Exploring Kandy enroute to Digana

Kandy, once known as the resplendent abode of royalty, claims a history of over three centuries with Kandyan kings ruling from 1593 -1815. The city has been declared a world heritage city by UNESCO.

With its beautiful Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic and the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens as two of the most significant sights, this bustling city seems to get more and more over crowded every time I visit. This time I negotiated the tedious drive and arrived at a quaint little boutique hotel called Clove Villas. Run by Uditha and Ranjala Illeperuma, the Clove Villas comprises seven tastefully designed and decorated rooms. An outdoor pool, indoor games room and rooftop garden add to make my pit stop enjoyable.

The Temple of the Tooth is the most venerated Buddhist shrine in the world.  The sacred tooth of the left jaw was brought to Sri Lanka during the time of King Meghavanna (301-328). When the tooth relic was first brought to this island it was stored in secrecy in Trincomalee, and later traveled to Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Dambadeniya, Yapahuwa and Kurunegala. The sandesa poems attest its removal to Jayawardenapurakotte when the capital moved there. During the time of King Wimaladharmasuriya (1592-1604) it was brought to Kandy. In 1603, when the Portuguese invaded Kandy and destroyed the Temple of the Tooth whilst challenging the King’s claim to the throne, the guardian monks fled with the relic to Medamahanuwara in Dumbara. Later King Rajasinghe 2 (1629-1687) rebuilt the Temple with a 3-storeyed shrine to accommodate the relic.

Later that day, I took time off to visit the Galmaduwa Viharaya located on the Nattaranpota road along the Kandy Digana road near the Lewella bridge. According to the rock inscription, this beautiful temple was built during King Kirthi Sri Rajasinge’s period (1747-1781 AD) at the request of his queens. Designed on the Hindu architectural taanjore style, the ancient bricks contain masonry marks in Brahmi style belonging to the Anuradhapura period. With seven tiers of stone aches around the main building, the paintings depict scenes of Lord Buddha during this birth. A 27 ft height standing figure of the Buddha is surrounded by walls of paintings as well as the architecture during the King’s reign.

 

The next day, I drove on across the Polgolla Dam and arrived at the Victoria Golf Club in Digana. Designed by Donald Steel, this championship golf course has natural outcrops of rocks surrounded by hillocks that house some architecturally pleasing holiday home.  I stayed at the beautiful Martin House which overlooks the course, the majestic Mahaweli River and a range of mountains in the far distance. Right across is the most breathtaking panoramic view of the Piduruthalagala Mountain, which, at a height of 2524m above sea level is the highest mountain in Sri Lanka. At night, the lights of the Rupavahini Broadcasting tower lights up like a million fireflies. Apart from the incredible views from this peak, this mountain range also offers numerous fauna and flora endemic to Sri Lanka. Also located on the mountain is the stunning Piduruthalagala fall which is 3 kilometres from Boralenda. I was not brave enough to attempt this trek this time. Maybe next time…

The signs of the disparaging drought were evident in the low water levels of the Mahaweli River. The water levels at the eight spillways of the Victoria Dam which we could see from the house were dangerously low and the dry landscape was intermittently charred by brush fires.

Close to the Victoria Golf Club, off the beaten track is the Bambaragala Mountain Range in Wewagama.  This rock was used by forest dwelling monks during pre-Christian times with datable inscriptions going back to the second century BC and first century AD. To date, this monastery belongs to the Asgiriya Viharaya which became the home for the Dimbulagala monks of the 12th century. Climbing up the steep stone steps, I entered the Viharaya to witness the most fascinating rich wall and ceiling paintings belonging to the Kandyan period. Scenes include the four Jatakas stories, figures of the Arahants and 16 places of worship. The Suvisi vivarana (24 declarations), the seven weeks after Lord Buddha’s enlightenment, the 16 sacred sites, Maitri in Tusita heaven and figures of deities cover the walls of this shrine. Inside this place of worship is a recumbent statue, several seated and standing images of the Buddha.

An incumbent priest, overseeing a bevy of Sunday school children, explained that the temple got the name either due to the settlement of pre-historic tribes known as Bambara and Kurumbara or the prevalence of Bambara bees in the mountains.  I lingered long under the caves enjoying the feeling of awe and pure peace until the sun climbed high above me.

En route to Colombo, I stopped at the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens. With an estimated 1.4 million visitors annually, the Gardens  dates as far back as 1371 when King Wickramabahu III ascended the throne and kept court at Peradeniya near Mahaweli River.  Later, in the reign of King Kirti Sri Rajasinghe (1747 to 1780) this was made a Royal Garden and during King Rajadhi Rajasinghe’s time (1780 – 1798) this was turned into a temporary residence for him. After a quick tour, I had to reluctantly leave as time was catching up on me.

It is time to head on back to Colombo. As always, travelling around this country will always be an amazing experience for me, and I cannot wait for the next trip out!

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