The prominence of Kandy, Sri Lanka’s highland capital and second largest city, rests on its role as repository of the famous ‘Tooth Relic’ of the Buddha, one of Asia’s most sacred objects. The holy canine is enshrined in the illustrious Sacred Temple of the Tooth, or ‘Dalada Mahagana’ – a fabulously atmospheric place to visit. Three times each day, a special offering, or ‘Thevada’, takes place in the shrine, accompanied by the temple orchestra in traditional Kandyan dress.
Each year during the summer, the temple also plays host to one of Asia’s greatest spectacles, Esala Perahera, during which exuberant processions fill the town for eleven days and nights. Hundreds of dancers cavort to the furious drumming, and brightly caparisoned elephants march trunk to tail. At its climax, the leading tusker bears a canopy shading a gleaming casket, a replica of the one which cocoons Kandy’s revered ‘Tooth Relic’.
The town’s pretty lake, attractive streetscapes and pleasant climate combine to make it a charming halt. Nearby excursions include Peradeniya, the city’s superb botanical gardens, the serene hilltop temple of Gadaladeniya and the fascinating Ceylon Tea Museum established in a former 1920s tea factory.