Packing in the best of Kandy, this trip includes a visit to the sacred Temple of the Tooth, the adjoining Royal Palace, Peradeniya Royal Botanical Gardens, and several of city’s the main shops - including Waruna’s, one of the country’s best antique shops.
Approx Distance: Round trip = 38 miles.
Car costs (1-3 people) $85.
Van costs (1-6 people) $130.
Additional Costs: Temple of the Tooth Ticket; Royal Botanical Gardens Peradeniya Ticket
The Temple Of The Tooth
The country’s cultural and religious heart
Whoever hold the sacred tooth relic has the implicit right to rule the country. Or so it is said. Even today a victorious President or Prime Minister’s first call on winning an election, is to the Temple of the Tooth, though one or two have been known to squeeze in a private soothsayer first.
Some eight hundred years after Buddha’s death, the tooth relic arrived on the island, and throughout the era of the kings, the tooth relic was wisely placed next to the royal palace.
For the relic, this meant travel – and lots of it - from Anuradhapura to Polonnaruwa, Dambadeniya, Ratnapura Niyamgampaya Vihara, Hamsa, Gira, Selalihini, Kotte and numerous secret places in between before finally ending up at Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic beside Kandy’s Royal Palace. There it withstood two armed attacks in 1989 (JVP) and 1998 (LTTE).
Today it lies beneath a golden roof within a stunning temple built by Vira Narendra Sinha, the last Sinhalese King of Kandy, encased in seven golden caskets studded with precious jewels, taken out only for an annual festival, the Kandy Esala Perahera, where it is paraded around the city preceded by hundreds of priests, elephants, fire eaters, dancers, and musicians.
The Temple is part of a greater – once royal – complex, which includes:
This great terrace in front of the temple and adjacent to Kandy Lake has at one end a stone memorial beneath which is buried the skull of Keppetipola Disawe who led the failed rebellion against the British in 1818.
THE ROYAL AUDIENCE HALL
The Magul Maduwa, a wooden structure, was built by King Sri Vikrama Rajasinha in 1783 and it was here in 1815 that the Kandyan Convention was signed ending the Kingdom of Kandy.
THE KING’S PALACE
The Raja Wasala beside the Royal Audience Hall is now a Museum overseen by the Department Archaeology.
Once a spare resting and meeting place for the King, now renamed as the Rajah Tusker Hall to hold the stuffed remains of Rajah, the chief elephant in the Kandy Perahera, who died in 1988.
Once housed the quarters for the kings various wives and is now more prosaically the National Museum of Kandy. Amongst its 5,000 exhibits which range from the gorgeous to the prosaic, is a copy of the Kandyan Convention. Next to it, in Victorian-era buildings constructed by the British as administrative offices is the International Buddhist Museum.
THE QUEENS' CHAMBERS
The attractive Meda Wasala with its courtyard and veranda has been commandeered as offices of National Department of Archaeology; and wild horses are not likely to drive them out.
The Ran Ayuda Maduwa has been annexed as a place of judgement by the District Courts of Kandy
Built in 1806 by King Sri Wickrama Rajasinha as a bathing pavilion for queens, it has now sadly become a police post.
TEMPLE OF THE TOOTH MUSEUM
Occupying the upper floors of the Temple, the Museum is full of artifacts relating to Tooth relic and especially its final resting place in Kandy. Also on display are sets of the last king’s shirt, trousers, and handkerchief.
An octagonal pavilion just within the main enclose of the temple from where the Tooth used to be displayed. Most of it has since become a Library but in the national consciousness it plays its part in key events in much the same way as the balcony of Buckingham Palace might in the UK.
Accessed through an entrance gate over a moat is the main Temple itself, a two story shrine over which sits a golden canopy. In front of the main shrine is a Drummers' Chamber. Ivory handles open the doors into the main shrine which gives way to the Handun Kunama - the small chamber in which the actual relic is kept. But, like Russian Dolls, that is only the beginning, for within the chamber are seven gold caskets inlaid with gems – and it inside the last of these that lies the Tooth.
Slip back into the past at The Queen's Hotel Kandy.
Located directly opposite the Temple of the Tooth, this once grandest of grand hotels, was built by the last King of Kandy before being grabbed as a home-for-home by a British Governor.
By 1869 the Governors had moved on and the building opened as The Queens Hotel attracting the great, the good and the wickedly wealthy. Its cool old fashioned bar served Lord Mountbatten of Burma and every luminary before with rounds of cocktails, peppery gins, juices and beer.
It remains a decent and charming place to catch ones breath and revive over a cool drink and snack.
Instant Retail Therapy
Souvenirs - solved
Conveniently placed right next to The Queen’s Hotel is Odel which sells a good range of men’s and women’s wear plus home and lifestyle products.
One of the country’s best antique shops
Sometimes defined as anything older than PlayStation 2, antique hunting is an edgy sport on the island. Seek - and you may not find; but if you wish to be sure that what you are looking at has real provenance and history behind it, then enjoy a short visit to Waruna’s Antique Shop, conveniently located between Kandy and Peradeniya. From ancient flags and wood carvings to paintings, furniture, jewellery and curios, Waruna’s cavernous shop is an Aladdin’s Cave of credible discoveries.
Peradeniya Royal Botanical Gardens
Hug a tree at one of Asia’s most impressive botanical gardens.
There are thousands of trees to choose from at Peradeniya Royal Botanical Gardens, though most of them are way too large to hug without help. Glorious, sometimes drunken avenues of Cook's Pines, Palmyra Palms, Double Coconuts, Cabbage Palms, and Royal Palms lead off into shady dells dating back to the garden’s foundations in 1821. It is one of the finest botanical gardens in Asia; the modern garden set up by Alexander Moon. Moon’s catalogue published soon afterwards listed 1,127 “Ceylon plants”.
Today the gardens range over 150 acres and are especially gorgeous for their many ancient trees. There is even an arboretum of trees planted by famous people including a huge Ironwood (Tsar Nicolas II); a rather stunted Camphor Tree (Mrs Sirimavo Bandaranaike); a Yellow Trumpet Tree (King Akihito of Japan) and a Sorrowless Tree (Queen Elizabeth II).