Sri Dalada Maligawa or The Temple of the Sacred Tooth is one of Sri Lanka’s most significant heritage sites, housing one its most important relics – the upper canine tooth of Gautama Buddha or the Lord Buddha. It is situated in the northern city of Kandy, a UNESCO heritage city (predominantly because of the temple) and is based in the Royal Complex which also houses the Royal Palace of Kandy, National Museum of Kandy and also the National Buddhist Museum. For culture vultures, this can be an epic visit. It’s also one of the best things to do on honeymoon in Sri Lanka, if history and heritage is your thing!
The Temple was built in the 17th Century between 1687-1707. After the colonial wars with Portugal and the Netherlands, the Temple walls were destroyed and rebuilt again in stone. From the outside the building appears plain with white stone walls and a red tiled roof, however, on the inside it is lavishly decorated with ivory and lacquer with several statues and gardens decorating the area. Along the front of the building a small stone wall is built with several openings where, during special ceremonies, candles are placed lighting up the entire front of the building. After a bombing by the rebel group Tamil Tigers in the 1990’s the structure was once again rebuilt.
Rituals are performed three times daily- dawn, noon, evening- and if you are lucky enough to be there on a Wednesday, a special ritual is performed in which fragranced water is passed around, which it is said has special healing powers! The tooth itself is removed once a year during Esla Perhara, one of the largest Buddhist festivals in the world with over a million people attending the ten day event. At the festival fire dancers, priests, government officials and ornately dressed elephants parade through the streets celebrating their faith. On the last night the procession enters the temple following the course of the sun and government officials traditionally pledge themselves to the service of the people in the presence of the relic. This year the festival begins on the 29th of July and ends on the 8th of August.
The temple in Kandy is a three hour drive from Olcote. While in Kandy there are a host of different tourist attractions such as the Royal Botanical Gardens and the Udawatta Kele Conservation Park. Kandy itself, having been made a UNESCO World Heritage city, is a must see for those visiting Sri Lanka, however the Temple of the Sacred Tooth is its most prized possession.