Eye Kandy

Trip Start Jun 16, 2010
Trip End Jun 30, 2010

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Flag of Sri Lanka  ,
Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Kandy is a city in the central region of Sri Lanka, known locally as Maha Nuvara. The region and the city offer rich combinations of cultural heritage and incredible mountain scenery. Kandy is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site as the city is home to a wide range of festinating historic sites, contrasting the atmosphere of the beautiful southern Sri Lankan beach resorts.

Due to its international reputation and its location in the middle of a large tea-growing region, Kandy attracts many tourists. Westerners, eager to learn of about the Buddhist history of Sri Lanka, make Kandy, and especially the Dalada Maligawa (Temple of the Tooth), an itinerary must. Locals view Kandy as a necessary Buddhist pilgrimage destination, and make up the bulk of annual visitors. Kandy has a large selection of other interesting holy structures including a variety of Hindu shrines.

Kandy is believed to have been first settled in the 14th century by King Wickramabahu, who established a territory north of what constitutes as the current city. The territory was named Senkadagalapur, a title thought to have been taken from the name Senkanda, a local Brahmin, or from Queen Sendanka, the wife of King Wickramabahu. Alternatively, the name might have been taken from the colored stone Senkadagala.

Colonial aspirations for Sri Lanka brought the three major powers of the 16th century to the coastal regions. The Portuguese were first to arrive, and that invasion drove native settlers to this interior region of Sri Lanka, where they created a capital and stronghold to defend the areas still free from colonialism. From there on, the city proved to be a force to be reckoned with, successfully defending itself against attacks by the Portuguese, Dutch and British during the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.

Kandyan soldiers, familiar and accustomed to the hardships of the interior jungles, outwitted and inflicted heavy defeats on the Dutch and the Portuguese forces. This situation continued until the British finally established superiority across the country in 1815, marking an end to Kandy independence and eradicating the power of the last ruling dynasty – the Nayak. The British abolished the monarchy and replaced it with an occupational government.

The Visit

The city of Kandy offers so many beautiful sites that the power traveler – such as me – faces a dilemma when deciding upon an itinerary: Which sites to choose? Lucky for me, George used his cultural knowledge and a recruited three-wheeler driver to help us complete a one-day tour that included the most important sites.

Bahirawakanda Buddha

The Sri Maha Bodhi Viharaya at Bahirawakanda is a very attractive and elevated place in the Kandy. The temple is important in coordinating national and international Buddhist conferences. The monastery was started in 1972, and was founded by Ampitiye Dammarama Thero. He started building the large Buddha statue in 1972, using only donations from the local and national faithful. The temple opened in January 1993.

The Temple of the Tooth

The Temple of the Tooth is one of the most frequented and revered temples in the world, and ranks as the number one destination for tourists and locals visiting Kandy. The Temple serves as one of the seats of Buddhism in Sri Lanka and thus draws a steady stream of faithful pilgrims from within, and outside of the country. The Temple of the Tooth, Kandy is also known as Dalada Malagawa Buddhist Temple.

The Temple was built in the 17th century and was the seat of Buddhism for a long time. It is believed that the inner sanctuary contains the left upper canine tooth of the Lord Buddha himself. Legend says that the tooth was spirited from the funeral pyre of Lord Buddha and smuggled into the country in 313 AD. After its arrival, the tooth became an important object of Buddhism in Sri Lanka.

At the time the temple was built, Kandy was the capital of Sri Lanka, and the obvious place to house a relic as important as the Tooth. The temple was built between 1687 and 1707, and was constructed specifically to honor the Tooth. From the outside of the temple, the decoration, except for the gold roof, is sparse, and hardly hints at the richness of the interior courts. Inside, the eye is greeted with a richly ornate testament to the dedication of the construction teams involved. The walls and entrances within the temple consist of carved and decorated inlaid woods, ivory, and lacquer – all retaining their original bright colors.

The tooth relic is located inside a two storey shrine within the temple, the entrance of which is guarded by two large elephant tusks. During festivals the relic is brought out of the inner shrine and displayed to a large line of waiting pilgrims (the line was over four hundred people long when we arrived). There is an octagonal tower, built in 1803 that is another attraction of the temple. It contains many amazing examples of the craftsmanship mentioned earlier.

Gadaladeniya Temple

Gadaladeniya Temple is an ancient monastery which is located on the flat rock at Diggala, Kandy. The temple was constructed in 1344 by King Buwanekabahu IV. The design appears unusual because it was designed by an Indian architect.

The inside of the temple contains one seated Buddha and four standing ones.

The chamber within the dome used to have a Buddha image painted on it, but this was destroyed by the Portuguese. One the side of the room is a shrine dedicated to Visnu, who, according to Mahavansa, the great chronicle of Sri Lanka, was selected as the guardian to protect the land of Sri Lanka and Buddhism within it at the time of Buddha's death. This revelation secured a special place in Sri Lankan deity for Visnu.

Aukana Buddha

The Aukana Buddha was carved in the fifth century, during the reign of Dhatusena. Dhatusena ruled from 459 to 477AD and was responsible for many great works - including building the enormous Kala Wewa tank (or lake) at Aukana. The statue is standing with the tip of its nose exactly

It is beautifully upright with the tip of the nose exactly over the center mark between the feet. The statue is wearing an incredibly detailed robe, with pleats that were seen as an artistic masterpiece of the time. The meaning of the statue is indicated by the left hand in this situation, which is gathering up the robe in preparation to step over a river. This represents the cycle of rebirth.

For centuries, the statue remained hidden to the world, having been claimed by the forrest. This changed, when in the 1850s British archeologists came upon the statue while following the tracks of a herd of wild elephants. The figure of Buddha, nearly 50 feet in height, is carved from the face of a granite cliff. Adding to the awe is the fact that the statue is almost completely detached from the cliff, and thus has a detailed "back".

It is not difficult to envision the throngs of monks and pigmies gathering to worship at the Aukana Buddha statue. Seeking guidance and sovereign legitimacy through Buddhism, the kings of this era would also be frequent visitors to the statue.

The Aukana Buddha was abandoned in the 11th century, when the capital was moved from Anuradhapura to Polonnaruwa. During this time, the jungle and forest reclaimed the land around the statue, hiding and protecting it from invaders and the elements.

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