It has a colonial charm with good western food (they don’t serve any local food so if you’re looking for some like me, you’d be disappointed). I ended up spending almost half my afternoon just chilling out at the bar or the restaurant catching up on my journal or reading as it was so peaceful and I had a squirrel that kept me company. During my time in Kandy, the weather was dreary. It rained and it was a little chilly as it’s hill countryside so temperatures are lower than Colombo.
It is said that this temple houses the tooth of Buddha. It’s free for the locals but as a tourist, you’d have to pay Rs.1500 to visit the temple. History has it that the tooth of Buddha was smuggled into the island of Sri Lanka by Princess Hemamali and her husband, Prince Dantha, and was placed in Anuradhapura. As the ruling empire shifted over the years, so did the relic and it landed in Kandy and has stayed there ever since.
The tooth is physically not visible as it is kept in a golden stupa. The stupa is visible however during prayer rituals which is done 3 times a day (mornings, afternoons and evenings). This is the only time worshipers have access to view the relic.
Just around the corner of the temple is a museum (this one has separate charges) and also a beautiful open hall space which was once the walls of the palace. All that is left is the pillars and the roof, or what’s left of it.
After a few enquiries, I was told that I had to wait for another hour for prayers to start. I didn’t know what else I could do so I asked this couple (which I found out later were friends) if it was okay for me to join them in their wait. I knew I was imposing but they didn’t seem to mind, in fact they made my trip to Kandy a little more memorable.
Every year in Kandy there is the procession known as the Perahera. The Escala Perahera is a grand one and on this occasion you will find elephants all dressed up and taking part in the procession. Tuskers was one such elephant but he was important as he was carrying the relic on his back. These processions are grand with dancers, firewalkers and such. During one of the Perahera’s, one of the elephants in front stepped on a hot coal and went wild. Due to the rouge elephant, naturally people ran in every direction, there was death and all the other elephants too ran in panic. All accept one, Tuskers. It was said that Tuskers walked calmly back to the temple grounds and just stood and waited patiently for someone to attend to him.
The priest and the king were shocked to find this elephant calmly waiting for them at the temple with the relic and all the ornaments on it, intact. It is as if it knew that it was carrying something so precious that it would be careless for it to be zealous with panic. Since then Tuskers has had a special place in the king’s heart hence after it’s death, it has a museum dedicated to it.
“You prayer the way you normally pray. It doesn’t matter which way, you just pray the way you always do at home. There is no special way”
I suppose God is God, and I’m sure he wouldn’t be upset if I didn’t get things right but as long as he knows I’m grateful, I’m happy!
The drums were playing, followed by prayer chants and soon the line was moving. You only have 15 seconds in front of the tooth to say your prayer, give your donations or offerings before you are shooed to be on your way. Even though it was a super short prater, I felt good and it was great to be around lots of people. I stayed back a little longer watching people bringing offerings of flowers, some sitting in prayer at the back and kids going along with their parents. Rather interesting I have to watch and take everything in.
On my way out, I finally see the musicians, and their costumes, which is similar to in Indian vesti. And their instruments are very similar to Indian classical instruments as well.
In the end, it turned out to be a wonderful meal that went on for longer than I expected but it was wonderful. I have to thank the two of them for giving such a wonderful evening, and trust me, I needed some company and conversation (yes as you can tell I was pretty spooked!!). These two thought I was bold to do what I do, travel a country I’ve never been too all on my own. We exchanged numbers and went off our separate ways.
I’m so grateful for that night. Although I have to admit, if it wasn’t for them, Kandy is pretty boring. It was just after 9pm that we left the restaurant and it felt like it was way past midnight. The streets were dead! I hardly saw anyone and my hotel was just 2 streets away. I power walked my way back, but my god, it was dead as the grave!
The lake is beautiful, but on a rainy and windy day it a bit of a challenge to walk. But I did and manage to get to the back of the temple where the Garrison Cemetery is. This cemetery houses a lot of the British people who lived here and obviously died here too. Most of them died quite young and mostly from disease.
Now monkeys are not unusual in Kandy, they are every where and they like to take shiny things so I was warned to always keep my room doors shut and locked, just incase these monkeys visited. Due to that, it is common to see and hear firecrackers going off as this scares them off and clears them off the premises.
Next up: Tea country, Nuwara Eliya.