Some days Kandy’s skies seem perpetually bruised, with stubborn mist clinging to the hills surrounding the city’s beautiful centrepiece lake. Delicate hill-country breezes impel the mist to gently part, revealing colourful houses amid Kandy’s improbable forested halo. In the centre of town, three-wheelers careen around slippery corners, raising a soft spray that threatens the silk saris worn by local women. Here’s a city that looks good even when it’s raining.
Attraction In Kandy
- TEMPLE OF THE SACRED TOOTH RELIC
The golden-roofed Temple of the Sacred Tooth houses Sri Lanka’s most important Buddhist relic – a tooth of the Buddha. During puja(offerings or prayers), the heavily guarded room housing the tooth is open to devotees and tourists. However, you don’t actually see the tooth. It’s kept in a gold casket shaped like a dagoba (stupa), which contains a series of six dagoba caskets of diminishing size.
As well as the revered main temple, the complex includes a series of smaller temples, shrines and museums.Freelance guides will offer their services around the entire temple complex for around Rs 600, and free audio guides are available at the ticket office. An elevator facilitates access for travellers with disabilities.
The complex can get crowded as it receives many worshippers and tourists, and backpackers, Chinese tour groups and Thai monks all jostle for space. Wear clothes that cover your legs and your shoulders, and remove your shoes.
- KANDY LAKE
Dominating the town is Kandy Lake. A leisurely stroll around it, with a few stops on the lakeside seats, is a pleasant way to spend a few hours, although diesel-spurting buses careening around the southern edge of the lake can mar the peace somewhat. The nicest part to walk along is the area around the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic.The lake is artificial and was created in 1807 by Sri Wickrama Rajasinha, the last ruler of the kingdom of Kandy. Several minor local chiefs protested because their people objected to labouring on the project. In order to stop the protests they were put to death on stakes in the lake bed. The central island was used as Sri Wickrama Rajasinha’s personal harem. Later the British used it as an ammunition store and added the fortress-style parapet around the perimeter. On the south shore, in front of the Malwatte Maha Vihara, the circular enclosure is the monks’ bathhouse.
- DEGAL DORUWA RAJA MAHA VIHARA
Hidden away in Kandy’s leafy outskirts is the little-visited, but fascinating, Degal Doruwa Raja Maha Vihara cave temple, constructed (with the help of some obliging boulders) in the 18th century. The interior of the cave is painted head to toe in slightly faded, but captivating murals. These fine Kandyan-era paintings depict scenes from the Jataka stories (tales from the previous lives of the Buddha).
In among these are some out-of-place paintings depicting men with guns. These are likely to have been inspired by the first firearms to have arrived in Sri Lanka. Alongside the paintings is a large reclining Buddha.Visitors are likely to be shown around by one of the five resident monks.
- SRI DALADA MUSEUM
This museum occupies the upper two floors of the Alut Maligawa building and contains a stunning array of gifts donated by several presidents and Buddhist leaders from across the world to the Temple of the Tooth. Letters and diary entries from the British time reveal the colonisers’ surprisingly respectful attitude to the tooth relic. More recent photographs reveal the damage caused by a truck bomb detonated by the LTTE in 1998 which caused significant damage to the temple complex.The Sri Dalada Museum is located within the compound of the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic and accessed on the same ticket.
- KANDY GARRISON CEMETERY
This well-maintained cemetery contains 163 graves from colonial times. Perhaps the most striking aspect of a visit here is learning just how young most people were when they died – if you made it to 40 you were of a very ripe old age. Some of the deaths were due to sunstroke, elephants or ‘jungle fevers’. You’ll probably be shown around by the highly informed caretaker, who once guided the UK’s Prince Charles here, and who seems to have a tale for every tomb.