Central Province

Kandy

Historical records suggest that Kandy was first established by the King Wickramabahu (1357-1374 CE) near the Watapuluwa area, north of the present city, and it was named Senkadagalapura at the time, although some scholars suggest the name ‘Katubulu Nuwara’ may also have been used. The origin of the more popular name for the city, Senkadagala, could have been from a number of sources. These include naming it after a brahmin named Senkanda who lived in a cave near the city, after a queen of King Wickramabahu named Senkanda or after a coloured stone named Senkadagala.

In 1592 Kandy became the capital city of the last remaining independent kingdom in Sri Lanka after the coastal regions had been conquered by the Portuguese. Invasions by the Portuguese and the Dutch (16th, 17th and 18th century) and also by the British (most notably in 1803) were repelled. The last ruling dynasty of Kandy was the ‘Nayaks’ of Kandy while the Kingdom preserved its independence until it finally fell to the British in 1815. The British deposed the king, Sri Wikrama Rajasingha, and all claimants to the throne, thus ending the last traditional monarchy of Sri Lanka, and replacing it with their monarchy. As the capital, Kandy had become home to the relic of the tooth of the Buddha which symbolises a 4th-century tradition that used to be linked to royalty since the protector of the relic was seen fit to rule the land.
Thus, the Royal Palace and the Temple of the Tooth were associated with the administrative and religious functions of the capital city.

The Sri Dalada Maligawa or the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic is a temple in the city of Kandy in Sri Lanka. It was built within the royal palace complex which houses the only surviving relic of Buddha, a tooth, which is venerated by Buddhists. The relic has played an important role in the local politics since ancient times and it’s believed that whoever holds the relic holds the governance of the country, which caused the ancient kings to protect it with great effort. Kandy was the capital of the Sinhalese Kings from 1592 to 1815, fortified by the terrain of the mountains which was difficult to approach. The city is a world heritage site declared by UNESCO, partly due to the temple. Monks of the two chapters of Malwatte and Asgiriya conduct daily ritual worship in the inner chamber of the temple, in annual rotation. They conduct these services three times a day: at dawn, at noon and in the evening. On Wednesdays there is a symbolic bathing (Nanumura Mangallaya) of the Sacred Relic with a herbal preparation made from scented water and fragrant flowers.





Dambulla

The caves of Dambulla, like the Mihintale caves, were occupied in very early times by Budd¬hist hermits. The antiquity of this place has been authenticated by the presence of pre-Christian inscriptions in Brahmi character immediately below the drip-ledge of the central cave. One of these inscriptions records: “Damarakita teraha lene agata anagata catu disa sagas dine. Gamani abaya rajiyahi karite” (The cave of the Elder Dlmamma-rakkita, given to the Community of the four quarters, present or future. In the reign of Gamani Adhaya.) The shape of the letters of all the short inscriptions in Brahmi form at Dambulla is distinctly those of the first century B. C, At that time there was only one king known as Abhaya, also known as Vattagamani Abhaya (89-77B. C.). this leaves no doubt that the king Abhaya referred to in the above quoted inscription Vattagamani Abhaya. Dambulla became a popular place of residence of Buddhist monks at least from the reign of this king. Vattagamani Abhaya is one of the few kings of ancient Sri Lanka whose name and fame are not dependent on the written records. To him are credited by the common people of the country tile numerous caves with drip-ledges which were abodes of Buddhist monks in ancient days. As we have seen, one or two of these caves like Dambulla do, in fact, bear inscriptions with the royal name which is attributed to him.

According to tradition Vattagamani Abhaya, who fled from his kingdom, Anuradhapura, when it was invaded by south Indians, was helped by the monks residing in caves like Dambulla. The Mahavamsa records that the Buddhist scriptures were first committed to writing by Buddhist monks at Aluvihara in the reign of this king. This can be taken as substantial evidence to show that great caves like Dambulla and Aluvihare in the central part of the Island were residing places of Buddhist monks during this early period and were also patronized by the kings of Anuradhapura.

Tradition also has it that the five seated Buddha images including the principal one in Cave. No 4 of Dambulla temple were made of natural rock in the reign of Vattagamani Abhaya. It is also believed that some of the images in Cave No. 2 and the principal images in cave No. 1 were made during the reign of this king. As no Buddha images found in Sri Lanka can be ascribed to the period before the first century A.C., no credence can be attached to this tradition. But this does not bar the possibility that at least some of the images in these caves were made during the later Anuradhapura period, i.e. during and after the eighth century A.C. Unfortunately these cannot be identified because of the repairs and renovations, undertaken, in succeeding periods.

 





Sigiriya

The palace is located in the heart of the island between the towns of Dambulla and Habarane on a massive rocky plateau 370 meters above the sea level. Sigiriya rock plateau, formed from magma of an extinct volcano, is 200 meters higher than the surrounding jungles. Its view astonishes the visitors with the unique harmony between the nature and human imagination. The fortress complex includes remnants of a ruined palace, surrounded by an extensive network of fortifications, vast gardens, ponds, canals, alleys and fountains. The surrounding territories of Sigiriya were inhibited for several thousand years. Since 3th century BC the rocky plateau of Sigiriya served as a monastery. In the second half of the 5th century king Kasyapa decided to construct a royal residence here. After his death Sigiriya again became a Buddhist monastery until the 14th century, when it was abandoned. The main entrance is located in the northern side of the rock. It was designed in the form of a huge stone lion, whose feet have survived up to today but the upper parts of the body were destroyed.

Thanks to this lion the palace was named Sigiriya. The term Sigiriya originates from the word Sihagri, i.e. Lion Rock. The western wall of Sigiriya was almost entirely covered by frescoes, created during the reign of Kasyapa. Eighteen frescoes have survived to this day. The frescoes are depicting nude females and are considered to be either the portraits of Kasyapa’s wives and concubines or priestess performing religious rituals. Despite the unknown identity of the females depicted in the frescoes, these unique ancient paintings are celebrating female beauty and have incredible historical significance. One of the most striking features of Sigiriya is its Mirror wall. In the old days it was polished so thoroughly that the king could see his reflection in it. The Mirror wall is painted with inscriptions and poems written by the visitors of Sigiriya. The most ancient inscriptions are dated from the 8th century. These inscriptions are proving that Sigiriya was a tourist destination more than a thousand years ago. Today, painting on the wall is strictly prohibited.

 





Nuwara Eliya 

Though Nuwara Eliya had been inhabited during the early period of the kingdom of Kandy, the existence of the spectacular “Eliya” (Sinhala: opening or clearing) valley set amidst the wooded green mountains wasn’t known to the Colonial British until the accidental discovery by the colonial civil servant John Davy in the year 1819. However it took another decade for the British to realize the potential of the city as a whole. Governor Edward Barnes converted Nuwara Eliya into a commercial and a coffee planting centre during the 1830s. In the year 1847 the great colonial explorer Samuel Baker introduced the gardening of English vegetables in Nuwara Eliya. To date, Nuwara Eliya is the leading producer of European vegetables in Sri Lanka and it distributes all vegetables to the rest of the island. Following the Coffee Blight in Sri Lanka during the 1870s, the plantation of tea was introduced by Sir James Taylor resulting in the development of the Nuwara Eliya district as the heart of the tea growing region of the central highlands of Sri Lanka, then called Ceylon. The first plantation on experimental stages was established in 1867 at the Loolecondera Estate situated between Kandy and Nuwara Eliya. In the year 1885 the highland railway track was extended to Nanu Oya, a town 5km south of Nuwara Eliya.





Ella 

Rawana Ella Falls are about 6km away on the road south through Ella Gap. They're quite spectacular. Take your swimming costume for a refreshing dip, but beware of the touts selling tourist junk. Unfortunately from mid January 2018 there's police officers blocking access to the waterfall, so the only way to wash yourself in the waters is through a well that's on the right side of the bridge. You can catch frequent buses for about 25 LKR, or better still walk (but catch a bus back up the hill). About half-way down the road you can stop off for a look at the small temple and a cave above it where, according to local legend, Sita was kept as a prisoner before being rescued by Rama. You are also quite likely to meet families of langur monkeys by the roadside.

Demodara Bridge Also called the Nine Arches bridge is a famous bridge situated between Ella and Demodara railway stations. This is a historical brick bridge constructed in 1921 during the colonial rule of the British Empire. Amazingly it is still in use to take trains weighing dozens of tons through the track from Colombo to Badulla and vice versa. Do note that walking along and on the train tracks is standard practice in the island, and also essential for some trekking routes like Ella Rock below. However do NOT try to walk over longer bridges like Nine Arches bridge unless you exactly know the train timetable including the (quite frequent, esp. Badulla-bound) delays. Though the trains ride slowly and horn well ahead, these long bridges have no footpath to escape the train and are simply too long to escape in time on foot when a train comes. Demodara loop tunnel. The sole tunnel in the island where the train tracks cross each other, of course on different levels - close to Demodara station. Most impressive for making a video when a train passes by.


Rawana Ella Falls is about 6km away on the road south through Ella Gap. They're quite spectacular. Take your swimming costume for a refreshing dip, but beware of the touts selling tourist junk. Unfortunately from mid January 2018 there's police officers blocking access to the waterfall, so the only way to wash yourself in the waters is through a well that's on the right side of the bridge. You can catch frequent buses for about 25 LKR, or better still walk (but catch a bus back up the hill). About half-way down the road you can stop off for a look at the small temple and a cave above it where, according to local legend, Sita was kept as a prisoner before being rescued by Rama. You are also quite likely to meet families of langur monkeys by the roadside.

Demodara Bridge Also called the Nine Arches bridge is a famous bridge situated between Ella and Demodara railway stations. This is a historical brick bridge constructed in 1921 during the colonial rule of the British Empire. Amazingly it is still in use to take trains weighing dozens of tons through the track from Colombo to Badulla and vice versa.

Don't walk along and on the train tracks is standard practice in the island, and also essential for some trekking routes like Ella Rock below. However don't  try to walk over longer bridges like Nine Arches bridge unless you exactly know the train timetable including the (quite frequent, esp. Badulla-bound) delays. Though the trains ride slowly and horn well ahead, these long bridges have no footpath to escape the train and are simply too long to escape in time on foot when a train comes.

Demodara loop tunnel The sole tunnel in the island where the train tracks cross each other, of course on different levels - close to Demodara station. Most impressive for making a video when a train passes by.