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Home > Heritage > Kandy

Kingdom of Kandy - Mahanuwara

Temple of tooth relic of Lord Buddha in Kandy

City of Kandy lies in centre of Sri Lanka at a elevation of about 485 metres above sea level and about 116 Kms from Colombo. Generally considered the capital of the hill country, Kandy was the last capital of last generation of Sri Lanka Kings which finally fell under British rule in 1815. The Name Kandy was given by the English as a derivation of “Kanda Uda Rata”. The current Sri Lankan name is “Maha Nuwara” and the historical name of this city is Senkadagalapura.

sunset from Kandy
Sunset seen from Hotel Tree of Life in Kandy

According to folklore the name Senkadagala originated from a Brahmin called Senkadagala who lived in the area or from a queen (called Senkada) of King Wickramabahu or from a coloured stone called Senkada gala.

Senkadagalapura was established as a city by the King Wickramabahu III (of Gampola Era) during his reign from 1357-1374 AD. Senasammata Wickremabahu ascended the throne in the 15th century (1473-1511) making it the new capital of the Kandyan Kingdom. Until the 19th century, Kandy was the capital city and thus the home of the Royal Palace and the Temple of the Tooth relic.

View of the Bathale gala (Bible Rock) through thick mist from Kadugannawa - on the Colombo Kandy route
View of the Bathale Gala (Bible Rock) through thick morning mist from Kadugannawa - on the Colombo Kandy route

Despite fall of coastal regions to the foreign invaders ( Portuguese, Dutch and English) the Kingdom of Kandy managed to hold its independence surviving many invasions due to the torturous access routes through mountains. Kandy finally submitted to the British in 1815 when its chieftains voluntarily submitted to British rule by signing a pact with Britain at the "Magul Maduwa" which stands to this day near the Dalada Maligawa by the Kandy lakeside. The last king of Sri Lanka, King Sri Wickrama Rajasinhe was imprisoned by the British and sent to a prison in India and lived as a prisoner until his death. With his capture, probably the longest Royal Dynasty in the world which survived since 6th century BC (over 2350 years) came to an end .

Even after the invasion, Kandy has managed to preserve its function as the religious capital of Sri Lanka and a place of pilgrimage for practitioners of the most purest form of Buddhism.

View of Kandy City from a Hotel
View of Kandy from Thilanka Hotel in Kandy

Kandy is also popular because of the annual festival known as the " Esala Maha Perahera" in which the Tooth relic of Buddha is taken in a grand procession through the streets of the city. The tooth relic is taken on a royal tusker. The procession includes traditional dancers and drummers, flag bearers of the provinces of the old Kandyan kingdom, the Nilames (temple custodians) wearing their traditional dresses, torch bearers and also the grandly attired elephants. This ceremony which is annually held in the month of July, attracts large crowds fro all parts of the country and many foreign tourists.


Kandy lies in middle of the country built in a small wooded valley deep in the hills around an artificial lake created by the king Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe. Kandy can be reached from Colombo through Kandy Road which is about 3-4 hours drive.

Distances (Km) from
Colombo 116
Anuradhapura 138
Nuwara Eliya 77
Trincomalee 182

A chronological list of Sri Lankan kings who ruled from Kandy [For a full list click here]

Sena Sammatha Wickramabahu Belongs to Kotte Royal Blood line (Ruled Kandy as a semi-indipendent kingdom under the Kotte Kingdom)
Jayaweera Astana Son of Sena Sammatha Wickramabahu. Became a Christian in 1546
Karaliyadde Bandara Son of Jayaweera. Captured the throne from Jayaweera. Became a Christian to get protection from the Portugese.
Dona Catherina (Kusumasana Devi) Daughter of Karaliyedde Bandara. Converted to Catholisum by the Portuguese and appointed the queen of the Kandyan Kingdom by the Portuguese
Rajasinghe I Disposed Dona Catherina. Ruled from Sitawaka Kingdom
Yamasinghe Bandara (Don Phillip) A nephew of Karaliyadde Bandara. Took control of Kandy with the help of the Portuguese  
Wimaladharmasuriya I Name was Konappu Bandara and then Don Juan. Ousted Yamasinghe Bandara's son Don João who was 12 years old and assented to the throne as Wimaladharmasuriya. Became a Buddhist again and married Dona Catherina to establish the Royal Bloodline. Fought the Portuguese and freed Kandy from them. Famous battle of Danture was fought by him.
1592 - 1604
Senarat A cousin brother of king Wimaladharmasuriya I. Was a Buddhist monk and a devoted Buddhist. Didn't have the strength of a king. Married Dona Catherina again to establish the Royal Bloodline
1604 - 1635
Rajasinghe II A warrior king who build up the Kandy again and faced two major battles with the Portuguese and two with the Dutch.
1635 - 1687
Wimaladharmasuriya II Son of Rajasinghe II. Maintained a harmony with the Dutch.
1687 - 1707
Viraparakrama Narendrasinha Son of Wimaladharmasuriya II. Last Singhalese King of the Country
1707 - 1739
Sri Vijaya Rajasinhe

Brother of the Viraparakrama Narendrasinha's queen who was of south Indian Nayakkar origin. Became a buddhist

1739 -1747
Kirti Sri Rajasinhe Brother of the Sri Vijaya Rajasinhe's queen
1747 - 1781
Rajadhi Rajasinhe Brother of Kirti Sri Rajasinhe
1781 - 1798
Sri Wikrama Rajasinhe Last Sri Lankan King. Captured by the British and imprisoned in Vellore, India
1798 - 1815


Places of historical interest in and around Kandy

      1. Ambuluwawa - Gampola
      2. Asgiriya Vihara - Kandy City
      3. Bahirawa Kanda - Kandy City
      4. Bambaragala Aranna - Teldeniya
      5. Dalada Maligawa - Kandy City
      6. Danthre Viharaya - Danthure
      7. Dodanwela Devale - Yati Nuwara
      8. Garison Cemetery - Kandy City
      9. Kandy Lake - Kandy City
      10. Kataragama Devale - Kandy City
      11. Malwatu Maha Vihara - Kandy City
      12. Naga Vimanaya - Kandy City
      13. Natha Devalaya - Kandy City
      14. Pattini Devale - Kandy City
      15. Pusulpitiya Viharaya - Pusulpitiya - Kothmale
      16. Suriyagoda Viharaya - Yati Nuwara
      17. Vishnu Devalaya - Kandy City

Other Interesting places and events in Kandy

      1. Annual Esala Maha Perahera
      2. Peradeniya Botanical Gardens
      3. Udawattekele Sanctuary


Home > Heritage > Kandy

Updated August 24, 2007