the perfect chance to witness & be a part of this beautiful country’s culture and traditions. With over 25 public holidays marking national Sri Lanka festivals 2021 , here’s a list of the best ones you must not miss on your vacation to have a blast on it!
16 Festivals In Sri Lanka
Here’s a list of 16 Sri Lanka festivals in 2021 that you must witness at least once in your life. The festivals of Sri Lanka are very popular because of its versatility and variety of performances by the people of Sri Lanka. They not only showcase the culture of the country, but also its beautiful traditions and history.
- Duruthu Perahera: 10th – 11th January 2021
- Thai Pongal: 15th – 18th January 2021
- Independence Day: 4th February 2021
- Navam Perahera: 8th February 2021
- Mahashivratri: 21st February 2021
- Love Sri Lanka Festival: 15th March
- Sinhala & Tamil New Year: 13 – 14th April 2021
- CMB Street Aurudu Shopping & Food Festival: 4th – 5th April
- Vesak Poya: 7th May 2021
- Poson Festival: 5th June 2021
- Kandy Esala Poya Perahera: 25th – 30th July 2021
- Vel Festival: 25th July – 1st August 2021
- Kataragama Esala Festival: 26th – 27th July 2021
- Nallur Festival: August-September
- Diwali: 14th November 2021
- Galle Literary Festival: Yet To Be Announced
1. Duruthu Perahera
Marking the beginning of the Buddhist calendar in Sri Lanka, this grand procession in the month of January (Duruthu) is one of the greatest & most glorious cultural traditional festivals in Sri Lanka, attended with great enthusiasm by devotees and tourists alike. If you are planning to visit Sri Lanka in January then you ought to attend this festival. Duruthu Perahera is celebrated to commemorate Gautam Buddhas first visit the country 2500 years ago, with 3-day long festivities at Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya. You can witness a magnificent spectacle on the final day with decked up and bejeweled elephants, acrobats, singers, drummers & torch-bearers conjuring up a grand procession.
When: 10th - 11th January 2020
Where: Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya, Colombo (8 kms away)
Highlight Of The Festival: Performances by Acrobats, singers, drummers & torch-bearers
2. Thai Pongal
Celebrated for 3 days starting from the first day of Thai (the 10th month in Tamil calendar), this is one of the important harvest festivals in Sri Lanka 2020 where families pay tribute to the sun god for a bountiful harvest. The festivities begin by drawing kolams (rangoli) with rice paste in the front yard of houses and boiling milk mixed with rice, jaggery, and spices. The entire family participates in the festivities to pay gratitude to Surya as well as the cattle which play an important role in bringing a good harvest. There are a plethora of temples in Sri Lanka and you can easily become a part of celebrations at any one of them.
When: 15th - 18th January 2020
Where: All across the country
Highlight Of The Festival: Rangoli are made and houses are decorated
3. Independence Day
Independence day of any country is important to its citizens and so it is one of the most important festivals of Sri Lanka. On 4th February 1948, Sri Lanka got its independence from colonial rule. Every year to celebrate this auspicious day, the whole country participates in ceremonies and parades. While you are exploring the country you can attend the military parades, flag-hoisting ceremonies, firework displays, cannon fire shows, and cultural performances. It is also one of the most popular religious festivals in Sri Lanka.
When: 4th February 2021
Where: All across the country
Highlight Of The Festival: Military parades, Flag-hoisting ceremonies
Suggested Read: 8 Best Places To Visit In Kandy – Sri Lanka’s Spiritual Capital
4. Navam Perahera
Navam Perahera is the main festival in Sri Lanka which is a mix of colours, parades, and traditions. In 1979, Navam Perahera was celebrated for the first time in the Gangaramaya temple in Colombo. This festival is celebrated grandly and the festivities include fire dancers, whip crackers, flag bearers and hundreds of elephants, You can also witness the best temples in Sri Lanka and marvellous traditional dance like Uda Rata, Pahatha Rata, and Sabaragamuwa. If you are a fan of music you can see the performance of drummers and flautists. Navam Perahera is one of the most fascinating Sri Lankan festivals 2021 and you must attend it.
When: 8th February 2021
Highlight Of The Festival: Performance of drummers and flautists
Devotees of Lord Shiva across the country celebrate padmarajarathri (the great night of Shiva) in February with prayers and festivities. Worshippers begin their day with a purification bath, carrying water pots to the temple to bathe the Shiva Linga and then spend the day fasting and meditating at various temples. Some temples like the Sri Kaileshwarar also celebrate with dance and music performances to celebrate this important festival in Sri Lanka. This year the festival will be celebrated on 21st February.
When: 21st February 2020
Where: All across the country
Highlight Of The Festival: Day fasting and meditating
6. Sinhala & Tamil New Year
Usually around mid-April every year the entire country is enveloped in a festive atmosphere to mark the Lunar New Year. Amongst all festivals in Sri Lanka, the Sinhala & Tamil New Year is especially celebrated with great pomp and show to mark the end of the harvest season and spring. People get busy cleaning and decorating their homes, preparing traditional sweets, enjoying meals with the family and showing off their new clothes. The celebrations also involve anointing children with herbal oils, bursting firecrackers and organizing competitive games to add to the fun quotient.
When: 13 - 14th April 2020
Where: All across the country
Highlight Of The Festival: Competitive games, bursting of firecrackers
7. Vesak Poya
Commemorating the three important milestones in Buddha's life- his birth, enlightenment, and nirvana – Vesak Poya is one of the most prominent Buddhist festivals in Sri Lanka. Celebrations begin on a full moon day and continue up to a week, filling every home, street and shop with the magical light of colorful lanterns called Vesak kudu, depicting the light of Buddha. Cities like Colombo and Kandy sparkle with lit-up pandals displaying elaborate panels from the Jataka stories, while tiny clay lamps brighten up villages throughout the festivities of the Vesak festival 2020 in Sri Lanka.
When: 7th May 2020
Where: All across the country, but celebrations in Colombo are on a grand scale.
Highlight Of The Festival: Colorful lanterns and tiny clay lamps
8. Poson Festival
Also known as Poson Paya, this is the second most important one amongst festivals celebrated in Sri Lanka by the Buddhists. Since it commemorates the advent of Buddhism in the island in the 3rd century, Poson Festival holds great historical significance too. Just as in Vesak, the celebrations include lanterns, pandals, and alms-stalls across the island in the true spirit of the Buddhist traditions and teachings. The grandest festivities are in and around Mihintale rock outcrop where Buddha's disciple Mahinda first preached Buddhist doctrines to King Devanampiyatissa. Do attend Poson as it is the most important festival of Sri Lanka.
When: 5th June 2020
Where: Mihintale and Anuradhapura
Highlight Of The Festival: Celebration of Buddhist traditions and teaching
Suggested Read: Best Things To Do On A 4D/3N Family Trip To Sri Lanka!
9. Kandy Esala Poya Perahera
Another important one amongst religious festivals in Sri Lanka, The Festival of The Tooth pays homage to the sacred tooth relic of Buddha enshrined at the famous temple in Kandy. The grand celebrations include a spectacular procession of traditional dancers, drummers, and elephants dressed up in rich finery through the streets of the city every day for a week. The excitement, fervour and festivities on the last night must be seen to be believed. It is recommended to book a seat in advance through some local agencies to enjoy the spectacle in its full glory.
When: 25th - 30th July 2020
Highlight Of The Festival: Traditional dancers, drummers, and elephants
10. Vel Festival
Amongst the most important Hindu religious and cultural festivals in Sri Lanka, Vel Festival commemorates the victory of war-god Skandha over evil forces and venerates his trident (vel). The vel is placed in a huge dazzling golden chariot pulled by devotees in white with their faces smeared in holy ash. Accompanied by dancers, musicians and elephants the procession moves across the city to the sound of chants, drums, bells and divine sons reverberating through the streets. The gorgeous procession, the sacred vibes and the celebrations in Sri Lanka are sure to leave you awestruck & mesmerized.
When: 25th July - 1st August 2020
Highlight Of The Festival: Sound of chants, drums, bells, and divine sons
11. Kataragama Esala Festival
One of the most significant Hindu festivals in Sri Lanka, it attracts thousands of devotees from across the island to the holy town of Kataragama in southern Sri Lanka over a two-week period. People from all major faiths seek divine guidance and penance from the deity by indulging in rituals like skin-piercing and acts of self-mutilation. Just like the Esala Perahera, this festival is also marked by processions of dancers, musicians, elephants, fire-eaters and acrobats, all adding up to the religious fervor and festivities.
When: 26th - 27th July 2020
Where: Kataragama town in Southern Sri Lanka
Highlight Of The Festival: Performance by fire-eaters and acrobats
12. Nallur Festival
Rivaling the celebrations at the Kandy Esala Perahera, this 25-day long Nallur Festival held in honor of Lord Murugan is a grand and glorious affair worth witnessing. Various festivities and processions mark the celebrations on different days, with devotees from the entire island thronging the Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil. On the day of Chariot Festival, ardent devotees carry the glittering deity on a magnificent silver throne around the town. While on other days, there are fantastic processions with spectacular chariots.
Highlight Of The Festival: The devotees carry the main diety on silver thrones all around the cities.
Suggested Read: 15 Stunning Beaches In Sri Lanka That Will Make You Go ‘Wow’!
Another traditional festival wonderfully celebrated in Sri Lanka is Diwali. An eminent Hindu festival, Diwali is celebrated throughout the country and the festivities are worth witnessing. New clothes, lights everywhere, sweets and guests, Diwali is simply the biggest celebration of the victory of good over evil. Diwali is one of the most famous festivals of Sri Lanka and if you are in this country then you must attend the festivities and celebrate with the locals. It is also one of the most popular religious festivals in Sri Lanka.
When: 14th November 2021
Where: All across the country
Highlight Of The Festival: Visiting relatives, distributing sweets
Suggested Read: Most-Visited Tourist attractions in Sri Lanka
14. Galle Literary Festival
For all the book worms, Galle Literary Festival is the best one on this list of Sri Lanka festivals. Being one of the most popular festivals in Sri Lanka, this festival attracts a lot of tourists as well as locals. It provides a platform for all those who love to read to connect with those international authors who are famous for their great works. This festival was first held in 2007 and since then it is one of the highlights of the city of Galle.
When: 18th January 2021
Highlight Of The Festival: Many prominent writers attend this festival
15. CMB Street Aurudu Shopping & Food Festival
CMB Street Aurudu Shopping is a festival where tourists will experience a stunning shopping extravaganza along with a food tour comprising some lip-smacking dishes. The festival is a one-stop shopping platform for all fashion freak people. Tourists will also get the chance to taste a lot of local street food which are very popular in the community and street fashion is another attraction that visitors must experience. The CMB Street is also of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka that you just can’t miss.
When- 4th April to 5th April
Where- Green Path, Colombo- Sri Lanka
Highlight Of The Festival: Tourists will love the street food
16. Love Sri Lanka Festival
This is a festival, celebrated by the Sri Lankan people, for the spirit of being “Soo Sri Lankan” shopping, food, games and entertainment, music and dance and cultural activities. Vacationers from all around the world will get to explore the real colours of Sri Lanka. This festival is being celebrated by the people of Sri Lanka for three consecutive years.
Where- Viharamahadevi Park, Colombo, Sri Lanka
Highlight Of The Festival: hopping, food, games and entertainment, music and dance
These festivals in Sri Lanka that you mustn’t miss out on your trip. Enticed to witness them already? Well, don’t wait much and plan your Sri Lanka trip with TravelTriangle right away! Do attend these festivals to have an encounter with the traditions and culture of Sri Lanka.
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Frequently Asked Questions About Festivals In Sri Lanka
Are there any cases of Coronavirus in Sri Lanka?
Sri Lanka did receive one case of Coronavirus which was immediately quarantined. Since then, the country’s government has taken strict measures like visa-on-arrival for travellers from China has been suspended. A strict screening process is being taken at international airports.
How is Diwali celebrated in Sri Lanka?
Diwali is celebrated the same way in Sri Lanka, as it is celebrated in India by illuminating the house with earthen lamps, preparing traditional sweets, and burning firecrackers.
What is the religion of Sri Lanka?
The locals of Sri Lanka belong to different religions like Theravada Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Roman Catholics.
How is Dussehra celebrated in Sri Lanka?
The people of Sri Lanka celebrate Dussehra in the same way it is celebrated in India. People burn crackers, decorate their houses and celebrate the victory of good over evil.
What is the major food delicacy of Sri Lanka?
If you are visiting Sri Lanka then food delicacies like Asmi, Gotu Kola Mallum Sambola, Polos, Parippu, Fish Ambul Thiyal, Kottu, Lamprais, Sri Lankan egg hoppers, wood apple are some of the must-try food items which will stay with you forever. The staple food of Sri Lanka is rice though.
Is Sri Lanka safe for tourists?
Sri Lanka is a country that is largely safe for tourists to travel. Though few precautions can be kept in mind while travelling to this country but those precautions are in general and should be kept in mind by every traveller travelling anywhere in the world.
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