Destinations: Kandy

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Kandy

Kandy, the last royal capital of Sri Lanka is a major tourist destination. ( 115kM from Colombo at 465 meters above sea level). Famous for the Temple of the Tooth and many other temples the city could be called the cultural capital of the island.

Kandy Perahera, the pageant of the temple of tooth where Buddha’s tooth is kept is held either in July or August each year to parade the golden caskets is a must see itenary if one is visiting Sri Lanka during these months. The final night procession is the most spectacular event of the country. More than 50 elephants parade the city accompanied by the drummers, dancers and chieftains.

he city established in the 15th century was the last royal capital where 2500 years of royal rule ended. This bustling market town is rich in cultural diversity has plenty of iteneries to offer to the tourists from songs dances and handy crafts to ancient temples and adventure activities. Kandy is a good transit point to the cultural triangle to the north or hill country to the south. The city is also a good source of souvenirs or to experience many cultural performances at it’s various hotels in the city.

Lying 115 km from Colombo, Kandy is Sri Lanka’s second biggest city and the capital of the central province. The busy town is situated in a valley at an elevation of 600m, inside a wide loop of the Mahaweli River and is surrounded by hills covered with tropical vegetation. Home to the Sri Dalada Maligawa – the beautiful temple that houses the tooth relic of Lord Buddha – Kandy is also a popular stop during July/August when the annual Esala Perehera (holy festival) takes to the streets of the city. The cool climate of the hills is a relief after the cloying heat of the lowlands, and the lovely Kandy Lake and the drives around it are set amidst great scenic beauty.

Kandy was a royal capital and the last stronghold of the Kandyan kings against foreign power, holding out against them for about 300 years. The two main Buddhist Chapters are based here and formed the last centre of independent Buddhist thought during colonial times. Much of the town’s charm lies in the higgledy-piggledy arrangement of its small shops. Many of the buildings are colonial and some are even older. Many of Sri Lanka’s arts and crafts flourish here, particularly the silver and brass crafts as well as jewellery in traditional designs. This market town is also the economic focus of the surrounding tea-producing central highlands.

Steeped in tradition and history, Kandy plays host to many thousands who come to pay homage to the Sacred Tooth Relic, as it is taken in procession around the city, in a magnificent golden casket placed on the broad back of the Temple Tusker. The procession comprises over 100 caparisoned elephants, thousands of dancers, drummers, torchbearers and whip crackers. This magnificent, centuries-old procession is probably one of the oldest and most spectacular pageants in Asia.

The centrepiece of the town, Kandy Lake, is artificial and was created in 1807 by Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe, last ruler of the Kingdom of Kandy. You will also see the little island in the middle of the lake, as you walk around. It used to be the King’s harem, but the more uninspired British maintained it as an ammunition depot. There are many walks you can take, such as up to the Royal Palace Park, and the Udawattakelle sanctuary. Sri Lanka’s largest Botanical Gardens (covering 60 hectares) is 6kms away and is open daily.

The Temple of the Tooth dates back to 1687, and is said to contain the Tooth Relic of the Buddha, which was smuggled into Sri Lanka in the 4th century BC, after the Buddha’s deth. An imposing pink structure, it also houses a highly valued collection of Ola (palm) leaf manuscripts, and is open daily from 6am – 4pm.among the many historic sites worth visiting, are the Malwatte and Asgiriya Viharas (temples), the Embekke Devale, and the Lankatilake and Gadaldeniya temples.

Thousands come here today to watch cricket at the International stadium, and The Victoria Golf and Country Resort is a 40-minute drive from Kandy. The town has everything from banks to cyber cafes, to excellent libraries and bars and restaurants. Locals can even point you in the direction of meditation centers. Accommodation ranges from luxury hotels to middle range guesthouses, to budget lodgings. The regular bus and train services of this extremely central town will connect you to almost anywhere in the island.

The Temple of Tooth
The main attraction of the city and also the most sacred Buddhist establishment in Sri Lanka is where one of Buddha’s tooth is being kept. Built in the 16th century but improvements and additions have been done to this structure until the fall of the Kandy kingdom. A golden canopy was added recently. Daily rituals are being carried out at various offering times to the shrine. A dress code applies for entering the temple. The magnificence has been enhanced by the octagonal pavilion.

Hindu Shrines
Adjacent to the Temple of the tooth are three of the four major Hindu shrines taking part in the Kandy Perahera. Shrines are dedicated to Gods Vishnu and Natha and Goddess Patthini. The forth shrine is further towards the town. Visitors to these shrines could witness the Hindu religion customs though most of the worshipers today are Buddhists. Hindu shrines taking part in the Buddhist pageant is a good example of the Sinhala and Tamil co-existence that lasted for centuries. Four of the last Sri Lankan kings were of south Indian origin.

Other Temples
Kandy is surrounded with many major Buddhist temples. On the shores of the lake are Malwaththa and Asgiri temples. Fine painted murals of Buddhist stories in these temple buildings are a good example of the arts in the Kandy period while paintings of the Hindagala temple at Peradeniya are of the 7th century.

The Old Royal Palace compound
Old place buildings are just beside the temple of the tooth. Among them are the old royal palace, quarters of the royal concubines; queen’s chambers the council chambers and the armoury. Some of these are now being used as museums depicting the exhibits of the Kandyan era. The council chambers built in 1784 is a unique example of wooden architecture of the Kandyan period. The Kandyan Convention was signed here ceding the country to the British in 1815.

Lankatilaka Temple
Lankatilake temple is a magnificent building built on rock at a scenic location which also has fine paintings.

Gadaladeniya Temple
This 14 century temple is situated about 15Km from the town. The structure of the temple is influenced by the South Indian architecture and built on a rock. The stupa is on a high stone platform.

The Royal Botanical Gardens
Once a pleasure gardens of a Kandyan Queen this 40ha land is a beautiful park with numerous tropical foliage and the best in the island. The Commander of the allied forces in Southeast Asia Earl Mountbatten had the headquarters in the garden during the Second World War.

Embekke Temples
The main attraction is the intricate wooden carvings of this 14th century shrine dedicated to God Kataragama. There is also a Buddhist temple on location. Almost the entire structures of some wooden buildings are decorated with dancers, musicians, wrestlers, legendary beasts and birds. Nearby are the ruins of an ancient rest house with similar pillars carved in stone.

Arts and Crafts
Kandy is synonymous with arts and crafts of Sri Lanka than anywhere else in the country. It is probably because the Kandy is where all elite who patronised these crafts survived during 300 years of war with the Europeans. Kandy is probably the best place to buy most of the handicrafts produced in Sri Lanka because there are number of shops catering to the tourists. Tourists could watch local crafts coming into life at the At the Kandyan Art Association.

At Kundasale, about 4km from Kandy, a village has been established recently to settle local craftsmen and their families. Visitors could watch craftmen at work and purchase their products on site.