Temple of the Tooth Relic in Kandy – Sri Lanka (Dalada Maligawa – ශ්‍රී දළදා මාලිගාව)

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Kandy was the capital of the Singhalese Kings from 1592 to 1815. Fortified by a terrain of mountains and the difficult approach Kandy managed to operate in independence from the Dutch, Portuguese, and the English till 1815. The city is a world heritage site declared by UNESCO, in part due to this temple.

The Sri Dalada Maligawa or the Temple of the Tooth Relic is a temple in the city of Kandy in Sri Lanka. It was built within the royal palace complex which houses one of the only two surviving tooth relics of the Buddha, an object of veneration for Buddhists all over the world. The other tooth relic is been enshrined in a stupa called Somawathi Chethiya.

The Sri Dalada Maligawa in Kandy, the temple which houses the Sacred Tooth Relic of The Buddha, is possibly the most sacred Buddhist shrine in the world. It is venerated not only by Buddhists in Sri Lanka but by Buddhists all over the world.

King Wimaladharmasuriya I (1592 – 1603), the first to select Kandy as the ruling capital originally built a two-storied Temple for the Relic and brought the tooth relic from Delgamuwa Rajamaha Viharaya near Kuruwita in Sabaragamuwa which has been hidden for protection. The remains of this building no longer exist.

Wimaladharmasuriya II (1686 – 1706) built a three-storied temple and his son King Weeraparakrama Narendrasinha (1706 – 1738), the last Sinhalese king to rule the country, built a new two-storied temple seeing that the old temple built by his father has decayed. The last king of Sri Lanka, Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe (1797 – 1814) built the Pattirippuwa (the Octagon). Originally, the Pattirippuwa (octagon) was part of the royal palace. It was used by the king to address his fellow countrymen. Today the Pattirippuwa has become a part of the temple and houses ancient textures written in ola leaves.

The entrance to the temple complex is through the structure known as “Maha Vahalkada”. There are two walls on the sides of the “Vahalkada”. The outer wall is called “Walakulu Bamma” (wall of clouds). This same pattern is also used in the wall surrounding the Kandy lake. The inner wall is called “Diyareli Bamma” (wall of water ripples). Both these walls are built with pockets to place oil lanterns during the night.

After passing the “Vahalkada” and the moat, you come to a “Makara Thorana“, the Dragons Arch. Next is the tunnel “ambarawa“. Passing this you come to the ground floor of the temple complex. The lower floor of the building is called “palle maluwa“. This inner chamber is fortified with a large wooden door and decorated with bronze and ivory. The area in front of the door is called the “Hevisi Mandapaya” (Drummers Courtyard) where the daily rituals are carried out.

The tooth relic is kept on the upper floor in the chamber called “Vadahitina Maligawa” The door of this chamber is covered with gold silver and ivory. The tooth relic is encased in seven gold caskets studded with precious stones. The outer casket is studded with precious stones offered to the tooth relic by various rulers.

John Davy's sketch of the tooth relic (1817)
John Davy’s sketch of the tooth relic (1817)

On the right of the relic is the “Perahara Karanduwa” (relic chamber used in the annual Asala Mangalaya perahara procession) kept inside a bulletproof glass display. This has been donated by India. Over the relic chamber, there is a golden lotus flower studded with precious stones hanging from the ceiling.

One of the very few who had seen the tooth relic outside the keepers of this sacred relic is John Davy an Englishman in 1817, who published it in his book called An Account of the Interior of Ceylon in 1821. According to him, it was inside 5 gold karaduwa (caskets). The relic itself was wrapped in a pure gold sheet and put in a gold case studded with emeralds, diamonds, and rubies just the size to receive it. This was kept inside a gold casket also studded with precious jewels. This is in a second, third, and fourth caskets which are all richly decorated with emeralds, diamonds, and rubies. This fourth Casket which is about 1 1/2 feet in height was placed inside of the great Karanduwa (casket). He describes the relic itself as yellow and brownish at the truncated base.

On the left of the temple is the new building which houses the taxidermised remains of the Maligawa Tusker-Raja. This magnificent tusker was captured in the jungles of Eravur in the Batticaloa District in 1925. He was purchased by Tikiri Banda Manampitiya Dissawe for Rs 3,300/- in 1937 and was donated to the temple by him. For over 50 years Raja carried the golden casket which carried the tooth relic and in 1984 he was declared as a national treasure by the government. This is only the second time a tusker has been declared a national treasure. Raja died In 1988 after a long illness and then it was decided that he to be taxidermised. This is the first time a tusker has been taxidermised.

National Museum

Next to the Temple of the Tooth, the Kandy National Museum once housed the concubines of the Kings of Kandy and now contains a clutter of royal and noble relics including thrones, scepters, and ceremonial swords, dating from the 17th and 18th centuries, before the kingdom’s final decline. It was here that the Kandyan chiefs finally surrendered to the British in 1815. After inviting them in to depose the unpopular king Sri Wickrama Rajasinha, the rebel chiefs attempted to dismiss the British with perfunctory thanks, only to find that their new rulers had no intention of leaving. The museum is open Saturday-Thursday 09:00-17:00.

 LTTE Terrorist Attack on the Temple in 1998

This temple, the most sacred Buddhist temple for all the Buddhists in the world was attacked by the Tamil LTTE terrorists using a massive truck bomb on 25th January 1998 killing 8 people including an infant, and injuring 15. This is probably the first time in contemporary world history that a sacred shrine of such international religious significance and a site of world heritage has been deliberately targeted by a terrorist group in the world in an attempt to bring about its destruction.

The blast caused extensive damage to most areas of the Sri Dalada Maligawa. However, the Sacred Tooth Relic which is housed in the inner chamber miraculously escaped any damage. Also extensively damaged by the blast were the Vishnu, Natha, and Pattini Devales (Shrines) and St. Paul’s Church all of which are located in the ‘Sacred and Royal Square’, adjacent to the Sri Dalada Maligawa complex.

Visitor Information

As a visitor or a devotee of Buddha, due respect should be given when entering this site. Due to its importance and the influx of visors, the temple authorities have imposed some dress codes which you must comply

  1. Compulsory Dress Code – All men and women must wear long trousers or skirts that cover their legs. If you come in a short skirt or a trouser, a sarong will be loaned to you to be worn during the visit.
  2. As in all Buddhist shrines, footwear and headwear should be removed before entering. There is a shoe room where you could leave the footwear safely at no cost – a small donation is appropriate.
  3. Light color clothing is more suitable – preferably white or cream colors.
  4. Wear clothes that do not expose the body excessively (eg. too much of cleavage/shoulders / back )
  5. Respect the worshipers – don’t talk loud.
  6. The Temple is open from 5.30 AM – 8 PM all seven days of the week.

Also See

 Map of  the Dalada Maligawa

Please click on the button below to load the Dynamic Google Map (ගූගල් සිතියම් පහලින්)
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The map above also shows other places of interest within a approximately 20 km radius of the current site. Click on any of the markers and the info box to take you to information of these sites

Zoom out the map to see more surrounding locations using the mouse scroll wheel or map controls.

Driving Directions to Dalada Maligawa

Kandy can be reached from Colombo on the old Colombo – Kandy road (option 1) which is scenic but heavy in traffic, especially on Fridays and Sundays. However, the new Central Expressway (option 2) has opened up a new route which is longer but less cumbersome.

Route 1 from Colombo to KandyRoute 2 from Colombo to Kandy
Through : Katunayake Expressway – Central Expressway – Kurunegala
Distance :150 km
Travel time: 3.20 hours
Driving Directions : see on Google map
Through : Katunayake Expressway – Central Expressway – Kurunegala
Distance :150 km
Travel Time: 3.20 hours
Driving Directions : see on Google map
Route From Nuwara Eliya to Kandy
Through : Walapane – Raja Mawatha
Distance :100 km
Travel Time : 3.0 hours
Driving Directions : see on Google map

Photos of Dalada Maligawa from the past ( from Images of Ceylon )


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