Nestled in the heart of Kandy, Sri Lanka’s cultural capital, lies a serene oasis known as Kandy Lake. Also referred to as Kiri Muhuda or the Sea of Milk, this artificial lake has been a centerpiece of Kandy’s landscape for centuries. Its picturesque beauty, historical significance, and cultural relevance make it a must-visit destination for travelers seeking a tranquil escape and a glimpse into Sri Lanka’s rich heritage.
The idea for Kandy Lake was conceived during the reign of King Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe (1798–1815), the last monarch of the Kandyan Kingdom. It was his chief minister, Ratwatte Adigar, who envisioned the creation of a majestic lake to enhance the beauty of Kandy, which was already known for its lush surroundings and scenic landscape.
In 1807, construction began on the lake, and it was strategically positioned near the Temple of the Tooth (Sri Dalada Maligawa), the most sacred Buddhist temple in Sri Lanka. The primary purpose of building Kandy Lake was to serve as a protective moat for the revered temple and its sacred relic – the tooth of Lord Buddha. This added a spiritual dimension to the lake, solidifying its place as an essential part of the city’s cultural and religious heritage.
Kandy Lake covers an area of approximately 6.81 hectares (16.8 acres) and is situated at an elevation of about 500 meters (1,640 feet) above sea level. It is strategically located in the heart of the city, surrounded by lush greenery and flanked by prominent landmarks such as the Temple of the Tooth and the Royal Palace of Kandy.
The lake’s layout is a testament to the advanced engineering skills of the time. It features a well-structured embankment adorned with elegant stonework and an ornamental parapet wall, adding to the lake’s aesthetic appeal. A picturesque promenade lines the shores, providing a perfect pathway for leisurely strolls and a chance to admire the scenic beauty of the surroundings.
Kandy Lake holds immense symbolism in Sri Lanka’s cultural and religious context. The temple-studded island at the center of the lake, known as “Kirimuhuda,” represents the mythical mountain “Trikuta” in Buddhist cosmology, associated with the Buddhist deities Samantabhadra, Avalokiteshvara, and Manjushri.
The island itself houses a palm garden, enhancing the beauty of the lake and creating a picturesque sight for visitors. Its cultural significance is further highlighted during the annual Esala Perahera, a grand religious procession that parades through the streets of Kandy, with the sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha placed on a majestic tusker elephant. The procession often makes a stop at Kandy Lake, adding an ethereal touch to the event.
Kandy Lake is not only a place of historical and cultural importance but also a recreational haven for locals and tourists alike. The serene ambiance and well-maintained promenade make it a popular spot for evening strolls and leisure activities.
Visitors can enjoy a leisurely boat ride on the lake, taking in the scenic beauty and appreciating the gentle breeze that sweeps across the water. The lake’s calm waters provide an ideal setting for relaxation, meditation, and a break from the bustling city life.
Kandy Lake is not just a man-made attraction; it also serves as a natural habitat for various species of flora and fauna. The lake is home to a diverse array of aquatic life, including fish and turtles, adding to its ecological significance.
Moreover, the lake attracts a variety of water birds, making it a paradise for birdwatchers. Watching graceful birds glide across the water and nestle in the surrounding trees is a delightful experience for nature enthusiasts and photographers alike.
As dusk falls, Kandy Lake transforms into a mesmerizing spectacle with a captivating light and sound show. Illuminated with colorful lights, the lake and its surroundings come to life, creating a magical ambiance that enchants visitors. The light and sound show narrates the history of Kandy, adding an educational aspect to the enchanting display.
Given its cultural, historical, and ecological significance, Kandy Lake is a protected site, and local authorities place considerable emphasis on its preservation and conservation. Regular cleaning and maintenance activities are undertaken to ensure the lake’s cleanliness and sustainability. Additionally, efforts are made to protect the lake’s natural habitat and preserve its ecological balance, further enhancing its allure for future generations.
Kandy Lake plays a pivotal role in hosting cultural events and festivals that celebrate Sri Lanka’s rich heritage. Apart from the Esala Perahera, the lake area serves as a venue for various cultural performances, including traditional dance shows, musical concerts, and theatrical events. These events provide visitors with a deeper insight into the vibrant cultural traditions of Sri Lanka.
Kandy Lake’s central location makes it an ideal starting point to explore the city’s other attractions. Just a stone’s throw away from the lake is the Temple of the Tooth, an architectural marvel and a significant pilgrimage site. The Royal Palace of Kandy, located adjacent to the lake, houses the National Museum of Kandy, which showcases an impressive collection of historical artifacts and regalia.
Visitors can also take a short walk to the bustling streets of Kandy, where they can experience the city’s vibrant markets, local eateries, and artisan workshops, all of which add to the cultural tapestry of the area.
The Temple of the Tooth is a Buddhist temple in Kandy, Sri Lanka. It is one of the most important Buddhist temples in the world, as it houses a sacred relic of the Buddha’s tooth. The temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a popular tourist destination.
The temple was built in the 16th century by King Wimaladharmasuriya I. The relic of the Buddha’s tooth was brought to Sri Lanka in the 4th century AD by Princess Hemamala and Prince Dantha, the children of King Ashoka of India. The relic is said to have been given to them by the Buddha himself.
Kandy Lake is much more than a body of water; it is a living testament to Sri Lanka’s cultural heritage, a reflection of its historical significance, and a source of serenity for those seeking a peaceful retreat. The lake’s natural beauty, combined with its cultural and religious importance, makes it a focal point of any visit to Kandy.
As you explore this gem in the heart of Sri Lanka’s cultural capital, take the time to soak in the spiritual ambiance, admire the picturesque views, and reflect on the centuries of history that have shaped the soul of Kandy Lake.
The relationship between Kandy Lake and the Temple of the Tooth is complex and multifaceted. The lake is both a symbol of the sanctity of the relic and a practical resource for the city. It is a place of beauty, peace, and spiritual significance.