Not many festivals can claim a history as long as one held in the beautiful Ceylonese mountain town of Kandy.
Not many festivals can claim a history as long as one held in the beautiful Ceylonese mountain town of Kandy. For more than 1,600 years now, Kandy has erupted in a riot of colour and sound once a year for the festival of the relic of Buddha's tooth.
The 1971 festival was held this week. Elephants were given a last-minute scrub before being dressed up in gilded capes to take part in a stately procession through the town.
From Kandy's famous temple, a relic of Buddha's tooth is carried in a gold casket through the town to receive the blessings and offerings of all the people at this propitious time for Buddhists.
Raja, the name given to the majestic tusker which carries the relic, is considered blessed to be selected for the job. Raja is said to be very conscious of his regal function and acts with a decorum befitting his name.
The festival goes on for three days and nights. Although it has become as big an attraction for tourists as for Buddhists, it has not been spoiled by any commercial overtones.
Throbbing drummers and whirling dancers accompany the procession which at night takes place in the flickering light of torchbearers - making the occasion one of the world's greatest religious festivals.