The monumental ensemble of Kandy, rebuilt in the reign of Keerti Sri Rajasimha, is an outstanding example of a traditional type of construction in which the Royal Palace and the Temple of the Tooth of Buddha are juxtaposed. The Temple of the Tooth, the palatial complex, and the sacred city of Kandy are directly and tangibly associated with the history of the spread of Buddhism, one of humanity's great religions. Built to house the relic of the tooth of Buddha, which had come from Kalinga (Orissa State, India) to Sri Lanka during the reign of Sri Meghavanna (310-28), when it was transferred a final time, the Temple of Kandy bears witness to an ever flourishing cult.
Kandy, founded in the 14th century, is the southern tip of Sri Lanka's 'Cultural Triangle'. The city became the capital of the kingdom in 1592, during a troubled time when many of the islanders were fleeing to the interior, away from the coastal areas the European powers were fighting over. Although taken several times, the city remained one of the bastions of Sinhalese independence until the British troops entered it on 14 February 1815. From Vimala Dharma Suriya I (1591-1604) to Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe (1798-1815), it was the last seat of royal power. It remains the religious capital of Buddhism and a sacred city for millions of believers. Enshrined in the Dalada Maligawa is the relic of the tooth of Buddha which has long been greatly venerated. The ceremonial high point each year is the splendid ritual of the great processions on the feast of Esala Perahera.
Built in a small wooded valley deep in the hills around an artificial lake created by Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe between 1803 and 1807, the city has much charm. The monumental zone includes, on the northern shores of the lake, the remains of the Royal Palace with the great Audience Hall, Temple of the Tooth, Palace of Sri Wickrama, queen's apartments and bathing house, Palle Wahala and Ran Ayuda Maduwa. Three other monumental groups (Dewala, Malwatte Vihara and Asgiriya Vihara) are the final elements of this important complex.
As a result of more recent modifications the Royal Palace and the Temple of the Tooth date from the reign of Keerti Sri Rajasimha (1747-82). A first temple was built in 1603, destroyed by the Portuguese in 1637, and rebuilt in 1697. As a reference to the great architecture of Anuradhapura, the first historic capital, the present grander edifice was built upon a granite substructure. In addition to granite a wide variety of materials were used for this extraordinarily rich building: limestone, marble, sculpted wood, terracotta, metal and ivory. The painted decorations vie with the sculpted decor, and include purely decorative motifs as well as different series of figures (dancers, acrobats, animals) on the beams and ceilings.