Kandy: sacred temples, royal gardens and traditional dance

Friday, 8th february 2019

What was it heavenly to wake up to the sound of different kinds of birds chirping away early in the morning just before sunrise! Up in the hills of Kandy, we had a very peaceful and restful night – no sounds of cars or people; just surrounded by green foliage and bird song!

What tranquility to enjoy a cup,of tea first thing in the morning on our own verandah

We had requested to have breakfast at 8am as Indika would be collecting us at 9am to go sightseeing in Kandy. Last night, while sitting with the various guests and the guesthouse owners, we were given some suggestions as to how to spend the day in Kandy: visit the sacred temple of the Buddha tooth relic; go up to the Udawattakelle Sanctuary; spend a few hours at the botanical gardens; take a walk around the lake; attend a traditional dance and fire walking show. Well we only achieved three activities plus an extra one to kill the time before attending the traditional dance.

Well breakfast was a feast again as it included the egg hoppe and plain hoppe with an onion and chili pepper chutney and a platter of fresh fruit. We finished our breakfast well on time so that we could leave immediately Indika arrived to collect us. The drive down the narrow hillside road was just as exciting as coming up yesterday afternoon but this time there was more traffic with loads of tuc-tucs carrying uniformed school children.

Going to the Temple of the Tooth Relic

Our first point of interest was the Temple of the Tooth Relic – 425 year old, golden roofed temple houses Sri Lanka’s most important Buddhist relic, a tooth of Buddha which was salvaged by a princess when Buddha’s body was cremated on the funeral pyre back in 483BC and smuggled into Sri Lanka in the 4th Century AD.

By the the time we arrived at the temple and had engaged a free lance guide, it was time the heavily guarded room housing the tooth relic to open its doors for devotees to worship – however you don’t get to see the tooth but rather a Golden casket that is shaped like a stupa and in which a series of 6 caskets lie within it housing the tooth relic.

It was so very interesting to see the total devotion shown by the Buddhist devotees. Some had their new born babies with them and this sort of scared me; what if anything happened – those babies could be trampled to death!

the Alut Maligawa Hall which displays various Buddha’s donated by various Asian countries

From here, we moved to the Alut Maligawa, a three storey large shrine displaying various Buddha’s – also those donated by other countries such as Japan, Thailand, Korea and other Asian countries. This was very impressive as also there were paintings showing the story of Buddha and his journeys to Sri Lanka until the moment he reached Nirvana (enlightenment) and was burnt on the funeral pyre when he died in 483BC

Next, we moved to the Audience Hall which was built in 1783 and wooden pillars support a wooden roof. This is part of the Royal Palace which is also situated in the temple complex.

Rajah, the tusked elephant that worked for 62 years

Further, we went into an other area known as Rajah Tusker Hall. Here we found a stuffed elephant who had served Kandy for 62 years and died in 1988.

It is incredible how many visitors – both local and foreign come to this temple complex, however one had to stand still for a while when we were told that back in 1998, the temple complex had borne significant damage when the LTTE (Tamil Tigers) detonated a truck bomb on the street opposite the temple.

When we left the temple complex, we first had a break and treated ourselves to fresh watermelon juice and then Indika drove us to the Royal Botanical Gardens.

The coconut avenue in the Royal botanical gardens

What a serene garden filled with exotic palms, trees and plants. While the entrance is on a busy corner not far from the bus station, once we were inside and had strolled a few hundred meters, we did not here any traffic any more. What was very interesting is that we saw so many school children in their neat uniforms and wearing sun hats all walking two by two in a single file – the girls wearing white uniforms and the boys in blue shorts and white shirts. This is a sight I have never seen in the Netherlands…….. Dutch school children are ever so noisy!! At one point, Gerry and I sat down on a bench and when these school kids filed in front of us, they all gave us big smiles and waved to us……..

Uniformed school girls on their outing to the botanical gardens

We must have spent some two and a half hours in this garden and our agreement was that I would call Indika to come and pick us up when we were ready – well I was really annoyed with myself as I had left my phone in my rucksack and that was in Indica’s car; Gerry tried calling my phone but apparently Indica did not react to it. Surprisingly enough, he must have had the same thought as he came to look for us round the same time we left the gardens…….

Next on our “to do” list was to attend a Sri Lankan Culture Show but as we were somewhat early, Indika tookus to a Gem Factory opposite the culture show premises. In all my travelling, I know that when one is taken to such premises, you are expected to buy something (that happened to me the other day when we visited a wood carving factory and shop). Anyway it was interesting to see a documentary film of how precious stones and gems were mined in Sri Lanka and I must say it was a hazardous way of discovering these gems – be it sapphires, moonstones, rubies and other stones. Then of course you are led into the shop and straight away if you show an interest in any particular piece of Jewellery, it is removed from the show case and the price calculated for you in any currency you want…… well I played the game – I showed interest in a blue sapphire ring with diamonds which I thought would match my ear rings which I had bought back in Dubai. Well even with the discount, I wasn’t buying this ring and immediately I saw the attendant’s disappointment………. well we left the premises and crossed the road to go to our Culture Show – we still had time so we had a drink on the terrace.

Indica had acquired really good seats for us In the front row and once the show began, we were mesmerised with the music and dance. The playing of drums, flute and tambourines was the background to intricate dancing movements. And finally the “moment supreme” was when we had to go out onto the balcony to watch fire eating and fire walking. All in all a very entertaining part if the evening.

Drums and flute – it was like we were in a trance!
Walking on coals and swallowing flames….

By the time the show was over, we were quite ravenous as we had not had any lunch but rather snacked on fruit and fresh fruit juices. Indica had made a reservation for us at a hill top restaurant, Senani, overlooking Kandy Lake and the city centre. This was truly magnificent especially as it was our last night in Kandy.

By the time we drove back to our guesthouse, it had started drizzling so you can imagine I was glad to be back home as I did t fancy the winding narrow uphill road in total darkness and rain.

Waiting for our dinner with Kandy city in the background

Tomorrow we will be leaving our guesthouse and will be driving to Nuwara Elija, also referred to Little England as during the colonial days, the British used to come up to this hill station, leaving the stickiness and heat of Colombo and Kandy behind them for a few summer months!

Author: Liliana

Retired banker now spending time travelling the world with my soulmate, Gerry. Early retirement due to the fact that the bank I worked for changed their direction from global to local and hence my expertise was not needed any longer - now using my passion and energy in discovering the world after I have worked enthusiastically for so many years, brought up my daughter and son and now still have good health to enjoy my new experiences.