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Kandy - Cultural Center of Sri Lanka

Kandy, Sri Lanka

Cultural Center of Sri Lanka

Rich in heritage and culture, the picturesque city of Kandy is a favourite of both the local and international traveller. Its serenity enhanced with lakes, luscious greenery is complete with hills, gardens, temples and other monuments. Maintaining an intriguing history,  the Kandyan Kingdom was the last capital of the reigning monarchy until it ceded its independence in 1815.

History 

According to historians, Kandy was founded by King Vickramabahu III as a result of political instability in the country. However, it was King Sena Sammaththa Wickramabahu who established it as his administrative city and became the first king of Kandy. Surrounded by mountains, its core filled with marshy and forest like greenery, enabled Kandy to become a natural fortress. 

The Kandyan Kingdom reigned for over 300 years. Amidst its reign the kingdom struggled with internal conflict namely the clashes between the royal family and the nobles of the Kingdom, which in turn lead to external interference for the reign. It was because of the internal instability of the region that the three colonial powers, the Portuguese, the Dutch, and the British had an opportunity to intervene in the autonomy of the country.

At the beginning the Portuguese political affiliations were with the declining Kingdom of Kotte. When King Dharmapala of Kotte died without an heir, he bequeathed the throne to the Portuguese. As a result they attempted to establish its presence around the late 16th century. Although this was an invalid claim, the Kandyan Kigdom resorted to seek assistance from the Dutch to oust the Portuguese. While the Kandyan Kingdom was successful in ridding the Portuguese, it in turn established the Dutch colonial supremacy in the Kingdom.

Due to its innate protective geographical setting, the kings of the Kandyan Kigdom namely King Kirti Sri Rajasinha resumed guerrilla fighting measures to successfully combat the Dutch. To level themselves equal against a colonial force, the assistance of the British were sought by rulers of the kingdom. As a result, the Dutch left the island and the British became the next colonial rival. The kings of Kandy successfully resisted the British offense for over decade, until the colonists took advantage of the internal political turmoil that was taking place. Consequently, the aristocrats of the Kandyan Kingdom bequeathed the sovereignty of the entire country in 1815. 

Attractions in Kandy

Kandy Lake

For scenic pleasure, Kandy Lake has been popular choice for visitors. The Kandy Lake also known as Kiri Muhuda or Sea of Milk was built by the king Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe. There is folklore and mysteries surrounding the lake, including that it was connected to the palace via a secret tunnel. 

National Museum of Kandy 

the national museum of Kandy is a part of the former royal palace. Enhancing its rich architectural value, the museum boasts of displaying over 5000 articles reflective of the Kandyan heritage including the 1815 agreement that bequeathed the Kandy provinces to the British.

The Kandy Esala Perehara

Attracting both locals and non-locals alike, the Kandy Esala Perehara is a visual spectacle complete with dancers, whip crackers, elephants and more. This enchanting process takes place during the month of August. 

Peradeniya Botanical Gardens

The very origins of the gardens dates back centuries, however the foundation of the gardens as we see today was designed by the British horticulturist George Gardner. The lush estate finished with landscaped gardens inclusive of beds of rare flora and fauna is open all year for sightseers.

Gadaladeniya, Lankatileke, Embekke

Gadaladeniya, Lankatileke and Embekke are three temples located in Gampola that bears historical, artistic and architectural value. The Embekke Devalaya is complete with wooden carvings while Gadaladeniya temple is made out of bricks, and the Lankatilaka Viharaya was built on a rock. 

 

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Temple of the Tooth Relic

Temple of the Tooth Relic

Sri Dalada Maligawa

The Sri Dalada Maligawa or the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic is a temple in the city of Kandy in Sri Lanka. It was built within the royal palace complex which houses the only surviving relic of Buddha, a tooth, which is venerated by Buddhists. The relic has played an important role in the local politics since ancient times and it s believed that whoever holds the relic holds the governance of the country, which caused the ancient kings to protect it with great effort. Kandy was the capital of the Sinhalese Kings from 1592 to 1815, fortified by the terrain of the mountains which was difficult to approach. The city is a world heritage site declared by UNESCO, partly due to the temple. Monks of the two chapters of Malwatte and Asgiriya conduct daily ritual worship in the inner chamber of the temple, in annual rotation. They conduct these services three times a day: at dawn, at noon and in the evening.

On Wednesdays there is a symbolic bathing (Nanumura Mangallaya) of the Sacred Relic with a herbal preparation made from scented water and fragrant flowers. This holy water is believed to contain healing powers and is distributed among devotees who are present.

The Esala Perahera in Kandy is one of the oldest and grandest of all Buddhist festivals, featuring dancers, jugglers, musicians, fire-breathers, throngs of devotees and lavishly decorated elephants This is in Esala (July or August), which is a month that is believed to commemorate the first teaching by Buddha after he attained enlightenment. The Kandy Esala Perahera lasts for ten days while the Sinhalese term perahera means a parade of musicians, dancers, singers, acrobats and various other performers accompanied by a large number of caparisoned Tuskers and other elephants parading the streets in celebration of a religious event.

Sri Dalada Museum in Kandy

Sri Dalada Museum

Sri Dalada Museum in Kandy

The latest institution added to the Dalada Shrine is the Sri Dalada Museum . Ever since the Tooth Relic shrine was established in Kandy, different grades of visitors and devotees, ranging from Royalty and Heads of States to the poorest of the general public, have been offering various gifts to the Sacred Tooth Relic, and these were preciously protected in specially built store-rooms by the successive line of Diyawadana Nilames. On the initiative of the previous Diyawadana Nilame, Neranjan Wijeratne, it was decided that these valuable artefacts should be made available for public display. On the invitation of the Diyawadana Nilame, the Museum has now been beautifully designed and organized by Prof.Leelananda Prematilleke, the Archaeological Director of the UNESCO-Sri Lanka Project of the Cultural Triangle, together with his team of officers.

The Dalada Museum is located on the first and the second floors of the new wing called the Alut Maligawa set up by one of the past Diyawadana Nilemes, T.B.Nugawela. The display on the first floor consists of historical records from the time when the Tooth Relic was brought to Sri Lanka to the time of the British rule, the 1765 Dutch Plan of the Palace Complex, Lists of the Chief Prelates of the two monastic establishments of Malwatta and Asgiriya, who were responsible for the protection of the Tooth Relic, Lists of Kandyan Kings and the portrait busts and lists of the long line of Diyawadana Nilames, the Royal garments of king Kirti Sri Rajasinha, the Pingo used by the king in the Buddha-puja service, and the most recent discoveries of mural remains that were exposed due to the bomb blast caused by Tamil Tigers in January 1998. The photographic display includes some of the important sites where the sacred Tooth Relic was enshrined through the centuries and a large array of pictures depicting the immeasurable damage caused to the Dalada maligawa due to the bomb blast.

Among the items on view on the second floor are historical artefacts used in the daily ritual ceremonies of the Tooth Relic shrine, caskets, Buddha statues and typical Kandyan gold and silver jewellery studded with precious gem stones, all donated by the devotees. Also on view on this floor are some special exhibits of great historical and religious value. These include (a) the silver water pot offered by king Kirti Sri Rajasimha , (b) Silver hanging lamp offered by king Rajadhi Rajasinha, (c) the painted replica of Buddha s Foot Print sent by king Borom Kot of Thailand when he sent some monks to establish the Higher Ordination on Sinhala monks headed by Venerable Walivita Saranankara ( who became Sangharaja subsequently), (d) The unique Relic Casket containing bodily relics of the great Thera Moggliputta who headed the Third Dhamma Council held by Emperor Asoka in the 3rd century BC, etc. Other significant exhibits include ancient flags, coins, carved ivory tusks donated by Burma, commemorative carved plaques, etc. A visit to this grandest display would evidently provide an insight into the splendour that was Kandyan Heritage, her Culture and the Arts.

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