20 February 2013

Kandy Land: The Three Temple Loop

 A rolling Buddha gathers no moss. (So not this one.)
Kandy is the cultural capital of Sri Lanka, and most visitors to the country choose to spend at least a few nights there, visiting the Temple of the Tooth (where it is alleged that one of the Buddha's teeth resides), taking in some Kandyan dance and making the day trip to Sigiria. As this was the final stop of my blissed out Christmas "escape from Kathmandu" we ended up booking four nights in order to be able to rest and relax, and so that I could have some quality time with my mum.

As a result, we had time to really soak in the ambiance and attractions that really make Kandy a special place - the
Ceylon Tea Museum, Helga's Folly Hotel (one of the strangest places I have ever been - more on that another time), the Royal Botanical Gardens and the Three Temple Loop.

One morning we set out to do the 'Loop' - relishing the chance to get out into the countryside surrounding Kandy and explore some of the ancient Hindu and Buddhist temples nestled in the hills. Though some folks choose to do this as one long-ass walk, we hired a driver for the trip, and it was well worth the extra cost.

We visited three temples: Gadaladeniya, Lankatilaka and Embekke. Though ostensibly Hindu temples, each had a strong Buddhist presence (Hindus believe that the Buddha was the ninth incarnation of Vishnu, so he wasn't
that out of place). Here are some of the most striking images of the day!

You go, girl.

A lotus flower pokes up out of a murky pond at Gadaladeniya, a temple built in 1344 on a rough shield of rock. Depending on who you ask, lotuses symbolize purity, overcoming challenges and/or enlightenment because they must fight their way through muck and yet they emerge a stunning flower. It was a lovely way to start the day.
Waterfight! Oh. No? That's offensive? Oh. 

After touring the interior of the shrine and circumambulating the stupa, I encountered these multi-coloured plastic vessels scattered about the backside of the temple. They are filled with the water that is used for Hindu puja (prayers), and they totally reminded me of a Fisher Price kitchen.

Best part m'day.

To be honest, this was probably my favourite part of the day. This little guy followed me around the temple grounds,  squeaking and tumbling and being the puppiest puppy ever. The old men at the temple tried to tell me to take him with me, and my mum was like "Do. Not. Tempt. Her."

Serious Business.

They kind of look like hipster ladies with stretched ears. Did I meet you guys in Portland?

A huge Buddha and sculpted apsaras at the Lankatilaka Temple. This was the largest of the three sites that we visited, a vast complex spread out on a hilltop overlooking the valley. Huge Sinhalese and Tamil inscriptions were painstakingly carved into the rock in the 14th century, and many stupas and buildings cover the grounds. There were also fantastic shops outside of the gates, and my mum bought some carvings from a local artisan.

Anyone have a bobbypin?
Dirty Dancing? Nobody puts Parvati in the corner! (sorry.)

The third temple on the loop is the most famous - Embekke Devalaya. This is the only site of the three that has no Buddhist presence, and is dedicated to Murugan, a Hindu god popular in the South - (I have always loved him because he rides a peacock. And he's green!) Murugan is Ganesha's brother and the son of Shiva and Parvati- that's a pretty kickass family tree

The temple is most famous for its Drumming Hall, a wooden structure that was painstakingly carved in the 14th century. Each ebony pillar is decorated with intricate carvings of animals, dancers and musicians - it was a whimsical place, and well worth the trip.

Kandy is one of those cities that people either love or hate, and I have a sneaking suspicion that those who dislike it are the ones who breeze through and don't give it a chance to charm them. So stay a few extra days - soak it all in, enjoy the art, and make sure you schedule some time for the three temple loop.

After all, you might meet this guy. Isn't that enough incentive?

Little Kandy dog. I'd name him Gum Drop. Or Sugarpie. Or Wayne.


Anonymous said...

Wow! Jessica! Nice! Really special. Well done.


Hi, I love your blog and thought you'd be the perfect person to ask for travel advice. I've always travelled independently, but have never ventured beyond Europe and N. America (except to travel to the Asian side of Istanbul).

I'm now thinking of travelling to Sri Lanka. Do you think this is a good starting point for someone who is a complete novice to travelling outside 'the West'?

Thanks and keep on a'blogging! :)