Kandy, the last kingdom with independent monarchy once home for great kings and queens of Sri Lanka today is a welcoming beacon for tourists around the world.
From the day it became a kingdom to this date, the cultural and historical value each milestone the city has passed within the last 6 centuries added to the city of Kandy is something worth exploring.
After all, it’s not the glory but the story that enhances the value of any tourist attraction you visit. So, here we have compressed the 6 centuries-long story of Kandy into a few minutes read for those who are interested in learning more about Kandy.
History of Kingdom of Kandy
- According to the evidence reported, the history of the area dates back to the period before Christ’s birth.
- The first city of Kandy was founded by the Kind Wikcramabahu III 1357 AD who rules the area from 1357AD-1374 AD in Gampola era while the capital of Sri Lanka was Kotte at the time.
- Because of the influence of the Portuguese, royals adopt the Kingdom in Kandy as the 8th Capital of Sri Lanka in 1592.The first king who ruled the island from Kandy was King Wimaladarmasooriya I.
- The first European nation arrived at Sri Lanka, Portuguese who the local Kandiyans reported to the king as’ white people who eat white stones and drink blood, give a gold coin for a fish, or a lime, and have a instrument that created thunder and lightning that throws a ball put into it many miles away that break a castle of iron’ referring to the white bread and red wine and canons they had, were the main enemy of the kingdom.
- As the first nation who tried to intrude Sri Lanka, Portuguese came to contact with the Kingdom for the first time in the early part of the 6th century leading several battles against the King in Kandy which gained a lot of progressions. Yet, the Kandiyans were able to protect the kingdom from Portuguese attracts for 150 years which is a long time. Main factors for their victory was the advantage of geographic hill terrain, guerrilla warfare, and the talent in the metal industry which they use to make guns that they never had copying the weapons Portuguese had left accidentally after attracts.
- In the meantime Kings of the Kandy were changed but the strength of the Kingdom remained the same until the death of King Vijayabahu in 1521AD.After his deaths, the Kandyan Kingdom split into three parts among three sons of the dead king namely Buwanekabahu I, Raigama Bandara and Mayadunne naming their areas as Kingdom of Kotte, Raigama and Sithawaka respectively.
- Since the Portuguese attacks were such a headache to the Kingdom the King of Sithawaka at the time, sought the help of Dutch to expel the Portuguese from the Island making an alliance in 1522. By this time Sithawaka was the only resistance against the Portuguese as the other two brothers showed their loyalty to the Europeans. However, the alliance between Dutch and Kandyans ended after Portuguese and forces of King of Kotte invade the Sithawaka Kingdom.
- While Portuguese were trying different strategies to turn royals and noblemen around to the throne in Kandy to their side, the resistance was there in Kandy all the time under different kings.
- The resistance eventually united around Konnappu Bandara who later coronated as the King of Kandy under the name of Wimaladarmasooriya I, marrying the heir to the throne Kusumasana Devi or Dona Catherina who embraced Christianity falling under Portuguese worship between 1591 -1594.He managed to bring the sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha-a symbol of royal authority among Sinhalese to Kandy which was outside the Kingdom building the present world famous temple of the tooth.
- Battles and attacks between the Kandyan kings and Portuguese kept continuing until King Rajasinghe II made an alliance with the Dutch again in 1638 to expel the Portuguese from the island. But this alliance also didn’t last long. It fell apart in the 1640s.
- Then again in 1650, Dutch and Kandiyans joined their forces to expel the Portuguese from the island. Though the both parties manage to maintain their alliance after expelling Portuguese from the Island it was clear for everyone that the two parties never was on the same page with each other, thus the Kandyan Kingdom declared war against the Dutch in 1736.
- Though there was peace between the Dutch and Kandiyans from time to time, raids and incursions into both territories were frequent until the British seize the island from the Dutch in 1796.
- Kandiyans and the British also didn’t get along so much and this led them to war. Regardless of the weaponry and the war tactics the British had, they couldn’t secure the Kandyan territory for themselves.
- But, in 1815 British conquered the Kandyan kingdom with an agreement called ‘Kandyan Convention’ signed by British governor and noblemen of Kandyan Kingdom as Kandiyans wanted to deposition their king at the time, King Sri Wikrama Rajasinghe (The last king of Sri Lanka). With the agreement, the time of a powerful kingdom no European nation couldn’t conquer with wars ended and the British become the first nation to conquer the entire island.
- The agreement lasted only for three years and the first struggle for freedom arose under the leadership of Kandyan leaders and continued until Sri Lanka gained freedom in 1948.
From the day Sri Lanka received freedom to the modern day, Kandy had gone through a lot of changes socially, culturally and economically still preserving the royalty and the bravery at its finest. As the last kingdom of Sri Lanka and the present home of the sacred tooth of Lord Buddha which Sinhalese still consider as the main symbol of royalty all the Sri Lankan’s have a great respect for Kandy.
The importance of the city to all the Sri Lankans, especially to the Buddhists made it a top target for the LTTE terrorists during the Sri Lanka civil war. In 1998 the sacred temple of the tooth exposed to one massive truck bomb and three suicide bomb blasters severely damaging the temple and the hearts of all Buddhists around the world.
With a proud history and a grand heritage that runs back to several centuries, today the name of Kandy has gone beyond the corners of the island, grabbing the attention of the nomads around the world.
The temple of the tooth being the main highlight of the city, Kandy has a diversity of attraction to please anyone and everyone no matter what their interests are and their budget is. Along with its modern line of hotels, restaurants, bars, shopping centers and other entertaining facilities the city of Kandy is a perfect tourist destination to spend a holiday as royals do while exploring the grandeur of the city.