We were going on a little jaunt today with Herath our guest house owner in his tuk tuk, to look at some of the temples in and around Kandy. The trip out took about an hour but it was great being chauffeured around looking out at all the action. Kandy only has about 100,000 people but it’s roads are crammed with tuk tuks, buses and cars all jostling for position. In our travels around Kandy we only saw one set of traffic lights. The really busy intersections are patrolled by traffic controllers to keep the flow.
After about half an hour we soon found ourselves in the country side winding up and down mountains passing little villages along the way. The first temple Embekka Devale is a Hindu temple that worships the deity Mahasen. It’s stand out feature is its exquisitely carved wooden pillars dating from the 14th Century. Each pillar was hand carved with a different scene. There was a sign out front saying no touching but all the local guides that follow you around explaining them to you for a few bucks go around touching them and you just want to scream at them. Don’t ruin it!
Back in the tuk tuk we headed up and over another mountain to Lankatilake temple which is actually half Buddhist and half Hindu. When we arrived there was a small drumming ceremony taking place so we had to wait 10 mins before entering so we walked around the outside of the building. The building itself is a beautiful white structure with elephant statues at every side. What we didn’t realize is that the temple is built inside this building and the Buddhist temple is entered into from the back. When you walk in you see a massive sitting Buddha in a cave like room with the walls and ceiling covered in frescos. The detail was beautiful and we were assured by Herath that they were the originals dating back to the 14th century. To access the Hindu temple you entered from the front and then walked around the outside of the temple but inside the outer building to each of the four sides which housed a different shrine to a Hindu deity. We were very lucky to have seen this side of the temple because it was locked and we only got in because Herath went and asked for us.
What we have found really refreshing in Sri Lanka is the way the culture respects and embraces both Buddhist and Hindu religions. Almost all Buddhist temples have a shrine for a Hindu deity and most Hindu temples have a Buddha. If you’re Buddhist you will celebrate with your friends their Hindu traditions and then also ones for Muslims and Christians. Indu who is Buddhist has told us how he has had Christmas lunch with his Christian friends for several years in a row now. It’s really fantastic to witness. I know that sounds a bit strange considering the country was locked in Civil War between the Tamils who are predominately Hindu and the Sinhalese who are Buddhist but from what little we have learned about the war it was never about religion but more about the treatment of the Tamils by the government that started the war.
On towards the third temple which had a stupor that housed 4 Buddhas on the four sides within little enclaves. These enclaves were covered in beautiful frescos of Buddha’s life and his path to enlightenment. Again very beautiful and seemingly untouched.
We then headed back towards Kandy and stopped off at a little spice farm where we were shown the Nutmeg tree, pepper tree and clove tree among others. I didn’t know this but the spice Mace is the membrane around the nutmeg seed once it has been cut from its fruit. Tim uses this spice all the time in his making of Indian curries. Also all the four colours black, green, red and white of pepper all come from the same tree. Green is picked green, black is just green but dried, red is the colour of the peppercorn if left on the tree and let ripen. White is just the red peppercorn but peeled. The things we learn. Or maybe everyone else knew that except for us!
We hadn’t finished yet but were taken up to the big Buddha which sits majestically on a hill overlooking Kandy. We have been to a few now but at 88 feet tall I think this has been the largest so far in Sri Lanka. Unfortunately the top level was shut off so we didn’t get the full view over the city but it was still lovely.
Herath then dropped us off in the middle of town as we wanted to go see the most famous Buddhist temple in all of Sri Lanka. But we were detained for well over an hour as the heavens suddenly opened and torrential rain poured down. But we found a cafe and sat back and had a late lunch and several pots of tea. So we were pretty happy.
Although the rain hadn’t stopped fully we didn’t want to miss out on seeing the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic so we headed for the entrance in our rain jackets. Tim was stopped before the entrance as he was wearing shorts which hadn’t been a problem previously but easily fixed as we just went around the corner and purchased a sarong which a lot of the men wear here. He even got shown the correct way of tying it from the man at the shop.
We were soon back heading into the temple. The entire complex is massive with several other temples and museums. But the main attraction is the tooth temple which houses a tooth of the Buddha taken from his pyre. The relic was closely tied with the royalty in Sri Lanka and the people believed that if you were in possession of the tooth then you were fit to rule. So over the years it has been stolen and stolen back by several of the Royal families. The English even treated the tooth with respect and reverence as they realized the importance of the tooth for The Sri Lankan people and that if they kept the tooth in Sri Lanka it would make their ruling of the county a little easier.
When you first walk in you pass through an elaborately carved entrance then into a covered courtyard which has the tooth temple in the middle. The temple itself is three stories and has beautifully carved wooden pillars and painted ceilings. It reminded us a lot of the buildings we saw in China. The design and detail were spectacular. In order to access the tooth room you go up a staircase onto the first floor where behind a door and in a casket is the relic. You never actually see the tooth. In this room there were locals sitting and praying on the floor and giving offerings to the tooth.
Due to the rain and the fact that we had already seen 4 other temples and were a little templed out by the time we got here. It was definitely worth the effort and braving the rain! S
The Hindu temple entrance.
One of the carvings up close. Still looking this good after around 700 years of weathering.
Carvings on the ceiling beams.
The second temple.
The Buddha in the second temple. We have been asking if we could take photos in the temples and have mostly been allowed. The big no no in The Buddhist temples is to take a photo with a person in front of the Buddha. You should never have a photo with you’re back to the Buddha. You should also never take a photo of the back of the Buddha.
Some of the amazing paintings inside the temple on the walls and ceilings.
One of the Buddhas in the third temple. Untouched except for the fact that someone decided to pretty up the place and tile the floor.
Offering to the Buddha. According to Herath only flowers that have a nice smell can be offered to the Buddha.
The nutmeg fruit. The red membrane on the left is Mace. Apparently the best nutmeg comes when you let the fruit drop from the tree because then the seed is brown. But if you pick earlier the seed is green and you have to dry it, thus decreasing the strength of the nutmeg.
Some of the frescos around the tooth temple.
Behind the Tooth temple you enter a a long hall which has Buddha statues lining the walls and the story of the tooth relic on the upper walls.
Tim in his sarong standing in front of the museum.
The room holding the tooth relic.