Kandy (the Hill Capital)
Kandy is known to most Sri Lankans as Maha Nuwara, “The Great City.” And great it is. The sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha is housed here in its own temple, and is paraded around the city in one of Asia’s most celebrated festivals, the Kandy Perahera, held during July-August. The monasteries of Sri Lanka’s two leading Buddhist sects have long been established in the city. Traditions of Sinhalese music and dance, such as Kandyan dancing, are kept alive in Kandy, as are many arts and crafts. Little wonder, then, that Kandy was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988.
Located in the foothills of the central highlands around the banks of a picturesque lake, steeped in history, and possessing a salubrious climate, Kandy is Sri Lanka’s renowned second city. In many ways, however, Kandy is more important than the true capital, for although Colombo may be the hub of commerce and communication, it is Kandy that has always been the centre of Sri Lanka’s rich culture and the symbol of the nation’s complex identity.
The best season to visit Kandy is in August when the event Kandy is most famous for takes place – the Kandy Esala perahera or pageant. Hosted by the Temple of the Tooth, this event spans over two weeks, taking on festival-like proportions and equally charged preparations. The highlight of the event and what most visitors, especially children, come to see is the procession of decorated elephants. The last attraction and the ultimate reason for the procession is to parade Buddha’s Tooth Relic mounted high up on a specially trained elephant, adopted, bred and dedicated to this purpose by the Temple mahouts. Some of the elephants showcased in the procession are owned by the Temple Trust and are cared for with special treatment for the purpose of the perahera. They are sometimes brought out to the Temple gardens for people to touch, as they are considered sacred to devotees.