William S. Sax, Eva Ambos: Staging Religion in Sri Lanka: The Kandy and Kataragama peraheras
The perahera festival is one of the most spectacular processions in Asia. It takes place annually in Kandy, the ancient capital of Sri Lanka, and focuses on the tooth-relic of the Buddha, which is taken on procession through the streets of Kandy for 10 nights. The Hindu temple of Kataragama in the South of Sri Lanka is also famous for its annual perahera processions, and in particular for the fire-walking, hook-swinging, and other forms of ecstatic religiosity with which they are associated. In this paper, we compare the two festivals, arguing that they have profound political significance, "staging" as it were two radically different visions of Sri Lankan society.