Sri Lanka’s Kandy – Of kings and world heritage

Kandy Sri Lanka

Scenic Kandy Sri Lanka’s 2nd largest city

The city of Kandy  is the second largest city in Sri Lanka and lies at an elevation of 465 metres (1,526 ft) in the central highlands. The city lies in the centre of the central highleans in the Kandy plateau, which crosses an area of tropical plantations, mainly tea. A United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) World Heritage city, this sacred Buddhist site was the last capital of the Sinhala kings. It is the home of the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic (Dalada Maligawa), one of the most venerable places for the Buddhist community around the world.

The kingdom of Kandy has also been known by various names. The English name Kandy, which originated when the island was a colony of Britain, is derived from the Sinhalese Kanda Uda Rata (Land on the Mountain). The Portuguese called it Candea, using the name for both the kingdom and its capital. In Sinhalese, Kandy is called Maha Nuvara, meaning ‘Great City’, although this is often shortened to Nuwara.

Central to modern Sri Lanka

Being the gateway to the central highlands, Kandy can be reached by major motorways from every direction of the island. The railway line from Colombo runs via Kandy to the farthest point in the central highlands, to the town of Badulla. The main roads, Colombo-Kandy and Kandy-Nuwara Eliya are two of the most scenic roads of Sri Lanka. The Colombo-Kandy road passes through shadowy rubber plantations and rippling rice paddies while the Kandy-Nuwara Eliya road winds through paddy fields in the central plateau and well-maintained tea plantations higher up the slopes. Both roads and the Victorian railway built by the British, claw their way up the hills surrounding the central highlands.

Kandy’s ‘Temple of the Tooth’ Buddhist festival

Kandy Perehara

Buddhist festival, Esala Perahera, Kandy

Kandy remains an important religious centre for the Theravāda (Teachings of the Elders) school of Buddhism all around the world. The city is famous for the annual procession known as the Esala Perahera, in which one of the inner caskets used for covering the tooth relic of Buddha is taken in a grand procession through the streets of the city. This golden casket is carried on a royal tusker, grandly attired for the occasion. The procession includes traditional dancers and drummers, flag bearers of the provinces of the old Kandyan kingdom, the Nilames (lay custodians of temples ) wearing their traditional dresses, whip-crackers and torch-bearers. This ceremony which is annually held in the months of July or August, attracts large crowds from all parts of the country and the world. For more information refer Esala Perahera.