Sri Lanka’s most historically interesting town is Galle. It was a major port until about 100 years, but today still handles shipping and sailing boats in the natural harbour.
Stroll around the lighthouse and harbour or visit the old town where you can see the traditional lace makers and wood carvers and purchase some the finest souvenirs.
The Dutch Fort
The South Coast’s major city is Galle, whose oldest landmark is the massive Portuguese and Dutch Fort which is a “World Heritage Site” in which the central city is contained. But the city may be much older. Some scholars believe it to be the “Tarshish” of the Old Testament, to which King Solomon sent his merchant vessels, and to which Jonah fled from the Lord. Today, the 90-acre Galle Fort shows no evidence of the Portuguese founders.The Dutch incorporated the Portuguese northern wall in a great rampart in 1663. A second, taller wall was built inside of it. Between the two walls, a covered passage connected the central bastion with the Fort’s two half bastions overlooking the sea.The Dutch also installed a sophisticated drainage system, complete with brick-lined underground sewers that were flushed twice a day by the high and low tides.The original gate to the fort was by the harbour. It is still there, marked by the British Coat-of-arms on the front and the Dutch V.O.C. (Vereenigde Oost Indische Compagnie) with the Coat-of-arms with a rooster crest, on the inner side of the Fort.
Kandy the hill capital is another “World Heritage Site”. It was the last stronghold of the Sinhalese Kings during the Portuguese, Dutch and British rule and finally ceded to the British in 1815 after an agreement. To the Buddhists of Sri Lanka and the World, Kandy is one of the most sacred sites as it is the home of the “Dalada Maligawa” – Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha. Close by are the remains of the Royal Palace (“Maha Wasala”), “Palle Wasala”- where the Queens stayed-now used for the National Museum, “Meda Wasala” where other close relatives lived, Audience Hall, Natha Devala and Vishnu Devala are situated close by. The Bathing Pavilion (“Ulpenge”) is by the Lake and in the Center of the lake is the Island called “Kiri samudraya” (Milk white ocean) used by the kings as the summerhouse. Today it is the center of Buddhism, Arts, Crafts, Dancing, Music and Culture.
SRI DALADA MALIGAWA – THE TEMPLE OF THE SACRED TOOTH RELIC
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 a relic of Buddha, a tooth, which is venerated by Buddhists. The relic has played an important role in the local politics since ancient times, 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. Kings from 1592 to 1815, fortified the terrain of the mountains and made difficult to approach Kandy. The city is a world heritage site declared by UNESCO, in part 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 of the Sacred Relic with an herbal preparation made from scented water and flagrant flowers, called Nanumura Mangallaya. This holy water is believed to contain healing powers and is distributed among those present.
ROYAL BOTANICAL GARDENS – PERADENIYA
147 acres in extent; Started in 1374 as a pleasure garden of the Kings of Gampola and Kandy. There are more than 5,000 species of trees, plants and creepers. Some rare and endemic as well as flora from the tropical world are found in the gardens. Spice Garden and Orchid House are popular with tourists. There are 5 Palm Avenues beautifying the gardens, the earliest and tallest Palm Avenue (Royal Palm Avenue) was planted in 1905 and the Double Coconuts from the Seashells Island, with the largest seed of all plants in the world is one such avenue.
KANDY ESALA PERAHERA
The Kandy Esala Perahera is an annual event that is held in the mid-summer nights during the months of July / August every year for 10 days ending with the day perahera with the Water-cutting ceremony held at Getembe near Peradeniya on the last day. This gorgeous cultural pageant has history, religion and a nation’s culture mingled in it. This traditional rehearsal of Kandy’s past glory carries a spiritual message too and it also shows the harmonious blending of Buddhism and Hinduism. For a long time a traditional procession was held in honour of the four Hindu Gods, Natha, Vishnu, Skanda and Pattini and during the reign of King Kirti Sri Rajasinghe The Procession of the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic was also added and prominence was given to it by leading the Devala processions. This colourful Kandy Perahera consists of a “Kap” Planting Ceremony (planting the holy stick), followed by 5 days of Kumbal Perahera increasing the splendor by changing the distance and routes, increasing the number of Dancers, Drummers, Elephants everyday and succeeded by the Randoli Perahera which will increase its splendor daily and on the last 3 day more than 100 elephants will take part in the procession. On the last day the Perahera will be held during the Day ending up with the visit to Getembe near Peradeniya where Water Cutting Ceremony will take place. The chiefs in silver and gold ceremonial dress with world famed Kandyan dancers and drummers are notable attractions. However, the highlight of the procession is the richly caparisoned Maligawa Tusker. During the perahera set against the background of a starry tropic night, the ancient city of Kandy echoes and re-echoes, as it certainly did centuries ago, to the tunes of massed drums and flutes, the cracking of whips and the clang of elephants’ bells while the solemn cheers of worship from the enthusiastic spectators are enchanting indeed.
Dambulla Cave Temple is a vast isolated rock mass 500 feet high and a mile around the base. Here is found the famous Rock Temple dating to the First Century B.C. The caves of Dambulla sheltered King Walagamba during his 14 years of exile from Anuradhapura. When he regained the throne he built the most magnificent of Rock Temples to be found in the Island. In the first Cave is a recumbent image of the Buddha 47ft long cut out of the Rock. There are images of deities associated with Buddhism all around. The frescoes on the walls and the ceiling are the oldest here but they are over painted in the Kandy period. In the Second Cave, the finest and the largest of all, there are 150 life-size statues of the Buddha in various postures with few statues of Gods and Kings. The ceiling is also covered with frescoes, which depict great events in the life of the Buddha and landmarks in the history of the Sinhalese people.
Sigiriya is a “World Heritage Site” and the 5th Century “Fortress in the Sky” which is perhaps the most fantastic single wonder of the Island. It is also known as Lion Rock because of the huge lion that used to stand at the entrance to the Palace on the summit of the 600-foot high rock. On its summit are the foundations of the Royal Palace, Water Tanks to supply water and all other buildings and at the edges the guardhouses. On one of the stairways the only known ancient work of Sinhala secular painting survived in the form of Frescoes of 21 life sized damsels still shining in their original colours. The Water Gardens, Fountain Garden, Summerhouses, Boulder Gardens and the Caves within the enclosed area should not be missed.
Polonnaruwa is another “World Heritage Site” was the Capital of Sri Lanka from 11th – 13th Centuries, contains some splendid and spectacular statues. Lankatilake, Tivanka and Thuparama are the most beautiful and largest Image Houses and Tivanka has the best examples of frescoes of the Polonnaruwa period. Rankoth Vehera and Kirivehera are well preserved large stupas, and Gal Vihare – a rock shrine, has four Buddha statues, two seated, one standing and one reclining and Parakrama Bahu statue are examples of Sinhalese stone carver. The Vata-da-ge is a unique creation of the Sri Lankan artists. The medieval capital, Polonnaruwa was fortified with inner & outer moats and inner & outer walls. The Parakrama Samudra is on the western side of the city.The Royal Palace, Audience Hall and other buildings in the inner city were enclosed by another tall wall.
he capital of Sri Lanka from the 05th Century B.C. to the end of the 10th Century A.D. was the most celebrated of Sri Lanka’s ancient ruined cities. The city’s greatest treasures are its dagobas constructed of bricks and are hemispherical in shape. The most notable of these dagobas are the Ruvanveliseya dating back to the 2nd Century B.C. and is 300 feet in diameter, the Jetawanarama is 370 feet and the Thuparama Dagoba is enshrined with the collarbone of the Buddha. The city’s most renowned relic is the sacred Bo Tree, which is said to have grown from a branch of the tree under which the Buddha gained Enlightenment. It was planted 2250 years ago and is the oldest historically authenticated tree in the world. Anuradhapura is a “World Heritage Site”. Anuradhapura Museums: There are 4 Museums at Anuradhapura. They are:- (i). Abhayagiriya Fa-Hsien Museum which contains a very good collection of artifacts found at the sites excavated in the 500 acre Monastery complex. (ii). Jetavanaramaya Museum has a very good collection of items found at the 200-acre site including the largest and tallest dagoba in Sri Lanka. (iii). Archaeological Museum contain large number of statues, other sculpture and many other interesting objects of art collected from the Anuradhapura District. (iv). Folk Museum is near the Archaeological Museum and it houses a collection of objects from the North Central Province, reflecting the rural life of the people.