Submitted by alvin on Tue, 2016-08-23 10:18 Mahawali riverMy decision to visit Sri Lanka was an impulsive one. I had four days to spare and didn’t know how to utilise them. So when my friend Ramu told me he was going to Kandy, I accepted his invitation to join him. On arrival at the Colombo airport, we proceeded directly to Kandy by road. The three-hour journey was spectacular, as we passed through rugged mountains, deep valleys, and green fields. All along the route, we would see stalls selling fruits, vegetables, knickknacks, and tea.We reached Kandy late afternoon. Thumbing through the tourist literature at my hotel lobby, I learnt that Kandy was the last capital of the ancient kings of Sri Lanka, and was conquered by the Portuguese and the British. It is a Sinhala bastion and famous for the temple of Sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha.Royal Botanical GardenKandy lake in front of budha tooth relic The temple, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is located adjacent to the royal palace of the former kingdom. Our guide informed me that following the nirvana of Gautama Buddha, his tooth was smuggled into Sri Lanka. In the 4th century, King Sirimeghavanna of Anuradhapura enshrined the tooth relic in a vihara. Subsequently, the relic was shifted to various places and the present day temple was built by King Vira Narendra Sinha in the 18th century.The temple, the main attraction of Kandy, is always crowded. The principal shrine has two storeys and the actual chamber in which the relic is kept is called ‘Handun Kunama’. The relic is kept in golden caskets in the shape of stupa. However, we cannot actually see the tooth. Pujas are performed many times a day. We had to stand in a queue to have the darshan of the relic. I was reminded of the visit to Tirupati.The temple’s carvings and its golden canopy are quite impressive. The old palace is situated adjacent to the temple and was once the residence of the British agent. The audience hall of the palace, which has superbly carved wooden pillars, is exquisite.After our visit to the temple, we went on a stroll around the placid Kandy lake, which reminded me of Hussain Sagar in Hyderabad. The lake, a picnic spot, has a number of refreshment stalls. Later, we visited the ‘Royal Botanical Gardens’. Situated six kilometres from Kandy near the Mahaweli River, this vast garden, with more than 4000 species of plants, was established almost 700 years ago. During the Second World War, this garden was used by Lord Mountbatten as the headquarters of the south Asia command. There are many beautiful flowers and trees in this garden and it is a must see. Mahawali river The next day we proceeded to Pinnawela, a place which has become famous throughout the world for its Elephant orphanage. We hit the highway to Colombo and at Kegalla, we took a detour to Pinnewela. Established in 1975 with only five abandoned elephant calves, this orphanage, now situated on a 25-acre coconut garden on the banks of Maha Oya river, has 60 elephants, including 10 calves. During the day, the animals are allowed to roam freely. In the morning, the young elephants are fed milk through bottles. Each morning and each afternoon, the herd is taken to the river where they are given bath for two hours. To see the famous bathing site, we purchased tickets and went to the river side.On both sides of the road, through which the elephants are taken to the river, shops have come up where elephant-related memorabilia were being sold, including paper made from elephant dung! Elephant orphanage It is a sight to watch the pranks of young elephants, which are so used to the presence of tourists that they approach the river bank to feed on fruits and food items offered by visitors. Both young and old elephants compete with each other to grab food. When the herd is led back home, not only the elephants, but even the onlookers are disappointed.After visiting a spice farm nearby, we returned to Colombo. This short trip was soothing to the senses, to say the least.Author:Dr. DV Guruprasad (Former DGP) is presently the Chief Executive of the Gokula Education Foundation (Medical) which works in the field of education and health care.