A charming, culturally vibrant city, Kandy is the capital of the Hill Country. It was the seat of government of the last Sinhalese kingdom, until it was taken over by the British in 1815. Today, it attracts tourists and pilgrims alike who come here to visit the Temple of the Tooth, the most sacred Buddhist shrine in Sri Lanka, and to experience the famous EsalaPerahera. Easy to wander around, Kandy also has some interesting museums and markets to explore. There is a range of accommodation to choose from, with many of the town’s hotels set in the surrounding hills. Kandy also makes a great base for exploring the Knuckles Range and the outlying temples.
Located in the heart of the city, this lake was created by the last king of the Kandyan kingdom, Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe, in the 19th century. The island in the center was used as the king’s pleasure house before the British converted it into an ammunition store after they conquered Kandy in 1815. The building on the south shore, opposite the Temple of the Tooth complex, was formerly a monk’s bath house; it is now a police station. Visitors can hire a boat for a tour across the water. Lone travellers are advised to avoid the eastern and after dark.
Kandy National Museum
On a small hill east of the Temple of the Tooth stands the Kandy National Museum, housed in a white building used to function as the Queen’s Palace. The exhibits in this museum depict life in Kandy before the arrival of the Europeans. Among the displays are weapons such as bows and arrows, knives and daggers as well as jewellery and traditional costumes. In addition, items of the day-to-day use such as jaggerymoulds with elephant designs, and areca nut cutters shaped like can be seen near a display of devil dance masks and wooden carvings. The museum is good place to take a closer look at ola-leaf manuscripts and to appreciate the skills of the crafts-man of the Kandyan kingdom
Museum of world Buddhism
Those interested in Buddhism will find a visit to this museum rewarding. House in a Neo-Classical building from the British era, the museum explores the history of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, and also has exhibits on Buddhism in other Asian countries. A large number of the sculptures on display here are replicas, while some of other objects have been donated by the relevant countries. Tourists who have visited Aukana and Sasseruwa will find the photographs of the colossal Bamiyan Buddha statue in Afghanistan especially interesting. The replica of the fasting Buddha statue in the Pakistan pavilion is also striking. Rooms upstairs filled with exhibits focusing on Buddhist beliefs in countries such as India, China, Korea, Vietnam and Japan.
Temple of the Tooth
The Temple of the Tooth, or Sri DaladaMaligawa, houses Sri Lanka’s most important Buddhist relic, the Buddha’s tooth. Built in the 16th century, the original temple stood at the heart of the Royal Palace complex. The temple was plundered along with the palace when the Dutch attacked the city in 1765. The main shrine was originally constructed during the reign of Vimala Dahrma Suriya I (1590-1604); it was rebuilt by King Rajasinghe II (1634-1686) following the Dutch incursion. The palace was renovated in the 19th century by Sri WickramaRajasinghe, the last king of Kandy, who built the most and replaced the earlier entrances with a massive stone gateway. An LTTE bombing badly damaged the temple in 1998, but it has since been restored.
Stretching beyond the Temple of the Tooth north of Kandy Lake, this forest was once reserved for the royal family. After the fall of the Kandyan kingdom in 1815, the British took over the forest area and began felling trees for their own use. However, when the condition of the forest began to deteriorate, they declared it a protected area in the mid-19th century.
Covering an area of 104 ha, Udawattekela is home to a great variety of flora and fauna. Endemic plants can also be seen here. Including a number of orchid species and other epiphytes such as ferns. Birdwatchers should be able to catch sight of golden-fronted leafbirds, yellow-fronted barbets and the yellow-browed bulbul among other species. There are also butterflies, squirrels, monkeys and reptiles to keep an eye out for.
It is possible to explore Udawattekele by following one of other numerous paths or trails, most of which are named after British governor’s wives. The 5-km Lady Horton’s Drive, which begins from inside the sanctuary, is one such path that takes in a good portion of the forest, including the pond where royalty once bathed. According to legend, gold coins lie beneath the surface of the pond, guarded by a red-eyed serpent. Alternatively, visitors can head for the hills from here. The forest also has rock-cut caves that are still used by Buddhist monks for meditation.
It is advisable to be cautious if visiting the forest independently and avoid a trip here after dark. more