7 Reasons to Visit the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy, Sri Lanka

7 Reasons to Visit the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy, Sri Lanka

Recently, Thierry and I had the opportunity to meet up in Sri Lanka. “The Pearl of the Indian Ocean” is about halfway between Europe and Australia, and I didn’t want to travel too far at the time. Because it had been a long while since I’d visited a new country, I jumped at this unique chance. Sri Lanka is rightfully described as a gem, with its eight UNESCO World Heritage sites. It is incredibly diverse, with a rich and lively culture. One of the most prominent sites in Sri Lanka is “Dalada Maligawa”, the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. If you are up for a day of discovering new things and experiencing Buddhist life, here are 7 reasons to visit the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy, Sri Lanka.

Drummers at the Temple of Tooth in Kandy Sri Lanka

Photo Thierry Mignon

A UNESCO World Heritage Site

The Temple of Sacred Tooth Relic is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of 8 in Sri Lanka, alongside Sigiriya, Anuradhapura, Galle, Polonnaruwa, the Cave Temple in Dambulla, the Sinharaja Forest and the Central Highlands.

It is a place of great historic, cultural and spiritual significance, a place to visit but also experience. And the gorgeous Sri Lankan wildlife is never far away!

Curious kingfisher at the entrance of the Temple of Tooth in Kandy Sri Lanka

Photo Thierry Mignon

One of the Most Sacred Buddhist Sites in the World

The Temple of the Tooth is one of the most sacred Buddhist sites in the world, and the most visited in Sri Lanka. Sitting within the royal palace complex of the former Kingdom of Kandy, the temple holds the tooth relic of Buddha, which was smuggled from India in the IVth Century CE. The Tooth Relic has played an important role in local politics since ancient times because it is believed that whoever holds the relic holds the governance of the country.

View of Buddha statue from the Temple of Tooth in Kandy Sri Lanka

Photo Thierry Mignon

Enshrined in 7 Golden Caskets

The Tooth Relic is enshrined in no less than 7 golden caskets. The shrine opens briefly at certain times of the day, so you may catch a glimpse of it.

Temple of Tooth in Kandy Sri Lanka has seven shrines to protect the relic

Photo Thierry Mignon

Women visit the Relic during pregnancy or with young children.

Woman and her baby to be blessed at the Temple of Tooth in Kandy Sri Lanka

Photo Thierry Mignon

A Live Experience

My experience of Buddhist sites has mostly been limited to deserted open-air museums in India. When we visited the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy Sri Lanka, we very much felt it was a live experience, with crowds of worshippers making flower offerings, happily moving from one area to another or reflecting quietly. This made the visit really enjoyable. The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic is not just a museum, but a place of pilgrimage for Sri Lankans. Hence, it makes for a very enjoyable and enriching experience.

There are crowds of pilgrims at the Temple of Tooth in Kandy Sri Lanka

Photo Thierry Mignon

Our presence as tourists was very well accepted, we could take photos freely, so long as we did it respectfully.

The Design Details

The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic is full of beautiful visual details, in frescoes, moonstones and wooden frames.

Beautifully detailed moonstone at the Temple of Tooth in Kandy Sri Lanka

Photo Thierry Mignon

Carved wooden beam at the Royal Hall within the Temple of Tooth in Kandy Sri Lanka

Photo Thierry Mignon

The Royal Hall is located near the temple. Its structure is completed without a single nail and offers some beautiful wood carvings.

The Royal Hall is within the grounds of the Temple of Tooth in Kandy Sri Lanka

Photo Thierry Mignon

The Kandy Esala Perahera

If you plan to visit the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic around July or August, don’t miss the Perahera, a parade where the golden casket walks the street on elephant back. A very unique celebration, the festival hosts fire dances and various cultural events, with elephants dressed in unique garments.

Fresco depicting the Pera Hera at the Temple of Tooth in Kandy Sri Lanka

Photo Thierry Mignon

Participate in Rituals

There are flower sellers at the entrance, and you can make offerings at the various altars throughout the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic.

You can buy offerings of flowers at the Temple of Tooth in Kandy Sri Lanka

Photo Thierry Mignon

Visitors’ Rules

Visiting the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic is a unique experience, which can satisfy many curiosities about architecture, religion, history, culture and spirituality. Whilst you are free to wander at your leisure, there are some simple rules to respect:

Sri Lankan women waiting outside the Temple of Tooth in Kandy Sri Lanka

Photo Thierry Mignon

You should dress appropriately: cover your shoulders and don’t wear anything too revealing. If you are wearing shorts on the day, you can borrow a sarong onsite.

You shouldn’t wear shoes or headwear in the temple. There is a shoe room, where you can safely leave your belongings at the entrance.

Buddhists wear white when visiting a temple, so I recommend light colours, however, it’s not compulsory.

The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic is a place of worship and not just a museum. While the presence of tourists is completely accepted and photos are fine you need to be respectful.

Don’t have your photo taken with your back to the temple, or any figuration of the Buddha, as it is a sign of disrespect to the divinity.

A Must-See in Sri Lanka

A visit to the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic will leave you with unforgettable memories of Sri Lankan life, Buddhist worship and ancient history. The highlights of my visit were the colours, sounds and smiles I came across. Coming so close to the shrine is a true privilege and it’s been a highlight of my time in Sri Lanka. Of course, there are other things for Kandy sightseeing, such as the nearby Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, visiting a spice garden or a tea factory. Kandy is also a good place to look for local crafts, especially the art of batik.

These are my 7 reasons to visit the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic in Kandy, Sri Lanka.

Have you made this unique and fascinating pilgrimage, what was your experience? Share your highlights!

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The city of Kandy in Sri Lanka is the former capital of Sinhalese kings and a major cultural destination. Visit the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic and be amazed!

6 Comments

    1. Delphine

      April 8, 2017 at 11:12 am

      Hey thebloomsite, I thoroughly recommend visiting the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic if you are in Kandy, it’s a great experience!

  1. homeschooling

    May 16, 2017 at 10:55 pm

    homeschooling

    Hi! This is my first comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and tell you I really enjoy reading your blog posts. Can you suggest any other blogs/websites/forums that go over the same subjects? Thank you!|

    1. Delphine

      May 17, 2017 at 9:06 pm

      Hi there, thank you for your first comment! I haven’t seen many blogs about the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, hopefully people will talk about it more!

  2. Marcelino Egge

    May 26, 2018 at 8:25 pm

    I really can’t believe how great this site is. Keep up the good work. I’m going to tell all my friends about this place.

    1. Delphine

      June 4, 2018 at 10:49 am

      Hi Marcelino, thank you for dropping by! Kandy is a must-see when visiting Sri Lanka. The great thing about the Temple of the Sacred Tooth is that it is attended by Sri Lankan people. This makes a very lively temple, which is better than India, where Buddhist temples are virtually empty!

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