Kandy and the Temple of the Tooth Relic

Kandy was the last capital of the ancient kings’ era of Sri Lanka, home of The Temple of the Tooth Relic (Sri Dalada Maligawa), one of the most sacred places of worship in the Buddhist world. It was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1988.

The second largest city in the country after Colombo and is generally recognized as the island nation’s cultural capital, Kandy is located 75 miles (around 4 hours)  in the Central Province outside of Colombo. The city lies in the midst of hills in the Kandy plateau, which crosses an area of tropical plantations, mainly tea. Kandy is a small, tranquil town that holds the sacred tooth of Buddha, a sacred relic of the Buddhist faith. According to the legend, the tooth was taken from the Buddha on his funeral pyre and was smuggled into Sri Lanka hidden in the hair of a princess in the 4th century. The Dalada Maligawa, or Temple of the Tooth, is a main attraction for pilgrimages, although one cannot see the tooth. Each July and August, the tooth is carried in a procession that lasts for 10 days.

Kandy was the last capital of the ancient kings’ era of Sri Lanka. Since the Kandyan kingdom came under the British only around 1815, the city still retains the living traditions of its sovereign kingdom era. The English name Kandy, which originated during the colonial era, is derived from an anglicised version of the Sinhalese Kanda Uda Rata, meaning the land on the mountain, or Kanda Uda Pas Rata, the five counties/countries on the mountain. The Portuguese shortened this to “Candea”, using the name for both the kingdom and its capital. In Sinhalese, Kandy is called Maha nuwara, meaning “Great City” or “Capital”, although this is most often shortened to Nuwara.

On the north shore of the lake, are the city’s official religious monuments, including the Royal Palace and the Temple of the Tooth, known as the Dalada Maligawa (daḷadā māligāva). Reconstructed in the 18th century, the Dalanda Maligawa is built on a base of granite that was inspired by the temples of Sri Lanka‘s former capital city, Anuradhapura. Originally part of the Royal Palace complex of the Kandyan Kingdom, it is one of the holiest places of worship and pilgrimage for Buddhist around the world. It was last of a series of temples built in the places where the relic, the actual palladium of the Sinhalese monarchy, was brought following the various relocations of the capital city.

The Palace of the Tooth relic, the palace complex and the holy city of Kandy are associated with the history of the dissemination of Buddhism. The temple is the product of the last long journey of the relic of the tooth of Buddha and the testimony of a religion which continues to be practiced today.

As the capital, Kandy had become home to the relic of the tooth of the Buddha which symbolizes a 4th-century tradition that used to be linked to the Sinhalese monarchy, since the protector of the relic was the ruler of the land. Thus the Royal Palace and the Temple of the Tooth were placed in close proximity to each other.

The Temple of the Tooth is open from dawn to dusk. It houses a tooth relic of the Lord Buddha, and is consequently considered one of Sri Lanka‘s most holy shrines. Although you may not view the actual tooth itself, the casket within which it is said to be is displayed twice a day. The best time to view this ornate casket is around 6.30PM.

The Royal Palace of Kandy is the last Royal Palace built in the island. Although only part of the original palace complex remain. The Temple of the Tooth was part of this complex, due to the ancient tradition that stated that the monarch is the protector of the relic though which the ruler of the land. It today houses the National Museum Kandy which holds an extensive collection of artifacts from both the Kandy Kingdom and the British colonial rule.

Situated in the heart of the city, just north of Temple of the Tooth, the Udawatta Kele (Udawatta Forest) is a protected sanctuary, known as “Uda Wasala Watta” in Sinhalese meaning, “the garden situated above the royal palace” it was designated as a forest reserve in 1856, and it became a sanctuary in 1938.

Walking is recommended as the center is not that large. It is a good way of seeing temples, shops, shopping area and other sights around the lake. Visit Athur’s seat for a panoramic view of the Kandy city.