Well, India shares a lot of its history with Sri Lanka – since mythological times! Ditto with Buddhism, which spread from India to Sri Lanka. As a traveler Indians will often feel home there. Kandy is beautiful place to be for the tourists for elephant orphanage of Pinnawala near by and also for its Royal botanical garden.
Kandy is in heart of Sri Lanka – virtually as well as actually. Geographically it is in the centre of the emerald island nation. Kandy is also famous for Dalada Maligawa temple known also as the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, which houses the relic of the tooth of the Buddha (image below).
The temple is located in the royal palace complex (image below) of the former kingdom of Kandy. In the buddhist nation, this relic was held in such a high esteem that it was widely considered that he who holds the control over the relic will have the right to govern the country. That is why, Kandy was the capital of the Sri Lankan Kings, before it shifted to Colombo by the Britishers. When Kandy’s kingdom fell to the British in 1815, the custody of the tooth relic was handed over to the Buddhist Clergy.
The whole royal complex of the Kandy houses many buildings. The complex (Patthirippuwa) is located right adjacent to Kandy Lake. Behind the complex is the jungle leading upto hills. There is a moat around the complex (image below).
Kandy might be no longer the capital of Sri Lanka but this temple of tooth relic is still the top tourist destination in the country. Buddhist from all over the world visit this place. Kandy itself is one of the top tourist attractions in the country for its natural beauty and fantastic weather.
Every year a huge festival is celebrated to honour the sacred tooth relic and four ‘guardian’ gods- Natha, Vishnu, Kataragama and Goddess Pattini. This festival is known as Kandy Perahera or Esala Perahera. Kandy Esala Perahera is one of the oldest and grandest of all Buddhist festivals in Sri Lanka.
This festival lasts for ten days. In Sinhalese the word ‘Perahera’ means a procession of musicians, dancers, singers, acrobats and other performers. The procession is accompanied by large number of decorated tuskers and elephants. This Perahera is so beautiful that often people term it as the most beautiful street procession in Asia. In this festival the sacred tooth relic of Buddha is carried through the streets of the Kandy.
On every Wednesday, there is a symbolic bathing of the relic with an herbal preparation made from scented water and fragrant flowers called Nanumura Mangallaya. Esala is actually a month that usually falls during months of July-August. This is said to be the time when Buddha gave his first teachings after attaining enlightenment. This year the perahera will be celebrated from 8th to 18th August 2016.
The tooth relic is actually kept in a golden casket. SO what people see is the casket which houses the tooth relic. This casket has the shape of a stupa. There is another procession casket used in the Kandy Perahera. Kandy Esala Perahera procession is also said to be celebrated to seek the blessings of the gods to receive good rains for the cultivation of crops and make the area prosper.
There is a piece of history associated with this tooth relic which was obtained from Buddha’s pyre. The whole story has been depicted on the walls of the shrine through paintings and accompanying texts. The outer canopy of the main shrine is said to be made in gold. Same for the fence encircling the main shrine.
Located in the heart of the Sri Lanka, Kandy is also one of the most important cities of the country and is well connected. Kandy has lot to see around. The famous tea gardens of Nuwara Eliya are also very close by. What a fun would it be to be in Kandy at the time of Perahera.
P.S. This year the perahera will be celebrated from 8th to 18th August 2016.