Sit back and relax as we continue to tour round the nations in the Indian Ocean in our armchair travels. From The Maldives we head for Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) an island nation south of India in the Indian Ocean. Here you can find rainforests, plains, highlands and sandy beaches.
The first city we’re visiting is Kandy, a large city in central Sri Lanka. The city sits on a plateau surrounded by mountains and has tea plantations and biodiverse rainforest. The heart of the city is scenic Kandy Lake.
The Ceylon Tea Museum makes its home in the vintage 1925 Hantane Tea Factory just 4 km south of Kandy. Here you can see exhibits on tea pioneers James Taylor and Thomas Lipton and lots of tea-processing paraphernalia. There are guides that can offer more information and you can have a cup of great tea in the top-floor tearoom.
Just north of Kandy Lake is the golden-roofed Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic which has Sri Lanka’s most important Buddhist relic – a tooth of the Buddha. The room housing the tooth is heavily guarded. It is open to devotees and tourists during puja (offerings or prayers). You cannot see the tooth since it is kept in a gold casket that is shaped like a dagoba (stupa), containing a series of six dagoba caskets of diminishing size. The entire temple complex covers a large area, There is the main shrine, numerous temples and museums.
The three-story Alut Maligawa, a newer and larger shrine hall is located behind the shrine. Here you can see dozens of sitting Buddahs that were donated by Thai devotees. The design looks like a Thai Buddhist shrine hall in tribute to the fact that Thai monks reestablished Sri Lanka’s ordination lineage during the reign of King Kirti Sri Rajasinha. On the upper two floor visitors will find the Sri Dalada Museum which displays an amazing array of gilded gifts to the temple. There are also letters and diary entries from the time that the British were here. There are also photos that show the damage done when a truck bomb set up by the LTTE exploded in 1998 and destroyed large parts of the temple.
Inside the compound toward the north is the 19th century Audience Hall. This is an open-air pavilion with stone columns carved to look like wooden pillars.
When Rajah was still alive
In the Raja Tusker Hall are the stuffed remains of Rajah, the Maligawa tusker, who died in 1988.
Inside the complex and behind the main temple you’ll find the World Buddhism Museum. This museum has found its home in the former High Court buildings. There are many photos, models and displays which illustrate Buddhism around the world. Many of the statues and other items on exhibit are reproductions. You can have the services of a freelance guide who will show you around the entire temple or you can opt for a free audio guide which is available at the ticket office. There is elevator access for travelers with disabilities. Remember when at the shrine to wear clothes that will cover your legs and shoulders and remove your shoes.
The National Museum once housed Kandyan royal concubines and now exhibits royal regalia and reminders of pre-European Sinhalese life. There are some interesting items on display such as a copy of the 1815 agreement that handed over the Kandyan provinces to British rule. This museum as well as four devales (complexes for worshipping deities) and two monasteries (not including the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic) make-up one of Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle sites.
The Kandy Clock Tower can be found in the center of Kandy. It was built by Haji Mohamed Ismail in memory of his son, Mohamed Zacky Ismail who died in an accident in 1947.
The city is dominated by Kandy Lake. Visitors and locals enjoy strolling around the lake. There are lakeside seats upon which to relax and do some daydreaming. The nicest part of walking here is the sight of the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. You can also meet some monitor lizards along the shore.
However keep in mind that this area is not safe after dark.
This is an artificial lake that was created in 1807 by Sri Wickrama Rajasinha, the last ruler of the Kingdom of Kandy. The central island in the lake was used as Sri Wickrama Rajasinha’s personal harem. Later on the British used it to store ammunition and added the fortress-like parapet around the perimeter. On the south shore, in front of the Malwatte Maha Vihara, the circular enclosure is the monk’s bathhouse.
There are four Kandyan devales (complexes for worshipping deities) to the gods who are followers of Buddha and protect Sri Lanka. Three of the four devales are near the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic.
Natha Devale from the 14th century is the oldest. It sits upon a stone terrace with a fine vahalkada (solid panel of sculpture) gateway. Bodhi trees (very large and sacred fig trees) and dagobas (dome-shaped memorials alleged to contain relics of Buddah or a Buddhist saint, stupa, chaitya) are found on the grounds.
Pattini Devale is dedicated to the goddess of chastity.
Vishnu Devale can be reached by carved step and features a drumming hall. The great Hindu god Vishnu is the guardian of Sri Lanka.
Kataragama Devale houses Murugan, the god of war and has 6 heads and 12 hands wielding weapons.
Away from it all surrounded by nature is the cave temple Degaldoruwa Raja Maha Vihara. It was constructed in the 18th century. The interior of the cave has incredible painted murals which are comprised of some fine Kanyan era paintings that depict scenes from the Jataka stories (tales from the previous lives of the Buddha). There are also paintings depicting men with guns which are likely to have been inspired by the first guns to arrive in Sri Lanka. Alongside the painting is a large reclining Buddha. Visitors can be shown around by one of the five resident monks.
Kandy Monasteries the principal viharas (Buddhist complexes) have considerable importance. The high priests of the two best known, Malwatte and Asgiriya, are the most important in Sri Lanka. These are the headquarters of two of the main nikayas (orders of monks).
The Malwatte Maha Vihara is located across the lake from the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic.
The Asgiriya Maha Vihara can be found northwest of the town center and has a large reclining Buddha image.
North of the lake is the Udawattakelie Sanctuary. The forest has huge trees and visitors can get in some good bird watching and see lots of happy monkeys. At the ticket office you can arrange to have a guide if you want to do some serious bird watching. Unfortunately you have to be careful and never visit alone as occasionally muggers do show-up.
St. Paul’s Church is a red brick colonial-era church. Construction started in 1843 and was completed five years later. At first it served as a garrison church for British troops. It is located next to the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic.
The remains of the Royal Palace of Kandy was once the residence of the last king of the Kandyan Kingdom, Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe (1797 – 1814). The original palace was burnt and destroyed several times and rebuilt again by subsequent kings. Today only the front entrance of the old palace on the left hand side of the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic remains. The building houses the Museum of the Department of Archeology. The queens quarters are now used by the District Courts.
Today the building known as Palie Vahala houses the National Museum and was once used by the Queen and the princesses during the time of the last king.
Mede Vahala once used by the relations of the king, houses the Folk Museum.
Maha Gebadawa (the royal stores) and Aramudale (the treasury) were most likely destroyed by the British. A building to house the Karachichi was built and now houses the High Court.
The Royal Palace Park is more commonly known as Wales Park. The park sits on top of a small hill in the very heart of Kandy. It overlooks Kandy Lake and the city. It was established by Kind Sri Vikrama Rajasinha and was renamed as Wales Park by the British to honor the Prince of Wales. In the park you can see a Japanese field gun that was captured by the British 14th Army in Burma during WW II and presented to the city by Lord Mountbatten, Supreme Allied Commander.
The Royal Botanic Gardens were once reserved exclusively for Kandyan royalty. They’re located in Peradeniya around 5.5 km to the west of the city near the Mahawell River (the longest in Sri Lanka).The gardens stretch for 60 hectares and are the largest and most impressive botanic gardens in Sri Lanka. Among the highlights is a lovely collection of orchids and a stately avenue of royal palms. On the great lawn is the amazing giant Javan fig tree, covering 2500 sq. meters. Altogether there are over 4000 species of plants among them spices and medicinal plants.
A for wildlife there are fruit bats hanging from tree branches and monkeys running about. You might even catch herds of elephants bathing.
You can relax at the cafeteria around 500m north of the entrance to the gardens. It serves Western and Sri Lankan food on a roofed verandah. However it is more pleasant to take along a picnic and enjoy the garden surroundings.
Take a hike to the lovely Hanthana Mountain range. To cover the entire range start your hike from Kandy. This range is popular with both hikers and adventure seekers. The Hanthana Mountain range consists of over seven peaks with the fourth peak the Uura Kanda being the highest and the Katusukonda being the last peak. The maximum height of the range is 3800 ft.
Situated adjacent to the range you’ll find the University of Peradeniya.