Sri Dalada Maligawa “Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic”

The venerated Sri Dalada Maligawa ‘ Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic’ is the most famous Buddhist Temple in Sri Lanka. Situated in Kandy it houses the relic of the tooth of Lord Buddha. In history, it is said that the place where the relic was kept was where the Country was Governed from. The Temple of the Tooth is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Rituals of worship and ceremony begin from within the inner chamber of the temple, three times a day (dawn, noon and evenings). On a Wednesday, a symbolic bathing of the relic is undertaken (with a herbal preparation, water, and flowers). The holy water is believed to have healing powers and is distributed amongst the devotees attending the ceremony.

It is believed that King Guhasiva instructed his daughter Princess Hemamali and her husband Prince Dantha to smuggle the relic into Sri Lanka after the parinirvana of Gautama Buddha.

They handed over the tooth relic to the king Sirimeghavanna of Anuradhapura (301 -328) who had the responsibility of its safeguard. The relic has been successively kept in the kingdoms of Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, and Dambadeniya. During the reign of Dharmapala of Kotte, the relic was hidden in a grinding stone in Delgamuwa Vihara (Ratnapura) and brought to Kandy by Hiripitiye Diyawadana Rala and Devanagala Rathnalankara Thera. King Vimaladharmasuriya I, built a monument to deposit the relic. In 1603 when Kandy was invaded by the Portuguese, the relic was carried to Dumbara and returned to Kandy during the reign of Rajasinha II.

The Temple of Tooth was built during the reign of Vira Narendra Sinha. The octagonal part of the edifice (now used as the temple’s library) and the moat around the temple were constructed during the reign of Sri Vikrama Rajasinha. The surrounding wall of the temple, along the moat, has apertures for coconut oil lit lamps. At the main entrance, you will find a moonstone named ‘Sandakada Pahana’ that is carved in a delicate Kandyan design. The entrance of the temple is decorated on each side by carved Elephants.

The main shrine consists of two storeys. The lower floor is known as the “Palle Malaya” and the upper floor is known as the ” Weda Hitana Maligawa” where the relic is kept in a chamber called the “Handun Kunama”.

The golden canopy and the golden fence that surrounds the main shrine was built in 1987. The tooth relic is nestled within seven golden caskets that are in the shape of a stupa and engraved with precious stones. The casket used during the Kandy Esala Perahera procession is also kept in the same chamber.

The site encompasses four further monuments:

  • The royal palace also is known as Maligawa built by Vikramabahu III of Gampola (1356 – 1374) and Sena Sammatha Wickramabahu of Kandy (1469 – 1511). Today it is an archaeological museum. During British rule, it was used by government agents and subsequently as their official residence.
  • The audience hall built in 1783 by Sri Rajadhi Rajasinha of Kandy was used as a court by various kings. The wooden carved pillars supporting its wooden roof also reflect the Kandyan period. The hall was renovated and extended in 1872. Today, the audience hall that is now conserved under the Department of Archaeology is used for State Ceremonies.
  • The Mahamaluwa contains the statue of Princess Hemamali and Prince Dantha and other statues of interest.
  • The Raja Tusker Museum is where the legendary casket carrying Esala Perahera elephant can be seen. Raja participated at the annual Esala procession in Kandy for more than 50 years and was the main sacred casket bearer and particularly of the final day, the Randoli Perehera for 37 years. Raja was one of the most famed elephants in Asia during his lifespan and was worldrenowned for his noble, gentle behavior, he lived for 75 years. On August 20, 1986, Raja was declared by a former president of Sri Lanka, J.R.Jayawardena as a national treasure, in cognizance of his valuable services to the religion and culture of Sri Lanka.