Among the must-see visits to Sri Lanka is the Buddha’s Tooth Temple(Temple Of Sacred tooth). Called Sri Dalada Maligawa in Sinhala, this incredible temple is in the heart of the city of Kandy, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Are you a historical fanatic? Old structures and stories entice you to another level. You are forever excited to know about the past, and mythological stories are of interest to you. If yes, then you must head to Sri Lanka. Buddhism reached beyond the borders of India. Ceylon and Gandhara are the first two nations where is spreads after India. Ceylon is now known as Sri Lanka. Even though the presence of Sri Lanka died out in India, Sri Lankan Buddhists continue to cherish and protect it. Did you know that 70% of the Sri Lankan natives are Theravada Buddhists?
Speaking of Buddhists, there is a temple in Kandy, Sri Lanka that holds historical relevance. Sri Dalada Maligawa, or the Temple of Sacred Tooth Kandy, houses the surviving remnant of Lord Buddha. In ancient times, this relic played a vital political role. As per the natives of Sri Lanka, whoever holds the Temple of Sacred Tooth Kandy relics shall govern the nation as well. That’s precisely why the kings took special care of the temple.
Buddhist temples exist in India, Sri Lanka, Japan, Bali, Cambodia, and many more destinations where Buddhism was spread. We are proud Sri Lankan locals and would like to tell you about one of the most famous tourist spots in Kandy. Let’s explore the wonders of the Temple of Sacred Tooth Kandy.
We will tell you about the history, the best time to visit, the type of clothing to wear, and a lot more. Would you like to know more about the Temple of Sacred Tooth? If the answer is a firm YES, then keep reading the article.
History of the Temple of Sacred Tooth Kandy
According to legend, Buddha’s tooth was found in his ashes after his cremation and kept in Kalinga, India.
In 313 AD, Princess Hemamali and her husband stole the relic from Buddha’s tooth and hid it in the princess’s hair. They got Buddha’s tooth to Sri Lanka.
They then handed it over to the king of the time, King Kirthi Sri Meghavarna. The latter carefully locked Buddha’s tooth in Anuradhapura. Over centuries, Buddha’s tooth often changed location. When Kandy was declared the capital of Sri Lanka, the tooth was transferred there. However, during the invasion of the Portuguese the tooth was again moved to be hidden and preserved.
The Temple of Sacred Tooth was built during the reign of the Kandyan kings, each adding its own stone to the building between 1687 and 1707. The moats were for example added much later, around 1800. During the colonial wars against the Portuguese and Dutch, the original temple was heavily damaged but very quickly rebuilt.
In February 1989, the temple will again be attacked by the communists. Finally, during the civil war, the Tamils of the LTTE carried out a truck bomb attack in the temple.
The truck contained more than 300 kilos of explosives; the attack would kill 16 people and more than 25 injured. The Temple of Sacred Tooth would be restored very quickly.
Why is it Called the Temple of Sacred Tooth?
Simply because it contains a relic of Buddha’s tooth; preciously locked in 6 trunks, themselves locked in a room and carefully guarded by monks and many guards. It is absolutely impossible to see it, but the fervor that surrounds it is always the same. The box containing Buddha’s tooth would only open every five years.
However, a few times in the year, for very special events like the Esala Perhaera (the big parade that takes place every year) the box comes out of its “vault”. As you will have understood, this Temple has a particular importance among the practicing Buddhists. For them, it is indispensable to go at least once in their lives to the Temple of Sacred Tooth, to offer offerings to Buddha and to chant hymns and sutras.
Importance of Temple of the Tooth
Well, there are many beautiful spots in Sri Lanka that you must visit. But, the Temple of Tooth, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. That’s because it holds religious as well as historical importance. The tourists can offer their prayers to Lord Buddha and then stroll around the area and witness the beauty of Kandy Lake.
It would be wonderful to hear the monks chanting prayers. It is a form of meditation for others as you can just sit and get rid of negative thoughts. Lord Buddha believed that greed, lust, anger, and pride are lethal for a human mind and body. One should get rid of these negative emotions and make way for positive thoughts. Please note that the religious rituals are performed thrice a day. You can either visit at dusk, dawn, or noon.
If you want to see the Nanumura Mangallaya ritual, you must head to the Temple of Tooth on a Wednesday. In this ritual, the monks bathe the relic with scented water. The water used for bathing the relic is herbal. It has to be special because the relic is a part of Lord Buddha. As per the natives, the water has special healing powers. When the people visit the temple to witness the ritual, the water is distributed among them. The devotees and tourists can either drink it or apply it to their forehead and eyes.
Best Time to Visit the Temple of Tooth
The best time to visit the Temple of Tooth Kandy Sri Lanka is, in our opinion, to go there during a ceremony. Then, of course you will not be alone unless you choose to go there during the ceremony that takes place around 6am. The walls of the ancient royal palace are gigantic and are not limited to the room where the relic of Buddha’s tooth is enclosed.
For example, there is a museum, or the old carved wooden courtroom, or the welcoming Raja room, a stuffed elephant. For the record Raja is an elephant who, during the Perahera, transported on his back, 50 years during the relic of the Buddha’s tooth. At the time of his death, Raja was declared a National Treasure and a day of mourning was observed.
Why Visit the Temple during a Ceremony
There are many reasons for visiting the Temple of Tooth Kandy Sri Lanka during ceremonies. First of all, please note that not all rooms in the palace are open at all times, such as the library. During the ceremonies, all rooms are open. Another reason is the fervor that occupies the place during a ceremony. The faithful are all dressed in white, with their hands full of offerings (flowers, incense, silver or even food).
All will be there for long minutes praying against a background of traditional music played by the musicians on the lower floor. An incredible moment to live at least once! Here is a video for all our beautiful readers. It showcases the zest of the natives to celebrate the ceremony. They play musical instruments and devotees gather around to pray to the Lord.
Outside The Temple Of Tooth
When you see the structure of the temple from the outside, you will not be as impressed by the colors. The temple is in white color and it has red roofs. However, the structure is interesting, and it is also quite pleasing to the eyes. You find that the structure is neat and highly elegant. It can be called an architectural marvel as you do not get see such structures everywhere in the world
The temple is located in Kandy, and is easy to find. These are clustered around the famous Lake Kandy. Majority of the travelers love the fact that it is a lakeside temple. Once they offer their prayers to Lord Buddha, they enjoy the surrounding beauty.
Don’t lose hope as another world waits inside the Temple of Tooth. More than the structure and the colors on them, the temple holds important significance, and is a pride of Sri Lankan natives.
Inside the Temple of Tooth
Inside, the faithful people are dressed in white, the walls covered with gold leaves but especially superb statuettes, wood carvings, paintings and other ornaments. The fervor that people feel is incredible!
Do not look for “the tooth” because it is hidden under 7 bell-shaped reliquaries, hidden behind a door behind a gate! A golden lotus flower holds the relic safely, and it is beautifully encased in a bejeweled casket. There is a touch of royalty here as the casket is placed on a mighty throne.
The temple is for anyone who believes in the teachings of Lord Buddha.
As you head inside the Temple of Tooth Kandy, you find that there are paintings, flags, wooden structures, and stunning chandeliers. Tourists will be enthralled by the golden, white and wooden furnishing inside the temple. You will see a massive golden Buddha statue. The path that takes you to the statue is decorated with other golden statues and massive tusks. The area is well-protected so that a swarm of tourists do not touch the expensive and precious items.
Since we are talking about the interiors, there are different rooms for different purposes. You will find the following:
1. National Museum – You will find the National Museum at the south of the Temple of Tooth Audience Hall. It was built in the year 1765 and houses a variety of artifacts. There are interesting things kept inside this museum which includes ivories, oil lamps, golden crown of the famous King Raja Sinha 2, wooden carvings, 1000-year-old manuscripts, and figures that are decorated beautifully.
2. Audience Hall – You will find stunning wooden columns and pillars here. It is a large hall where people gather and click pictures. It holds historical importance because the Kandy convention was held here in in 1815. That’s when Sri Lanka became a British colony.
3. Natha Devala – Natha Devala is another important building that was built in 14th century. As per historical evidence, it is oldest construction in the city of Kandy. Please note that this is a religious building and is dedicated to Lord Natha. Lord Natha is the same god who pledged to protect the city. Just fifty meters away from Natha Devala, there is a Pattini Devala which is dedicated to Goddess Pattini.
4. Buddhist Museum – Well, this is a new addition to the temple, but is an important one. You can find exhibits in the museum from different Asian countries. You will find different quarters for each of the country. Exhibits from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Bhutan can be found here. Head to the main gate and get the ticket to enter this International Museum. On second thoughts, you can also use the entrance ticket of Temple of Tooth to visit this museum.
The Surrounding of Temple of Tooth
You will see a ditch around the temple and it consists of turtles and fishes.
Just to share with you, the tooth relic is on the upper floor of the actual building. The casket in which the relic rests is bejeweled with silver, gold, ivory, and gems. Did you know that it took six years for Gautama Buddha to attain enlightenment? He sat under the Bodhi tree and tried to find all the answers. By the end of six years, he got answers to all his queries. His mind was free from all the negative emotions.
If you read books in different parts of the world, you will never find the correct answer to – When did Buddha attain enlightenment? Everyone has been taught a different story about Gautama Buddha. There are different schools of Buddhism and each one has a different story to narrate about the duration. Nevertheless, the story remains the same that Gautama Buddha left all his riches, including his kingdom, wife, and child, and set out for a quest.
Since he was raised in a wealthy family, he never knew what death and suffering was. A visit to the outside world filled his mind with endless queries. He left his family behind at the age of 29 and went on to find the realities of life. He wanted to understand the truth of death and birth! To find peace of mind, he sat under the Bodhi Tree and meditated.
You will find out all about Lord Buddha teachings and his interesting journey in many books. But, it is advisable to visit Sri Lanka and have a tour guide by your side. They will narrate the adventure of Lord Buddha. What are his teachings? When did the tooth come to Kandy? You will find all these answers at the Temple of Tooth.
How to Reach the Temple of Tooth?
Reaching Temple of Tooth Kandy is a cakewalk. You could be anywhere in Sri Lanka and take a cab or a local transport.
Here are the distances and train/bus trips to some cities from where you might want to go after Kandy:
Distance Colombo – Kandy: 120 km. It is easy to take the Colombo-Kandy train (or vice versa). There are several per day and it takes about 2h30 (sometimes more depending on the trains).
Distance Dambulla – Kandy: 85km. Dambulla – Kandy buses are very regular, about every 20/30 minutes during the day. It takes about 2h/2h30 of journey (yes it varies quite a bit, as always in Sri Lanka).
When you plan a visit to the temple, you can also incorporate other destinations in your plan. Include tea estate, spice garden, and a joy ride to Kandy city in your list of places to go to. Perhaps you can take some fine tea leaves for your loved ones back home. Sri Lanka produces one of the finest teas in the world! Plus, it is not as expensive as other Western Countries.
The Temple of Tooth Timetable
The temple is open every day from 5h30 to 20h00.
Ceremonies are held 3 times a day.
- 5h 30 to 7h 00
- 9:30 am to 11:00 am
- 18:30 to 20:00
You can watch the monks chanting the prayers during this time. You may even get blessed with the holy water. It is believed that this water holds healing and magical powers. Lord Buddha may bless you when you get a drop of this water on your head or your hand.
What to Wear?
In order to enter the Temple of Tooth Kandy Sri Lanka, you must cover your shoulders, bust and legs. This rule applies to everyone, man, woman and child.
Clothes deemed provocative are forbidden, pants too tight as leggings are forbidden. Skirts with a slit are also prohibited. Hats, caps and other headgear should also be avoided.
Actually, the devotees and tourists should understand that it is a temple and one must respect the surroundings. Cover any revealing part o the body! You can prance around the beaches in your favorite bikini or shorts, but the temple is considered to be a little more conservative. And why not? It is a religious place and certain dress codes need to be followed.
Even though the Sri Lankan natives are extremely warm and welcoming, it is good to respect their holy temple. Wear covered clothes just to show respect towards their culture.
Here are some dress code rules:
- Do not wear sandals or slippers inside the temple. This is a basic temple rule across the globe.
- Do not wear any head cover.
- Wear clothing that covers the shoulders and knees.
- Skip wearing a hat.
(Please note that none of the locals will ever banish you for wearing a certain type of clothing. The people are very warm and gentle! But, it is good to follow the dress code.)
General Rules To Follow:
There are certain do’s and don’ts too. You must follow them carefully so as to not upset the religious sentiments of the people.
- Do not drink alcohol within the temple premises.
- Do not smoke cigarette inside the temple.
- Never feed the monkeys around the temple.
- Remove your shoes at the entry gate.
- Never wear any head cover such as burkha or hat.
- Maintain silence as it is a temple and not a rock concert.
- Do not touch the paintings or the statues. These belong to the nation, but they are carefully preserved.
- Dress appropriately to show respect to the culture of the natives.
- Do not litter! In fact, this applies to most of the destinations you will be visiting during your trip.
The following image will give you a clear idea of what is accepted inside the temple. You must follow the dress code accordingly. You can also wear a kurta and jeans to the temple. It is a contemporary attire that covers your arms and legs. Once your temple visit is over, enjoy prancing around on the beach in bikini and shorts. Nobody stops you from dressing up a certain way in Sri Lanka! The people are liberal and do not interfere in your matters. But, the Temple of Tooth is a religious place, so ensure that you are covering the knees and arms.
Entrance/ Entry Fee For The Temple of Tooth
Adult: $15 for foreigners and $8 for tourists coming from SAARC nations.
Children from 6 to 12 years: Half price
Children under 6 years: Free
Cafes and Restaurants in Kandy: Where to eat?
- Fruit Juice
Fruit Juice is a tiny coffee offering essentially take away but also has a few tables. Excellent fresh fruit juice and showcase with some salty or sweet Sri Lankan snacks. Delicious!
- Empire cafe
For a trendy address that changes a little, go to the Empire Cafe. It is a good place to drink fresh fruit juice and eat a piece of cake, but not for a meal. The menu is tempting but the plates are disappointing and much too expensive.
- Cafe Walk
Again, a nice address to eat a piece of cake or lunch/dinner on the go! In addition the delicious plates, you will enjoy the right value for money (for more western dishes).
Where To Stay In Kandy?
Millions of travelers head to Sri Lanka for a fun-filled tour. You may visit it for an adventure tour or a long honeymoon escapade. But, whenever you head to Sri Lanka, it is important to explore the temples. Temple of Tooth Kandy is a must-visit! The tourists head to the museum and offer their prayers at the main temple too. Some are just keen to see the relic, but it is well-protected in a casket. Some of the best hotels to stay in Kandy, Sri Lanka are the following:
- Theva Residency
- Mahaweli Reach Hotel
- Sevana City Hotel
- The Grand Kandyan Hotel
- Cinnamon Citadel Kandy
- The Radh
- Clove Villa
- Aarunya Nature Resort and Spa
- SKYLOFT in Kandy
These were some of the good options that you will find in the area. Additionally, there are many Airbnb options too. You can find them on the official site of Airbnb. Just enter the travel dates and location, you will find many listings that are near to the temple.
You can also stay in one of the private pool villas that are farther away from Kandy. These are perfect for couples who are traveling for a long honeymoon period. Sri Lanka caters to all types of travelers – honeymoon couples, singles, families, old-aged people, friends, and more.
Even a solo travel tour to Sri Lanka would be a great idea! No matter who you come with or when you come to Sri Lanka, don’t forget to explore the Temple of Tooth. This is one of the highlights of Sri Lanka! It will also give you peace of mind to visit the temple and get a glimpse of Lord Buddha.
He resides in his devotee’s heart.
So, plan your Sri Lanka tour in such a way that you are able to include all the hot-spots of the island. Make sure you try different adventure sports and do find time to eat fresh seafood options. The beaches are crystal clear for a swim or even sunbathing. Ideally, head to the national parks and witness the magnificence of leopards. But, do not leave Sri Lanka without the blessings of Lord Buddha. You will be at peace and would take home incredible and unforgettable memories.