Chief city of the Province of Kandy.
Sacred City of Kandy
Administration and religion.
Location and site
Located in the centre of southern Sri Lanka and in the midst of hills of rare vegetal species, the Kandy Valley crosses an area of tropical plantations.
The small city of Kandy, located 500 m. above sea level, is filled with trees. Its plan developed around two open spaces: an elongated square at the end of which are the administration buildings of the old capital, and an artificial lake that is quadrangular in form. A public garden adds to the openness of the city’s spatial organisation.
On the north shore of the lake, which is enclosed by a parapet of white stone dating to the beginning of the 19th century, are the city’s official religious monuments, including the Royal Palace and the Temple of the Tooth, known as the Dalada Maligawa. Reconstructed in the 18th century, the Dalada Maligawa is built on a base of granite that was inspired by the temples of Sri Lanka’s former capital city, Anuradhapura. An array of materials – limestone, marble, sculpted wood, ivory, etc. – contribute to the richness of this temple. Throughout this small but holy city, a number of recent Buddhist monasteries can be found.
The monumental ensemble of Kandy is an example of construction that associates the Royal Palace and the Temple of the Tooth. It was one of a series of temples built in the places where the relic, the actual palladium of the Singalese monarchy, was brought following the various relocations of the capital city. (IV) The Temple of the Tooth, the palace complex and the holy city of Kandy are associated with the history of the dissemination of one of the most important religions of humanity, Buddhism. The Temple of Kandy is the product of the last peregrination of the relic of the tooth of Buddha and the testimony of a cult which continues to be practised today. (VI)
- In the 6th century B.C., Indo-Europeans from the Ganges Valley invaded Sri Lanka. Ancestors of the Singalese, they ruled the island for more than 2,000 years.
- Beginning in the 3rd century B.C., the country was converted to a pure form of Indian Buddhism that would continue to be practised in the future. The famous tooth of Buddha, a relic symbolising a 4th-century tradition that is often linked to royalty, was brought to Sri Lanka. From this time on, the Royal Palace and the Temple of the Tooth have been associated with the administrative and religious functions of Sri Lanka’s capital city.
- Anuradhapura enjoyed the status of capital city from the 4th century B.C. until the 8th century A.D., when it was replaced by Polonnaruwa, which was capital until the 13th century. From 1592 until the 19th century, Kandy was the capital city and thus the home of the Royal Palace and the Temple of the Tooth.
- Conquered by the Portuguese in the 16th century and by the Dutch in the 17th century, Kandy preserved its independence until it finally submitted to the British in 1815.
- Since then, Kandy has preserved its function as the religious capital of Sri Lanka and a place of pilgrimage for practioners of the original form of Buddhism.