Tissamaharama Procession

One goal of my trip is to learn to be more spontaneous, and I got my first chance to do just that!

After the safari at Yala, I arrived back in Tissa and set abut finding dinner. Unfortunately the area that I was in didn’t have many food options, and the night before I had had my worst meal ever in Sri Lanka (veggies with airplane-food sauce, and chicken that took some significant skill to make so rubbery). So I walked a ways down the main road, trying to find anything that looked remotely like a restaurant.

I finally came across a small local place that advertised food. There, a high-school aged local girl came over to take my order and we got to chatting while I waited. She asked me where I was going next (the beach town of Mirissa the next day), and excitedly told me that there would be a procession in Tissa the following night. A big procession! Only in Tissa. And a great opportunity for me to see much more of the Sri Lankan culture, she said.

No matter how many different ways I tried asking the question “what is the procession for?” I couldn’t quite arrive at an answer – just that no, it wasn’t for a holiday. So I wasn’t quite sure… but these are the moments that you seek while traveling and the whole point of being flexible, right? So I agreed to extend my stay in Tissa for another day if I could go along with her to the procession, and she excitedly agreed. It was a date!

The next night I met her at 7pm at the same restaurant (her sister and brother-in-law’s), along with some friends from the hotel who were also interested in seeing the procession. We walked from there to the local temple down the road, which was the end point of the procession.

Temple in Tissa, Sri Lanka

We met some of the friendly monks there, including this little monk-in-training!

Monk-in-training in at a temple in Tissa, Sri Lanka

He was very fascinated with our cameras.

Monk-in-training in at a temple in Tissa, Sri Lanka

My local friend and I at the temple:

Local friend in Tissa, Sri Lanka

After that, we continued walking down the main road. All along both sides, locals were setting out chairs and preparing to watch the procession. Vendors with balloons and snacks were also milling about. We stopped close to the beginning of the procession, picked a spot with (semi) good lighting, and waited to see what would come.

Locals waiting for the procession in Tissa, Sri Lanka

Vendors at the procession in Tissa, Sri Lanka

Around 9:30pm, the procession began. It started with a line of boys striking the ground with loud whips made of coconut materials, which was meant to symbolize the thunder before a storm.

Whip crackers at the procession in Tissa, Sri Lanka

Then came some bicyclists with home-decorated bikes:

Decorated bikes at the procession in Tissa, Sri Lanka

The most exciting act, people twirling flames:

Fire jugglers at the procession in Tissa, Sri Lanka

Craziness!

Fire jugglers at the procession in Tissa, Sri Lanka

And a slew of people dancing, playing instruments, and holding ornaments. A few moments I managed to capture:

Sri Lankan traditional dance at the procession in Tissa, Sri Lanka

Ornament bearers at the procession in Tissa, Sri Lanka

Torch bearer at the procession in Tissa, Sri Lanka

A dance that involved little girls wearing beards

Bearded dancing girls at the procession in Tissa, Sri Lanka

A snapshot of Sri Lanka’s biggest traditional dance:

Sri Lankan traditional dance at the procession in Tissa, Sri Lanka

There were also about 4 elephants in the procession. This one carried a relic on its back.

Elephant carrying a relic at the procession in Tissa, Sri Lanka

But while stopped in front of us, it did something rather unholy (look in the lower righthand corner).

Elephant doing its business at the procession in Tissa, Sri Lanka

This was about 25% of the way through the procession, so for the rest of it we watched in amusement as people came upon the elephant’s gift and tried to dance around it barefoot.

The “devil,” who actually was a bit frightening. I’m the biggest scardey cat, but I’m just saying. Wouldn’t want to encounter that in a dark alley. (Like, really though, would you?)

Devil mask at the procession in Tissa, Sri Lanka

This is the “king” of the procession, who I gather is the biggest financial sponsor.

The king of the procession in Tissa, Sri Lanka

An hour later, it was over. So glad I stayed and managed to catch the festivities! All by pure luck – I tried to look up information on the procession online, but I wasn’t able to find anything. So it was all because I was lucky enough to stop by that particular restaurant and strike up a conversation.

Many, many thanks to my new local friend! Here’s to many more of these adventures to come.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *