Your travel guide for Sri Lanka

The Royal Palace of Kandy is a historic complex that stands as an iconic representation of Sri Lanka's rich past. Situated in the heart of Kandy, this palace combines stunning architecture, important cultural relics, and fascinating history. With sections ranging from royal residences to the globally significant Temple of the Tooth, the palace complex offers visitors a comprehensive look at the country's diverse heritage. Join us as we explore more about this fascinating site and all that it offers.

Historical Overview

Built in the late 14th century, the Royal Palace of Kandy, also known as Maligawa, has been a crucial fixture in Sri Lanka's history. It was originally constructed under the reign of King Vikramabahu III. The palace has undergone several renovations over the centuries, reflecting the tastes and needs of the rulers who occupied it.

The palace gained prominence during the era of the Kandyan Kingdom, the last kingdom in Sri Lanka before British colonial rule. The Kandyan Kingdom was established in the late 15th century and lasted until 1815. Throughout this period, the palace served not just as a royal residence but also as the administrative and ceremonial hub of the Kandyan monarchs.

One of the most notable historical events that took place in the palace was the signing of the Kandyan Convention in 1815. This treaty marked the end of Sri Lanka's independence and the beginning of British colonial rule. The last reigning king, Sri Vikrama Rajasinha, was captured and exiled, and the monarchy was officially dissolved. The British took control of the palace and repurposed some of its structures for administrative functions.

The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic within the palace complex became a symbol of political power and legitimacy. Whosoever had possession of the Sacred Tooth Relic was considered the rightful ruler of the country. This made the palace and the temple exceptionally significant, not just culturally and spiritually but also politically.

In 1948, Sri Lanka gained independence from British rule. Since then, the Royal Palace has been transformed into a museum and cultural site, attracting visitors and scholars interested in Sri Lankan history and culture.

Cultural Significance

The Royal Palace is a significant cultural landmark. It is closely tied to the history and cultural identity of Sri Lanka. 

Besides its historical role as the last royal residence in Sri Lanka, the palace complex is linked with Buddhism due to the presence of the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. This temple is one of the most important pilgrimage sites for Buddhists from Sri Lanka and around the world. The Sacred Tooth Relic is one of the most revered Buddhist relics. Its presence in the palace complex elevates the site's importance, making it a focal point for religious events and rituals.

One of the most significant events that take place at the Royal Palace is the annual Esala Perahera festival. This grand procession is one of the oldest and largest Buddhist festivals in Sri Lanka. It features dancers, musicians, and decorated elephants, drawing hundreds of thousands of pilgrims and spectators. The festival serves to honor the Sacred Tooth Relic and brings together various elements of Sri Lankan traditions, including dance, music, and elephant parades, creating a unique cultural tapestry.

Additionally, the Royal Palace is often used for scholarly research. Academics and students frequent the palace and its associated structures to study traditional Kandyan architecture, ancient governance systems, and historical records. The palace is often cited in scholarly articles, documentaries, and academic theses, emphasizing its role in contributing to the understanding of Sri Lankan culture and history.

Design and Architecture of the Palace

The Kandy Royal Palace was built with several key sections, each with a specific purpose.

Audience Hall

The Audience Hall, also known as the Magul Maduwa, is a place where the king met with his ministers. Built initially in the 1780s, the structure later saw extensions by the British. The hall is supported by elegantly carved wooden pillars and showcases Kandyan architectural styles.

King's Palace (Maha Wasala)

Located at the north end of the palace complex, the King's Palace is formally called Maha Wasala. This building served as the residence of the king. The structure has been repurposed and now operates as a museum, highlighting its architectural details like special observation windows.

Queen's Palace (Meda Wasala)

Situated to the north of the Palle Vahale, the Queen's Palace, also known as Meda Wasala, was a residence primarily for the queen. It is constructed of prized timber and has a unique locking mechanism on the door, designed to lock from the inside only.

Lower Palace (Palle Vahale)

The Lower Palace served as the residence for royal concubines. Its design includes a central courtyard and windows made from wooden poles. It has been transformed into the National Museum of Kandy and is currently overseen by the Department of National Museums.

Royal Armoury (Ran Ayuda Maduwa)

Located beyond the Meda Wasala, the Royal Armoury building has a central porch supported by timber columns. This building is now used for the District Courts of Kandy.

Queen's Bathing Pavilion (Ulpange)

Built in 1806, the Ulpange, or the Queen's Bathing Pavilion, is situated by Kandy Lake. It has two levels; the upper level was a dressing chamber, and the lower level was for bathing. The structure is built in stone and is embraced by the lake on three sides.

Wahalkadas (Main Gateways)

The palace complex was surrounded by a wall that had three main gateways, known as "wahalkada." These stood at a height of 2.4 meters and were key entrances to the palace.

Temple of the Tooth Relic

Inside the palace complex is the globally significant Temple of the Tooth. This temple houses a tooth relic of Buddha and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Visitor Experience

A tour of the Royal Palace provides a comprehensive understanding of Sri Lanka’s cultural heritage. Guided tours are available, and they offer deep insights into the history and architecture of the site. The palace complex has well-maintained gardens. Here, visitors can enjoy a peaceful walk. For spiritual seekers, the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic offers a tranquil space for reflection and prayer.

Entry Fees and Timings

The Royal Palace is open to the public from 9 AM to 4 PM for 6 days a week. It is closed on Tuesdays. 

The entry fee for foreign visitors varies depending on the country of origin. It's a good idea to check for the most current information on fees and opening hours.

Location and How to Get There

To get to the Kandy Royal Palace from Kandy, you have multiple options. The palace is about a 15 to 20-minute walk if you follow Sri Dalada Veediya Road towards the Temple of the Tooth. Alternatively, a tuk-tuk or taxi can get you there in around 5 to 10 minutes. Local buses that head towards Sri Dalada Veediya or Temple of the Tooth are another option, although they can be crowded. If you're driving, keep in mind that parking is limited near the palace.

Best Time to Visit

The ideal time to visit the Royal Palace is during the dry season. This period is from December to April. During these months, the weather is generally pleasant. Another good time to visit is during the annual Esala Perahera festival, which usually occurs in July or August.

Tips and Advice

  • Ticket Information: Tickets can be purchased at the entrance. It's a good idea to check the official website for up-to-date pricing and hours.
  • Dress Code: Modest attire is required; shoulders and knees should be covered, especially when visiting the Temple of the Tooth.
  • Tour Guides: Choosing a reliable guide can offer deeper insight into the history and architecture of the palace.
  • Footwear: Taking off shoes is mandatory in certain areas like the Temple of the Tooth, so wear shoes that are easy to remove.
  • Photography: While photography is generally allowed in the palace complex, restrictions apply in certain areas. Always check signage or ask for permission.
  • Local Etiquette: Showing respect to the local customs and traditions is important, especially in religious sites within the palace.

Nearby Attractions

  1. Kandy Lake: This artificial lake is adjacent to the Kandy Royal Palace. It's an ideal place for a relaxing walk or to enjoy a scenic boat ride.
  2. Peradeniya Botanical Gardens: Located around 7 km from the palace, these gardens offer a wide variety of plant species. It's a popular spot for both relaxation and education.
  3. Udawattakele Forest Reserve: This forest reserve offers walking trails and a variety of flora and fauna. Bird watchers will find this destination particularly rewarding.
  4. National Museum of Kandy: This museum offers historical artifacts and provides deeper insights into Sri Lankan history. It's a must-visit for history enthusiasts.
  5. Wales Park: This park is a great spot for families, offering play areas and green spaces for relaxation. It's located around 1.5 km from the Royal Palace.

The Kandy Royal Palace is more than just a historical monument; it's a living archive that showcases Sri Lanka's rich architectural and cultural heritage. A visit to the palace is a well-rounded experience that provides a deep dive into the essence of Kandy and Sri Lanka as a whole. Don't miss the opportunity to visit this remarkable site on your trip to Kandy.

Featured photo by surangw
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