Temple of the Tooth by night

Attraction

Temple of the Tooth Kandy

Of all the ancient temples in Sri Lanka, the Temple of the Sacred Tooth – or Sri Dalada Maligawa – holds the most significance in the lives of Sri Lankan people. If you’re travelling to Kandy then a visit to the opulent temple is a must, as within lies the most precious relic in all of Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka's most sacred temple

The Temple of the Sacred Tooth is nestled in the elegant Royal Palace complex, a remnant from the once powerful Kingdom of Kandy. The temple itself is particularly ornate, with the main shrine boasting a stunning golden canopy and encircled by a gleaming golden fence. The palatial shrine room, however, pales in comparison to the relic itself: a tooth of Buddha which lies encased in seven golden caskets of diminishing size, all engraved with precious gemstones and shaped like dagoba or stupa – the iconic hemispherical prayer halls of Buddhism.

In Sri Lanka, the tooth represents great power, particularly in local politics. For hundreds of years it was believed by Sri Lankans that whoever is in possession of the relic has the authority to govern the country and as a result each subsequent King built a temple in which to house the relic. As the last great Kingdom of Sri Lanka, Kandy is home to both the tooth and its temple home, resulting in the whole city being named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The atmosphere and elegance of the temple interior make this sacred place an iconic Sri Lankan site, while the relic itself represents the beating heart of the country’s main religion. The Royal Palace complex is dotted with smaller shrines, museums, and temples deserving of an entire day of exploration in their own rights.

Buddhist monks perform a ritual with offerings of lotus flowers and frangipani for the relic three times daily – at dawn, noon and in the evening – and a special ceremony takes place on a Wednesday, when the tooth is bathed in a herbal concoction. These ceremonies are when the inner casket of the sacred tooth is visible.

Top Tips from our Experts

Sheryl

Destination Manager

“Visit during Kandy’s July Festival of the Tooth, or Esala Perahera Festival, a ten-day celebration in honour of the sacred tooth. The city comes alive with parades and ceremonies that incorporate thousands of drummers, dancers, jugglers, and bejewelled elephants.”

Christie

Destination Executive

“As with most religious sites in Sri Lanka, before entering the temple it is essential your legs and shoulders are covered, and shoes are removed at the entrance.”