Kandy, known as Maha Nuvara in Sinhala, stands as a major city in Sri Lanka, nestled in the Central Province. It holds the distinction of being the island nation’s second-largest city, following Colombo. Situated amidst hills on the Kandy plateau, the city boasts a picturesque landscape dominated by tropical plantations, particularly tea. Serving both administrative and religious purposes, Kandy is the capital of the Central Province and is renowned for the Sri Dalada Maligawa, also known as the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. This Buddhist temple, located within the former royal palace complex of the Kingdom of Kandy, houses the revered relic of Buddha’s tooth, which holds great significance in local politics due to the belief that its custodian governs the country.

The city has been referred to by various names throughout history, with Senkadagala or Senkadagalapura being among the most notable. According to folklore, the name Maha Nuvara, meaning “Great City,” originated from diverse sources, including a brahmin named Senkanda, a queen named Senkanda, and a colored stone named Senkadagala. Kandy served as the last capital of the Sri Lankan kings and is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, primarily due to the presence of the temple.

In 1592, Kandy ascended to the status of capital city, becoming the stronghold of the island’s last independent kingdom following Portuguese conquests along the coastal regions. Despite invasions by the Portuguese, Dutch, and later the British, Kandy managed to fend off foreign domination until 1815 when the Kandyan Convention was signed, marking the island’s surrender to British rule.

Geographically, Kandy is situated in the mountainous interior of Sri Lanka, surrounded by mountain ranges such as the Knuckles and Hanthana. At an elevation of 500 meters (1,600 feet) above sea level, it overlooks the scenic Kandy Lake and lies adjacent to the Udawatta Kele Sanctuary. The city has expanded to encompass neighboring areas like Peradeniya, home to the renowned University of Peradeniya and the Royal Botanical Garden.

Speaking of which, the Royal Botanical Garden in Peradeniya, located just 5.5 km west of Kandy, attracts millions of visitors annually with its vast collection of plant species, including orchids, spices, and medicinal plants. During the Second World War, the garden served as the headquarters of the South East Asia Command under Lord Louis Mountbatten, showcasing its historical significance.

In addition to its rich historical and religious significance, Kandy boasts several other notable attractions. Embekka Devalaya, located about 7 – 8 km from the Colombo-Kandy main road, showcases exquisite wood carvings and serves as a testament to the country’s architectural heritage. Gadaladeniya Rajamaha Viharaya, dating back to the 14th century, exhibits a blend of South Indian design and traditional Sri Lankan architecture. With its large stone pillars and ancient Buddha image, it offers visitors a glimpse into the region’s cultural past. The majestic Lankatilaka Raja Maha Viharaya, situated atop a large rock named “Panhalgala,” offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape and features elegant architectural design and vibrant wall paintings dating back to the Kandyan period. These three sites, along with the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, contribute to Kandy’s allure as a cultural and historical hub in Sri Lanka.