Updated on May 6, 2020
Day 7 of Sri Lanka Trip, Kandy on July 17, 2017
Seventh day of our Sri Lanka trip.
We would be staying in Kandy for the whole day, visiting the Temple of the Tooth and other temples scattered around the city and enjoying the amenities of a modern city that we haven’t really experienced before in our visit to Sri Lanka.
For the first time during our trip, I think I need to say something about our accommodation in Kandy.
By the large, I wasn’t very pleased with the hotels in Sri Lanka. They are just like everything else in this country, in a pretty much primitive state, it’s like the Sri Lankans painted the walls and fitted the room with two beds and a television and an aircon would make the most basic hotel rooms, and that’s it, if they bothered to dig a swimming pool it would be considered “premium”.
Well, that’s fine with me, as my hotel room would be the least probably place I’d explore of this country. But I was so excited when I came across this apartment listed on Airbnb. To begin with, it came with a balcony overlooking Bogambara Lake and the Temple of the Tooth. I bet there won’t be a better view in town than this. Then, it came with wooden floors, proper furniture, a full-size kitchen that we could cook, dozens of sofa chairs that we could relax. It’s just on a different level of experience compared with the other hotels we stayed at, and a true home away from home. And it came with a modest price tag of 120 dollars per night plus service fees with enough room for six adults, it’s just amazing.
The only downside was that, although the apartment seemed pretty much air-tight, bugs were perpetually popping out of nowhere, didn’t know why.
Unfortunately during last night, some illness struck one of my friends on the trip. So we took her to a nearby hospital and tended to her that morning. So our actual tour of the city began that afternoon, which wasn’t too bad considering we had plenty of time for the city.
Well, as for lunch, Google wasn’t as useful as we expected it to be in Sri Lanka, so when we searched for nearby restaurants, the only satisfying result was this “Muslim Hotel”.
With hindsight, even in a large city like Kandy, dining options for foreigners were rare. And this “Muslim Hotel” seemed to be the most modestly priced.
And yes, I used quotes because the only thing halal about this restaurant was its name, as my friends were more than convinced that they found pork in their dishes.
And maybe its wait time. We waited for more than 40 minutes for our dishes to be served, I guess maybe it’s mid-day prayer time for the “muslims”.
And strangely, unlike other restaurants in Sri Lanka which too took forever to prepare the dishes, this “Muslim Hotel” chose to serve our drinks in the last, which left us cellphone-gaming with empty tables for more than half an hour.
After lunch, we made our way to the Temple of the Sacred Tooth, passing Lord Kataragama Temple first, which is an Indian temple located among Kandy’s bustling commercial district.
Lord Kataragama Temple
A temple devoted to Murugan, the god of war, with six heads and 12 hands wielding weapons.
Some impressions of Lord Kataragama Temple, first we found one of its walls with hanging portraits of various Hindu Gods decorated lavishly with flashing LED lights, which we weren’t so used to in this rather primitive nation. And second the lady guarding the entrance booth kindly offered baskets (instead of stalls) for us to store our shoes, and a cloak for one of our ladies to meet religious dressing standards, and after all these, she asked us for “donations” without specifying a specific amount as “shoe storing fee”, which was also very un-Sri Lankan.
After that, we made our way to the Temple of the Sacred Tooth where more temples were located.
While walking on the streets of downtown Kandy, I found it most peculiar that local clothing stores were selling school uniforms, which is basically a most average white shirt with name of the school sewed onto it. But I guess in this way the school and the clothing store were making a fortune by selling these uniforms at a premium, I suppose.
After that, we visited St. Paul’s Church, an Anglican church located among the Buddhism temples.
St. Paul’s Church
Construction of this impressive red-brick colonial-era church began in 1843 and was completed five years later. Built in neo-Gothic style, it originally served as a garrison church for British troops based nearby.
Brief Visit of Tooth Temple Perimeter
After that we paid a brief visit to the perimeter of the Temple of the Sacred Tooth. It’s that some of my friends were feeling tired (as we barely slept last night), and we learned that (the container of) the Tooth would only be on display in the evening, so figured probably we should come back later in the day.
There’s a square just outside the moat of the Temple of the Tooth, where Buddhism temples were scattered, so we paid it a visit.
And at the backyard of one of the temples, we saw there was this elephant being raised and there were workers washing its body. Guess he’s here for some festival activities in the night.
After that, we visited the nearby Vishnu Devalaya-kandy.
The Vishnu Devale is reached by carved steps and features a drumming hall. The great Hindu god Vishnu is the guardian of Sri Lanka, demonstrating the intermingling of Hinduism and Buddhism.
Unfortunately, the inner halls of Vishnu Devalaya seemed to be closed at the moment, so we left and headed back to our apartment.
Then, we took some rest in our apartment and fast forward to 6 pm, when our driver told us the Sacred Tooth would be on display. So we went out again for Temple of the Sacred Tooth.
Temple of the Sacred Tooth
It houses the relic of the tooth of the Buddha. Since ancient times, the relic has played an important role in local politics because it is believed that whoever holds the relic holds the governance of the country. Kandy was the last capital of the Sri Lankan kings and is a World Heritage Site mainly due to the temple.
The two storeys of the main shrine are known as “Palle malaya” (lower floor) and “Udu malaya” (upper floor) or “Weda hitina maligawa”. The actual chamber which the tooth relic is kept is known as the “Handun kunama”.
At first, we didn’t get the idea of our driver, as we thought he meant that there would be “rituals” in the evening, which we took to be this drum performance in front of Handun Kunama. But basically what these drummers did was to beat the drums in a repetitive and hardly musical way to show the significance of the moment, tops. The actual display of the Tooth container was on the second floor.
And to basically summarized the second floor. There were two lines, one for sincere worshippers and one for casual visitors (like me). The line for sincere worshippers was much longer (meandered all the way down to the first floor), with mostly local people holding offerings (lotus flowers) and foreign visitors holding cameras (quite ironic), and it got you closer to the Tooth (container) where a dedicated monk would take your offerings and give you blessings (guess he would not instruct you how to take wonderful pictures of the Tooth). The line for casual visitors was much shorter, which stayed farther from the Tooth and at times was equally crowded.
And you know which line I would join for someone as lazy as me. But the good thing was that one of my friend got into the closer line and took some photos of the Tooth container. Maybe I will ask her for the photos one day and post it here.
Right next to Handun Kunama was this Temple of the Tooth Museum, with arrays of Buddha Statues guarding frescos telling the convoluted story about how the Tooth made its way from India to the island nation of Sri Lanka and then got transferred among Kings as power shifted among them.
Temple of the Tooth used to be part of Kandy’s Royal Palace. A previous photo in the day showed the main palace building, but now it’s in the evening and that building was closed to visitors, so we just roamed the rest of the Tooth temple building.
Before we left we paid a brief visit to its Pattirippuwa (Octagon).
It has been a pleasant experience visiting Temple of the Sacred Tooth so far, until I got back to the shoe racks and was asked 100 rupees for “storage fee”, which I furiously denied. To begin with, the standard shoe storage fee for Sri Lanka temples was 20 rupees (0.13 USD), and in all previous occasions there’s a clear sign stating this fee, which wasn’t for this temple. Although the workers didn’t seem any persistent on that 100 rupee fee and seconds later I got back my shoes without paying.
References: Lonely Planet Web
- (in Sinhalese, Tooth Temple part) Seneviratna, Anuradha (1989). “Dalada Maligawa”. In Vethara Mahinda Thera. Kanda Udarata Mahanuwara (Sinhala translation ed.). Colombo: Ministry of Cultural affairs (Sri Lanka).