Category: Kandy.

About sacred city of Kandy

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Kandy City:

kandy streetview

Nestled in the foothills of the Hill Country on the banks of a lovely tree-lined lake, the city of Kandy is the center of traditional Sri Lankan culture. Perhaps more than anywhere else in the island, this comfortably cool home to nearly 100,000 people represents the living past.

The sacred tooth of the Buddha, symbolic of sovereignty over the island, is preserved here in its own temple. Every August, it is paraded around the city on the back ofan elephant in what may be Asia’s biggest celebration. Traditions of Sinhalese music and dance, arts and crafts may be forgotten in Colombo, but they flourish in this hill city. Monasteries of Sri Lanka’ s two leading Buddhist sects are long-established centers of learning here. Indeed, the functions which once fell to the ancient cities of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa are as much alive in Kandy today as they have been for some 400 years.

To many Sri Lankans and visitors alike, Kandy is the sweetest city on the island. But its name did not derive from confection. Simply, kanda is the Sinhalese word for “hill” – an appropriate label for this settlement at 1,600 feet (488 meters) elevation. Kandy was originally known as Senkadagala, after a hermit who is said to have lived here. It became a religious center in the 13th or l4th Century and a political center in the confused days following the decline of Polonnaruwa. When the Portuguese took a firm hold on the low country during the l6th Century, the Sinhalese rulers of Kotte and Sitawaka retreated inland eventually setting up theircapital at Kandy in 1590.

For the 225 years that followed, the Hill Country rulers doggedly maintained theirindependence. They defied the Portuguese,Dutch and British alike, and remained a thorn in the side of all three colonial powers until the British once and for all subdued the Kandyans in l 815. It remained in British hands until Ceylon achieved its independence in 1948, but not before it had served a spell as Lord Mountbatten’s Second World War headquarters. Today, many Sinhalese known Kandy as MahaNuwara, “the great city.”

The city is centered on serene Kandy Lake, a l9th Century creation of independent Kandy’s last king. A densely foliated residential district covers the hills on the lake’s south side, while the main town occupies the streets to the west and north. Highway A1 from Colombo, the Kandy Road, becomes Dalada Vidiya as it runs along the north lake shore past the colonial Queens Hotel and the famous Temple of the Tooth, known as the Dalada Maligawa. D.S. Senanayake Vidiya, formerly Trincomalee Street, conjuncts Dalada Vidiya at the Queens Hotel and proceeds north as route A9.

The Temple of the Tooth:

the temple of the tooth

Any visitor to Kandy will want to start his or her tour at the Dalada Maligawa, the unmistakable moated pink building standing almost alone near the lake shore.

Ever since the 4th Century A.D., when the Buddha’s tooth was bought to Sri Lanka hidden from sacrilegious hands in an Orissan princess’s hair, the relic has grown in repute and holiness in Sri Lanka and throughout the Buddhist world. It became not only Sri Lanka’s most prized possession, but the very seal of sovereignty. The national capital was regarded as the place where the Tooth Reli¢ was permanently housed.

The tooth came to Kandy in 1590. King Wimala Dharma Suriya I built a two-story shrine on the site of the current temple. Three generations later, King Narendra Sinha raised a new two-story temple. It survives today as the Inner Temple.

Improvements were made by later kings. Early in the 19th Century, Sri Wickrama Raj asinha added the octagonal Pittirippuva at the comer nearest to the lake. This provided a place from which he could address his subjects on important occasions. The British for a short time converted the lower chambers of the Pattirippuva into a Garrison room for troops but it now houses the temple’s priceless library.

Few persons ever see the Tooth Relic itself. What they see instead, behind a gilt railing a table of silver, is the great dagoba-shaped karanduwa, a gold-plated reliquary. This is only the outermost casket of seven. Within, it is said, are six increasingly smaller shrines of similar shape, all of pure gold and ornamented with precious gems. When the tooth is displayed (On rare occasions) at exhibitions, it rests in a loop of gold that rises from the heart of a golden lotus.

At one time, the inner sanctum was accessible only to the king and certain monks. Today, during puja hours, visitors can penetrate two antechambers and view the reliquary from the “Hall of Beatific Vision.” Pujas are held at dawn (about 6 a.m.), mid-morning (about ll a.m.) and dusk (about 6:30 p.m.). The temple itself is open to visitors from dawn to dusk.

There are many other treasures within the temple. A miniature Buddha carved from a single three-inch-by-two-inch emerald, is protected in the ‘Karanduva into the inner-sanctum, while a sitting Buddha cut from a chunk of rock crystal, is exhibited in the lower shrine below the Octagon. Fine woodcarvings, painted ceilings, and silver-and-ivory doors adorn the Inner Temple. In the library are exquisite ola manuscripts, hand-etched on sheets of palm leaf, bound within boards of gilt silver, intricate lacquer and carved ivory.

On the south side of the temple, facing the lake, is an open courtyard where elephants are caprisoned and prepared for the two-week Esala Perahera in July-August. This festival should not be missed.

The Royal Palace Complex:
The Dalada Maligawa was part of a tremendous complex of buildings that extended from the King’s Palace (north of the temple) past the Queen’s Palace (behind and uphill from the temple). It included the royal Audience Hall, slightly behind and to the north of the Temple of the Tooth.

Quintessential of Kandyan architecture, this pillared opened hall had its foundation stone laid in 1784. It was not completed until the British were in control of Kandy. But the Audience Hall was in use even before the elaborately carved columns of teak and halmilla were in place in the stone floor. For in 1815, this was the Venue of the conference of Kandyan chiefs who agreed to surrender the kingdom to the British. Today, the Audience Hall is kept in top condition. At one time, the Hall was occasionally used for ceremonial sittings of the Supreme Court.

The only portion of the King’s Palace existing today is the public sector which served as the British government agent’s residence. The private rooms have vanished. The palace is thought to have been built by King Wimala Dharma Suriya I in the late 16th Century. The influence of Portuguese prisoners of war is seen in its design and construction. Today it is occupied by the Archaeological Museum, open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. except Tuesdays.

More interesting is the National Museum, housed in what used to be the Queen’s Palace. It is just east of the Dalada Maligawa, on a small hill over-looking the lake. Rooms and cloisters open onto a small central courtyard. The museum contains a good collection of Kandyan royal regalia and an extensive display of jewelry and household articles. It is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. except Fridays.

Within a single block of the royal palace complex are three of the four historic devalas which play a key role in The Esala Perehera. Almosl directly across the street from the Temple of the Tooth is the Pattini Devala. Though purely Hindu in origin, this popular goddess of chastity and health is a favorite among Buddhists as well. Her small and simple shrine is probably second in antiquity only to the Natha Devala, the oldest surviving building in Kandy. Its enclosure adjoins the Pattini shrine to the north. This devala was probably the center of a Mahayanist cult of Natha worship in the 13th or l4th century. The shrine’s style is Dravidian, consisting only of a porch and sanctum built on a walled platform; but its Buddhistness is asserted by a dagoba-shaped sikhara.

The Maha Vishnu Devala is the most important of Kandy’ s four major devalas. The worship of Upulvan, as Vishnu is known to Buddhists in his role as protector of isle Buddhism, originally was centered on Dondra.

During the wars with the Portuguese, the deity’s image was removed first to Alutnuwara in the Kandyan foot-hills, then to the safety of Kandy. The devala is located across Raja Vidiya from the Natha Devala, close to the King’s Palace. It has a double roof and lantern, and colorful makara torana gateway at the top of a flight of steps. Vishnu is regarded as lord of elephants, so the mahoutt of each elephant taking part in peraheras must stop and salute at this point on the route.

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Category: Kandy
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