Navam Perahera Majestic pageant of Gangaramaya Raja Maha Viharaya

Published : 9:41 am  February 10, 2017 | No comments so far |  | 

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 The Hunupitiya Gangarmaya Raja Maha Viharaya is of special significance as a sacred place of worship in the heart of the capital city of the country and also as an institution providing facilities for youngsters to become useful citizens to the country.   
Due to religious, social, cultural and educational activities undertaken by this temple under the exemplary guidance and direction of the present incumbent, Venerable Galaboda Gnaneswara Thera, the popular Podihammuduruwo, this temple has gained local and international reputation.   

History of the temple   

It was during the time of Venerable Devinuwara Jinaratana Nayake Thera that this temple was transformed to a nationally and internationally famous Viharaya. This Nayake Thera, a pupil of Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Nayake Thera was liked by the people who enabled him to transform an Aramaya or a hermitage on a marshy land to a popular place of Buddhist worship with an international reputation. The transformation had taken place within a very short period of time. Today Gangaramaya is the most popular place of Buddhist worship within the municipal limits of Colombo. This temple carries the three main features, Sharirika Dhathu (the physical remains of the Enlightened One), Maha Bodhi (the sacred Bo tree} and Buddha Rupa (Images of the Buddha). The main features of the temple include the viharaya(the main temple), Cetiya (Pagoda), the Bo tree, Vihara Mandiraya, Sima Malakaya and the relic chamber. Gangaramaya Sima Malakaya is unique in its structure and located in the middle of Beira Lake. This feature is so famous today that the whole temple premises are known as Sima Malakaya. In addition a museum, a library, and a residential hall and an alms hall are also in 
the premises.   

Kolamba Perahera- pageant of Gangaramaya Raja Maha Viharaya   

Navam Perahera is conducted annually during the month of Navam by the Gangaramaya Raja Maha Viharaya in Colombo to illustrate one of the most prestigious Buddhist historical events. This procession was originally known as “Kolamba Perahera”. It was the only Buddhist pageant parading the streets of Colombo. It was because of this reason that the perahera was called “Kolamba Perahera”- the pageant of Colombo. Since it was conducted within the municipal limits of Colombo tens of thousands of spectators including a large number of foreign tourists watch this colourful perahera on both days on which it is conducted.   

Dhamma Caccapavattana Sutta   

Originally Kolamba perahera was conducted in August, immediately after the Sri Dalada Maligawa Esala perahera in the hill capital, Kandy. The occasion for conducting this Perahera was to commemorate the first sermon of Gautama Buddha-Dhamma Caccapavattana Sutta in Isipatanaramaya. However, due to the ill health of the incumbent Thera and a number of other reasons the Perahera could not be 
conducted annually.   

The origin of Navam perahera   

In place of Kolamba Esala perahera an annual pageant is conducted during the month of Navam (February) beginning from 1979 with the patronage provided by the then Prime Minister, R.Premadasa. The objectives of the perahera were varied. Primarily it is to venerate the Triple Gem, Buddha, His doctrine Dharma and His disciples Sangha. Another objective is to commemorate the appointment of arahants Sariputra and Moggalyana by the Enlightened One as His chief disciples (Agra Srawake},the top most positions in the Order of Maha Sangha were conferred on Arahant Sariputra (Dakunath Sau) and Arahant Moggalyana (Wamath Sau) by the Enlightened One at the first congregation on Navam full moon poya day after the Enlightenment. The Gangaramaya Navam Perahera comprises a multitude of participants who in union make the 
pageant magnificent.   

Whip crackers signalling the main Perahera    

Whip crackers serve a number of purposes. Firstly it is a means of clearing the way for the main Perahera. Spectators confine themselves to the pavement and leave the road entirely for the procession to pass without any disruption. Secondly it is a signal that the main procession is approaching. It is also an offering made by sound indicating the majesty of the procession. It is said that even celestial beings hear this sound which is an invitation for them to watch the procession. Devotees, young and old including school children walk behind them, most of them carrying trays of flowers.   

Elephants provide a majestic look for the procession   

Beautifully adorned elephants including tuskers provide majesty and elegance to the procession. The tusker of the temple carries the relic casket on his back. As in the case of Sri Dalada Maligawa Esala perahera in the hill capital, Kandy, the Kelaniya Raja Maha viharaya Duruthu Perahera,Bellanwila Raja Maha Viharaya Perahera elephants walk elegantly in the Gangaramaya Navam Perahera too. They are adorned in costumes consisting of three parts. The body part, the forehead garland called Netti Malaand ear ornament called Kan Joduwa. Large quantities of padding, rich cloth, velvet, coral etc. are required to make these costumes. Ornaments add to the elegance of the elephants that provide majesty to the perahera.   

Drama performers   

Drama performers in the Gangaramaya Navam Perahera are categorized into four groups. There are ordinary dancing teams representing Kandyan dancers, low country dancers and Sabaragamuwa dancers. The world’s oldest and most ubiquitous musical instrument – the drum- is used in all these dancing performances. Various kinds of drums such as “geta beraya” drum used in Kandyan dancing), “Magulberaya” the drum used by the royalty, “Yak beraya” the drum used in devil dancing, “Udakkiya” the drum which is small in the middle, and “Rabana”tam borine are beaten to produce rich and melodious sounds in harmony with dancers and “Vannam” or songs of the performers . In addition a pair of cymbals or “thalampota” is used in all these dancing performances to keep it in rhythm through the loud ringing sound made when the two cymbals are hit together.   

Hewisi  drummers produce the drum roar   

The most important group is the group of “Hewisi” drum players. They produce a drum roar with the large drum, “Daula”, the double drum “Thammettama”and the trumpet “Horanewa.” Meanwhile, conch shell blowers produce gentle and prolonged sounds increasing the serenity of the atmosphere. The rhythm of the drum roar suits the rhythm of any other performers in the procession.   

Vannam or Metrical verses   

Dancers in their costumes look elegant when they move in the procession. They sing “Vannams” while dancing. Vannams are metrical verses sung by dancers to produce lyrical music in their performances. There are eighteen vannams such as “Thuranga” (horse) vannama,”Vairodi” (Cat’s eye gem) vannama, “Savula” (cock) vannama and the most important “Gajaga” (elephant) vannama.When the performers dance to the tune of Gajaga vannama they move just like elephants   

“Ves Natuma” performance of Kandyan dancers   

A special kind of Kandyan dancing is known as the “Vesnatuma”. These dancers have to undergo training for a long period of time before they are considered qualified to perform this kind of dance. The performer will be entitled to the “Ves” or special costume with a beautiful head dress only after being trained well which takes a long time.   

Pantheru dancers who produce a clinging sound   

Pantheru dancers form another group of dancers. Each performer has a circular instrument called “Pantheru” which produces a clinging sound. This makes the 
performance melodious.   

“Borukakul Karayo”  

“Borukakul Karayo” Stilt walkers produce special colour to the Gangaramaya Navam perahera. The performers walk high on two long pieces of wood or walking sticks with pieces to rest their feet on . They sneer at the spectators from above and provide them entertainment.   

The organization of the procession   

A significant feature about this procession is that it is planned and organized in an excellent manner. The perahera parades a number of streets and the main road in front of the Gangaramaya viharaya and along the Beira Lake – Navam Mawatha. Seating accommodation is provided for thespecialists. The perahera route is determined and the places where the Maha Sangha, elephants, dancers, drummers, torch bearers , office bearers and others who partake in the pageant are well directed .

Nothing is left for the pageant to 
be disorganized.   

The Perahera arrangements are made by the Gangaramaya temple and the entire organization is handled by the young people associated with the temple under the able direction of the chief incumbent of the temple, Venerable Galaboda Gnaneswara Thera- Podi Hammuduruwo.   

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