Kingdom of Kandy

  • The Enduring Kingdom of Kandy

    Protected by its geographical position and physical remoteness, the Kandyan Kingdom remained a stable point of reference in the island’s turbulent colonial history, preserving ancient religious and cultural traditions, which were subdued elsewhere by corrosive Western influences, until it, too, finally succumbed to the British in 1815.

    A Center for the Arts, Culture and Religion

    This long history of political independence still informs many aspects of life in Kandy. The city remains a bastion of Sinhalese culture and religion, home to the island’s most revered Buddhist temple, the Temple of the Tooth, its most sacred relic and its most magnificent festival, the Esala Perahera. It’s also the undisputed arts and crafts capital of the island, filled with myriad temples and palaces built in the distinctive Kandyan architectural style, adorned with elaborate murals and finely carved wooden pillars, and often echoing to the unmistakable sound of the city’s virtuoso drummers beating out rhythms.

    The Charm of Kandy

    Despite now being the island’s second-largest city, Kandy retains a surprisingly small-town feel. The centre’s modest grid of low-rise streets is lined with characterful colonial-era buildings and preserves a certain old- fashioned, countrified charm, which even the often dense throngs of traffic and pedestrians can’t entirely obscure.

    Esala Perahera Festival

    The number of visitors to the city reaches a spectacular peak in July and August, when thousands of people descend on Kandy for the great Esala Perahera festival in honor of the city’s revered Tooth Relic. The festival is held over 10 days, with a procession every night which grows gradually larger. By the last couple of nights it features 100 or more elaborately caparisoned elephants accompanied by as many as 1,000 dancers, drummers and other performers, all following the principal elephant, the Maligawa Tusker, who carries a replica of the relic in a casket on his back.