One of the oldest, grandest and most important festivals in the Buddhist calendar, Esala Perahera is held in the revered UNESCO World Heritage city of Kandy, the country’s second largest metropolis, located in the middle of the island. The festival is based on an ancient legend, that a tooth, stolen from the Lord Buddha’s funeral pyre during the 4th century AD and smuggled from India to Sri Lanka, is now kept in Kandy’s Sri Dalada Maligawa, The Temple Of The Sacred Tooth Relic, which is itself a renowned pilgrimage site. Famous for its large processions of dancers, flag bearers, drummers, fire eaters, acrobats and colourfully-adorned silk-costumed elephants, with each night, this ten-day festival gets more animated and the crowds get bigger. Esala Perahera ends with a “water cutting” ceremony at the Mahaweli Ganga River,┬áritualising the divide between pure and impure and honouring the water gods for a good year ahead.