In the earliest period of Sri Lanka’s recorded history, the country’s central region remained largely unaffected by the thriving civilisations towards the North, such as Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa. It only entered the dominant historical narrative around the 13th century, with the emergence of the Gampola kingdom. The invasions by Europeans, and the subsequent internal political strife then led to the creation of the Kandyan Kingdom, which became the last stronghold of the native rulers and a safe haven for the local way of life. After 1815, this too was captured as the country entered the colonial age. And so, this vibrant mix of influences affecting Kandy’s history can be found in many sites scattered throughout the region.
The Temple of the Tooth
This famous temple is not only significant for Buddhists worldwide, but also has a great deal of historical value since the temple grounds encompass the former royal palace of the Kandyan Kingdom.
The triad of temples; Embekke, Gadaladeniya and Lankathilaka are lesser known, but are marvellous examples of Buddhist-Hindu art and architecture from the 13th and 14th centuries.
Constructed during the Gampola era and renovated during the Kandyan era, this temple is dedicated chiefly to the god Kataragama. Its most fascinating feature is the wooden hall, engraved with complex carvings of mythical creatures, scenes from folktales, and intricate geometric designs, each unique from the next.
Built by an Indian architect upon the request of the king, this site is known for its impressive stonework as well as ancient Buddhist murals. Stone inscriptions also document the temple’s history in archaic Sinhala.
Similar to the Gadaladeniya viharaya, this site also contains murals, paintings and sculptures of roughly the same era. Inscriptions found here written both in Sinhala and Tamil, reveal the royal patronage given for its construction.
The influence of the colonial era on Kandy is also undeniably apparent.
The St Paul’s Church
This red brick church shares a boundary with the Temple of the tooth and was formally consecrated in 1853. It was originally created for the British garrison and the Ceylonese Christians who were in dire need of a church in Kandy at the time.
The Ceylon Tea Museum
This museum is located in Hanthana, and documents the history of tea in the country since its introduction as a cash crop by the British. It also shows the old machinery used for processing tea leaves gathered from the surrounding plantations.
Raja Wasala Udyanaya/Wace Park
King Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe establihsed this small park in honour of the Prince of Wales. The park in Rajapihilla Mawatha, although in a somewhat dilapidated state, is worth a visit.
The National Seminary of Our Lady Lanka
The Papal Seminary of Ampitiya was inaugurated in 1893 and its main building was completed in 1899. Since its initiation, students from India and Sri Lanka ordain at the Seminary. At present, it consists of a beautiful European style building, a small farm and a woodland with a walking path.
The National Railway Museum
This Kadugannawa museum albeit a recent construction, shows the colonial legacy of a major mode of transport in the country. The colourful old locomotives kept on display can make even an adult feel like a child.
British Garrison cemetery and Commonwealth War cemetery
The Commonwealth War Cemetery contains the graves of those who died during the First and Second World Wars. The Cemetery is the final resting place of 100+ members of the British garrison who served during colonial times.