On most days, Kandy’s tropical scenery is epitomised by its submerged canopy forests and sublime misty skylines. While the centrepiece still remains its mesmerising Bogambara Lake enshrouded with colourful homes and a flock of ruffs. Underneath the forested luminosity, is an enchanting town where you will spot impressive colonial-era Kandyan culture and architecture. With imposing royal-blue skies and a light drizzle, even the most humdrum sites of this town seem to perk up.
Perched on a plateau enveloped by mystical mountains, Kandy is Sri Lanka’s tropical retreat that is home to biodiverse rainforests, spice gardens and tea plantations. Which, is why, on my way to Kandy from Dambulla, I wended my way into the Highland Spice Garden, to explore its majestic herbs. The Highland Spice Garden is one of the most authentic Ceylon Spice Gardens in the area. A tour to this herb paradise unearths the cultivation process of over 20 exotic spices, along with, how they are cleaned and packaged. This is also your only chance at getting to buy organic spices from the local vendors, right after the produce is harvested. Note that this place is not a commercial market, instead, its a spice knowledge centre that gives you insight into the medicinal value of a herb. Some of these herbs are even used to make Ayurvedic products.
What’s quite fascinating about this Spice Garden is the way it’s structured. Apart from defined pathways that set apart each cultivation, the garden also features intricate planning. In conclusion, the success of this Spice Garden is its years of expertise followed by a lineage of ideas. What more, you even get to taste the extravagant tropical flavours by the local experts. Amongst the exotic delights, the flavours that stand out are the peppercorn, cinnamon, citronella, nutmeg, aloe vera, turmeric, pineapple and vanilla. At the end of the tour, you may even purchase the spices from the in-house spice store. They also give a complimentary neck/shoulder massage with one of the natural creams.
While in Kandy, my sightseeing tour kicked-off with the famed Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. As you can see in the above picture, this historically significant Buddhist temple is bordered by a white water waves wall. A wall that stretches all the way to the Bogambara Lake. In fact, all along Sri Lanka, I noticed the similarly structured wall at a lot of places. The mystic temple, undoubtedly, is embedded seamlessly in Kandy’s vibrant cultural life. Walk past the main gate and you will feel a sense of tranquillity surrounding you by leaps and bounds. As this holy temple is located inside the former Royal Palace of Kandy, expect to walk a little, before, you arrive at the secured main entrance. During this short walk, you will notice the locals carrying white lotus and water lilies to offer to the Buddha statues. This flower is regarded as a symbol of enlightenment in Buddhism, hence the preferred offering by the locals.
After a thorough security check, I finally got a chance to step inside, what is one of the world’s most popular Buddhist temples. Primarily, because this place conserves a heavily guarded tooth of the Buddha, along with his timeless teachings. Constructed in Kandyan style, the entrance of the temple is marked by elephants on either side. However, all along, you will notice numerous elephant tusks and Buddhist flags engulfing the worship place. Upon entering the temple, the enchanting sound of Carnatic music will reel you in its invigorating clairvoyant trance. Played by men dressed in ceremonial red and white costumes, this uplifting sound of Mridangam’s will chase you, as long as, you move around the ground and the first floor.
As for the Tooth Relic, they say that when King Kotte ruled the kingdom, the relic was kept hidden in a grinding stone. Later, it was brought to Kandy and the Kings who were Buddha’s disciples constructed a two-storey building to preserve the priceless treasure. The room where the tooth is preserved is opened to tourists during the act of worship. However, at no time, do you get to see the tooth; as it is put away in a gold stupa shaped casket. Actually 6 dagoba caskets of diminishing size! Photography is strictly prohibited on this floor. The main temple also includes a complex series of shrines, smaller temples and museums.
The evening concluded with attending the classic Kandyan Dance, idiosyncratic to Kandy. Note that this cultural show can only be viewed between 4 PM to 5 PM or 5 PM to 6 PM so book your slot accordingly, and preferably in advance. This cultural dance show is presented by the traditional Kandyan dancers, dressed in vivid red and white outfits. The show highlights the rich traditions and cultures of Sri Lanka that have gained the ascendancy since the time of the ancient Kings. Getting entertained is one aspect of this show while getting accustomed to the rare Sri Lankan culture is a sheer privilege it brings along. All things considered, Kandy, the sacred city and the ancient capital of Sri Lanka is an incredibly beautiful place to visit.