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National Museum of Kandy

Located in the heart of Kandy, the National Museum of Kandy is one of the most informative cultural institutions in the country. Whether you're a history enthusiast or a casual traveler, the museum offers an engaging experience that helps you connect with Sri Lanka's rich past. This travel guide aims to provide you with essential information about this fascinating museum.

Overview of the Museum

The National Museum of Kandy is a major cultural institution located in the city of Kandy. Serving as an educational platform, the museum focuses on the Kandyan period of Sri Lanka's history, which spans from the 17th to the 19th centuries. Here, you can admire a wide range of artifacts, including traditional tools, textiles, and handicrafts, that offer insights into this significant era.

Housed in the Palle Vahala building, the museum is an example of architectural significance. This structure was built in 1840 and blends traditional Sri Lankan and colonial elements. Made primarily of wood and bricks, the building has two floors featuring a main hall and several adjoining rooms. The intricate wooden carvings that adorn the windows, doors, and roofs highlight the craftsmanship of artisans from the Kandyan period. The architecture serves as a complement to the exhibits, enhancing the overall experience of understanding the Kandyan culture.

History of the National Museum of Kandy

The history of the Kandy National Museum can't be discussed without first mentioning the Palle Vahala building, which was originally built in 1840 as a royal residence. Specifically, this building served as the abode for the queens of King Sri Vikrama Rajasinha, the last ruling monarch of the Kingdom of Kandy. The Kandyan Kingdom was the last independent kingdom in Sri Lanka and was significant for resisting colonial rule for several centuries before finally succumbing to the British in 1815.

The Palle Vahala building later served various functions after the fall of the Kandyan Kingdom. In the colonial period, it was used as an administrative office by British officials. However, recognizing its historical and cultural importance, the building was converted into a museum in 1942.

The establishment of the museum was a significant move to safeguard the cultural heritage of Sri Lanka, particularly the Kandyan era. It was aimed at educating the public about the Kandyan Kingdom's rich history, art, and architecture. The Kandy National Museum now operates under the Department of National Museums and is one of the premier museums in the country dedicated to the Kandyan period.

Through the years, the museum has undertaken various renovation and conservation projects to maintain the quality and integrity of the exhibits. Its collection has also expanded to include more artifacts that cover a broad spectrum of the Kandyan culture, from royal attire and weaponry to art and crafts.

Exhibits and Galleries

The National Museum of Kandy features a total of four primary galleries, each specializing in a different aspect of Kandyan culture and history. Detailed descriptions and placards in both English and Sinhalese accompany the exhibits, making it easier for visitors to understand the significance of the items on display. Here is a more in-depth look at each gallery:

  1. Clothing and Textiles Gallery: This gallery showcases traditional attire from the Kandyan period, including various types of saris, turbans, and wraps. Special attention is given to the intricate embroidery and beading work on some of the garments. Apart from clothing, visitors can also see an array of headgear, jewelry, and accessories that were a part of the daily life and special occasions in the Kandyan Kingdom.
  2. Weapons Gallery: This section is a highlight for many visitors interested in military history. It features a range of weapons, such as swords, daggers, and shields used during the Kandyan period. Each weapon has its background explained, from its use in battle to its significance in royal ceremonies. The craftsmanship on the hilts and the engravings on the blades are particularly noteworthy.
  3. Arts and Crafts Gallery: Here, traditional arts like woodwork, metalwork, and sculptures are displayed. There are intricately designed furniture pieces, religious idols, and even everyday utensils that show the skill level of Kandyan artisans. Special sections are dedicated to handicrafts like woven baskets, beaded decorations, and embroidered fabrics.
  4. Ceramics and Pottery Gallery: In this gallery, you will find an array of ceramic and pottery items, some of which date back several centuries. From cooking vessels to decorative pieces, the range is extensive. Information about the materials used, the methods of production, and the regions where these items were made is provided to offer a complete understanding of Kandyan ceramic arts.

Each gallery not only displays artifacts but also includes interactive exhibits and models to provide a more engaging learning experience. For example, the Clothing and Textiles Gallery has a section where visitors can touch and feel the different types of fabric used in traditional attire. Similarly, the Arts and Crafts Gallery often holds live demonstrations of traditional crafting techniques.

Entry Fees and Timings

The Kandy National Museum is open from Tuesday to Saturday, and the timings are from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. The museum is closed on public holidays. The entry fees are as follows:

  • Local Adults: 30 LKR
  • Local Children: 15 LKR
  • Foreign Adults: 600 LKR
  • Foreign Children: 300 LKR

Location and How to Get There

The Kandy National Museum is located within the city limits of Kandy on the Kande Vihara Road. If you're already in the city, you can easily walk to the museum from many central hotels and guesthouses. You can also take a tuk-tuk, which is a quick and commonly used form of transport in Kandy. A ride from the city to the museum typically takes about 15 minutes.

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit the National Museum of Kandy is from December to April. The weather during these months is dry and suitable for outdoor activities. It's advisable to visit in the morning when it's less crowded.

Tips and Advice

  • Photography Guidelines: Photography is allowed inside the museum, but make sure to turn off the flash to preserve the integrity of the artifacts.
  • Time Allocation: Plan to spend at least 2-3 hours to thoroughly explore all the galleries and exhibits.
  • Guided Tours: For a better understanding of the exhibits, consider going for a guided tour.
  • Language: Placards and descriptions are in both English and Sinhalese, making it easier for international visitors.
  • Dress Code: Dress modestly, as the museum is a cultural institution. Avoid wearing sleeveless tops and short skirts or shorts.
  • Refreshments: There is no café inside the museum, so it's a good idea to carry water and light snacks.
  • Payments: The entry fee counter accepts cash only, so ensure you carry sufficient local currency for tickets.
  • Restrooms: Public restrooms are available within the premises.
  • Crowds: The museum is less crowded during weekday mornings, offering a more peaceful experience.
  • Gift Shop: If you're interested in souvenirs, the museum has a gift shop offering books, replicas, and crafts.

Nearby Attractions

  1. Temple of the Tooth: This Buddhist temple is one of the most important religious sites in Sri Lanka. It is famous for housing the tooth relic of Buddha and is located just a few kilometers from the museum.
  2. Kandy Lake: Situated in the heart of the city, Kandy Lake is ideal for a peaceful walk or a boat ride.
  3. Royal Botanical Gardens: Located in Peradeniya, about 5.5 kilometers from the museum, the Royal Botanical Gardens showcase a wide variety of flora. It's a perfect spot for plant lovers and those looking for a peaceful escape from the city.
  4. Wales Park: Offering a high vantage point, Wales Park provides impressive views of Kandy City and the surrounding hills. The park is a short drive from the museum and is an excellent spot for photography and relaxation.
  5. Udawattekele Sanctuary: This nature reserve is ideal for hiking and bird-watching. Located close to the museum, it offers trails through dense forests, providing a glimpse of local wildlife and flora.

Visiting the National Museum of Kandy provides you with a valuable look into Sri Lanka's Kandyan era. This isn't just a walk through history; it's a way to better understand the culture, art, and values that have shaped this region. So, if you are traveling in Kandy, make sure you spend a few hours exploring this fascinating museum.

This post first appeared on Wonders Of Ceylon, please read the originial post: here

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National Museum of Kandy


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