Kandy is one of the most picturesque and historic cities in Sri Lanka, and is home to the sacred Temple of Tooth. This glorious temple is one of the eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the country. Since it protects the tooth relic of Lord Buddha, it is deeply revered by Sri Lankan Buddhists. It is also one of the most popular travel destinations in the country with a great historical, architectural, and cultural value.
The tooth relic was carried to Sri Lanka from India by Prince Danta and Princess Hemamala in the 4th century AD. From that time, the tooth relic has a played very important role as the symbol of the sovereignty of Sri Lanka. Its location shifted several times with the change of Sri Lanka’s capital until it ended up in the last Kandyan Monarchy. The current Temple of Tooth dated back to early the 1700s, the reign of King Vira Parakrama Narendra Singha.
(Statues of Prince Danta and Princess Hemamala)
The Temple of Tooth has an elegant large garden, which is margined by Udawatta Kele Sanctuary and Kandy Lake. This lake was artificially constructed in 1807 by the last king of Sri Lanka, King Sri Wikrama Rajasinghe. Also called as Milky Ocean, this gives an additional aesthetic value to the Temple of Tooth complex. The unique wall around the lake is known as Clouds Wall and it further increases the beauty of the lake.
The Temple of Tooth has built using the best architectural skills in Kandyan reign. It is well preserved for centuries showing the grandeur of ancient architecture. Upon arrival to the Temple grounds, you’ll see the magnificent octagonal structure of Temple of Tooth from the distance. This iconic structure often used as one of the main symbols of Sri Lanka.
(Octagonal structure of Temple of Tooth)
The interior of the temple is decorated with exceptionally beautiful paintings, which were drawn in the Kandyan era. These ancient paintings are quite elegant and attractive with bright colors. The sacred Tooth Relic is protected inside the golden roofed chamber. There you can offer flowers at the front table and respect the majestic golden casket containing sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha.
(Beautiful interior decorations in Temple of Tooth (Source Wikimedia Commons))
Daily worship rituals of the Temple of Tooth are conducted three times a day, at 5.30 am in dawn, 9.30 am, and at 6.30 pm in the evening. These pujas are the time of offering and prayers to the sacred tooth relic. There is an amazing atmosphere during these pujas with traditional drumming and chanting. Visiting the Temple of Tooth during these puja times will be a wonderful experience for any visitor.
(Daily worship rituals (source Wikimedia Commons)
The temple grounds spread out many hectares and have several important spots under one head. Temple of Tooth is a part of the ancient royal palace complex and other remnants of the Kandyan kingdom are still remaining on the temple ground. Among them, the Royal Audience hall is a marvelous building with beautiful ancient wood carvings. This is the best place to admire the last authentic styles of Kandyan royal architecture.
There are many other structures of the ancient Kandyan monarchy preserved in the temple complex. The four Shrines related to the Gods of Natha, Vishnu, Pattini, and Kataragama are important places that devotees respect a lot. Many visitors pay homage to these shrines to get blessings from the gods.
(Shrine of God Natha (source Wikimedia Commons)
The International Buddhist Museum also located on temple grounds, where many statues and paintings related to Buddhism are displayed. This is the world’s first international museum dedicated to Buddhism. The museum has a collection of artifacts contributed from 17 Asian countries.
(International Buddhist Museum (Source Wikimedia Commons))
Raja Tusker Hall is also a marvelous place not to miss in the Temple of Tooth. The tusker Raja (1913 -1988) was a Sri Lankan elephant that belonged to the temple. Raja is considered as the greatest tusker in history, having participated the annual Esala Perahera parade for around 50 years. He was the sacred golden casket bearer of the final Randoli Perahera for 37 years, until passing away in July 1988. Raja, the great tusker’s stuffed remains are presently kept in the Raja Tusker Museum.
(Raja Tusker Museum)
Kandy's Temple of Tooth and Esala Perahera are deeply related to the Sri Lankan culture and history. Esala Perahera is a grand annual procession hold to respect the sacred tooth relic. This festival lasts for ten days by parading traditional dancers and elegantly decorated elephants. The major event in this procession is the final Randoli Perahera, where the majestic tusker carry the golden casket contained sacred tooth relic. This is one of the grand Buddhist pageants in Sri Lanka, which attracts thousands of devotees and visitors to Kandy city.
(Kandy Esala Perahera (source Wikimedia Commons))
Temple of Tooth in Kandy is not only a great historical place but also the best family-friendly destination in the country. The tree-lined 2 km long pathway around Kandy Lake is ideal for a quiet evening stroll. It is a famous place among bird watchers and nature lovers. Nearby Udawatta Kele Sanctuary is also a great place for hiking and bird watching.
(Kandy Lake and surrounding (source Wikimedia Commons)
Visiting the calm and quiet Temple of Tooth full of serendipity is the best experience you can get in Kandy. Even if you aren’t a Buddhist, this is a worthy place to visit with great ancient grandeur. One can truly seek peace of mind, in a serene environment in this historical site. Without a doubt, you will be enchanted by the spiritual power and awesome scenic beauty that surrounds this sacred temple.