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The last capital of Sri Lanka, the history of Kandy evokes images of riches, marching elephants and much pomp and pageantry. Colombo, Kandy is amongst a hilly terrain and all eyes are drawn to the centre of the city, where the Kandy Lake forms a charming feature. It’s one of the eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Sri Lanka. Kandy was last home to the Kandyan Kings of yore in the 19th-century and a fountain for all the music, arts, crafts and culture in the country. Taking in a performance of Kandyan Dancers is rather like floating on an unending wave where rhythm and movement become one against the backdrop of the throbbing drums.

Kandy retains great religious significance for Sri Lanka. It is in this charming city that the Dalada Maligawa or ‘Sacred Temple of the Tooth’ lies well guarded since the attack on its building by terrorists. The best time to visit Kandy would be in July/August when you can experience the annual Kandy Esala Perahera, an unforgettable parade that reflects the pomp and pageantry of kings and more significantly, an occasion when a replica of the relic casket is paraded. Almost 100 elephants parade along the main streets of the city, bedecked with ceremonial gear and are accompanied by dancers and drummers for over 10 fascinating days.

Even if you miss this spectacle, there are many more sights and sounds in Kandy that will hold your attention. The Peradeniya Botanical Gardens invite visitors to a learning experience about flora and fauna and some majestic trees that can be traced back to centuries. A visit to the National Museum once again highlight the city’s royal past and is well worth a stop. The Malwatta and Asgiriya Monasteries house ancient manuscripts and other treasures from a bygone era.

Kandy is an exciting place for shopping and a well-known centre for elaborate brass, bronze and silver ware. Batiks, handlooms, ceramics, jewellery, reed ware and jewellery are other readily available items. This hill capital is at the heart of the island’s history and identity and no visit to Sri Lanka is complete without a stop-over in Kandy.

The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic
The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic is the most revered Buddhist temple in Sri Lanka and is located in the royal palace complex. It houses the Sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha. Since ancient times, the relic has played an important role in local politics because it is believed that whoever holds the relic holds the governance of the country. Kandy was the last capital of the Sinhalese kings and is a UNESCO world heritage site partly due to the temple.
By Kishanie S. Fernando
Daily Mirror - February 19, 2007                                                                                                                          pictures Sunimal Dissanayake