Kandy & Esala Perahara

The Royal city of Kandy, Sri Lanka’s hill capital is situated 465 meters above sea level and 115 kilometers from the commercial capital. It is the last royal capital of Sri Lanka, and is a major tourist destination. This amazing city is renowned for its culture and beauty. The name Kandy was derived from the Word Kanda, which means mountain. The locals call it as ‘Mahanuwara’, which meant ‘Great City’. Kandy was founded in the 14th century and has a population of 14,000.

Nestled amidst lush mountains in the north of the island's hill country, the Royal City of Kandy, 116km from Colombo, was home to Sri Lanka. Last independent kingdom, surviving two centuries of colonial incursions by the Portuguese and the Dutch before falling to the British in 1815. The legacy of this proud tradition lives on today in the form of the city's distinctive architecture, art and dance.

Temple of the Tooth relic

Home to the sacred relic of the tooth of the Buddha, a visit to the Dalada Maligawa or Temple of the Tooth, is an experience no tourist should miss said to have been snatched from the Buddha's funeral pyre and smuggled to Sri Lanka in the hair of a princess, the tooth relic is of great spiritual significance. Each year in July or August is the Kandy Esala Perahera (perahera means 'procession') a spectacular display of medieval pageantry that includes caparisoned elephants, fire dancers and Kandyan drummers.

Stroll around the beautiful lake, the centre-piece of the town and explore the numerous temples perched on the hills. These are pleasant ways to spend your time in Kandy. Experiencing the pulsating drum rhythms and colorful traditional dances at a cultural show is another must, as is a ramble through the Royal Botanical Gardens at Peradeniya, 6km south of the city. Kandy is also the best place in Sri Lanka to study meditation.

Buddhists consider it as a sacred city, since the “Dalada Maligawa” (the temple of the sacred tooth relic) is located in the heart of Kandy town. Temple of the tooth holds Sri Lanka’s most important historical object, a sacred tooth of the Buddha. The story goes that this tooth has been taken from Buddha’s Cremation in 543 BC. Then the tooth was smuggled into Sri Lanka in the 4th Century AD. The temple was said to have been constructed in 16th Century.

Esala Perehara

Kandy also holds the Great annual festival (Perehera) that attracts thousands once a year in the months of July or August. It is a Buddhist festival consisting of dances and nicely decorated elephants. There are fire-dances, whip-dances, Kandyan dances and various other cultural dances. The elephants are usually adorned with lavish garments. The festival ends with the traditional 'diya-kepeema'.

The ritual of the Esala Perahera Pageant Procession continues in Kandy with more and more people attending each year to watch majestic tusker proudly parade the streets of the ancient Sinhalese kingdom followed by over more than a hundred elephants with the custodians and other officials dressed in the traditional Sinhalese attire of chieftains riding them. The sound of blowing conch shells and whip cracking starts off the excitement or the approaching perahera. The beating of at least three types of traditional drums, the Kandyan dancers, Acrobats, and other artists that perform in the light of flame torches certainly would take you back in a time machine.

Commences on Esala Full Moon Poya Day on the month of July and Concludes on Nikini Full Moon Poya Day on the month of August.

Peradeniya botanical garden

Another place visited by most tourists is the The Royal Botanical garden in Peradeniya. It is believed that the garden used as a pleasure garden of King Wickramabahu III. The Commander of the allied forces in Southeast Asia Earl Mountbatten had the headquarters in the garden during the Second World War. This 147 acre land is a beautiful park with numerous tropical plants and adored by many as the best in the island. The park has more than 5,000 species of trees, plants and creepers.

Kandy is synonymous with arts and crafts of Sri Lanka than anywhere else in the country. 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.

Kandy is undoubtedly one of the liveliest and happening destinations of Sri Lanka, with its age old culture and its hospitable people serving the holidaymakers.