I am a Kandyan myself. If I’m like most other people who were born and raised in Kandy, we are pretty proud to say that we are Kandyans. In fact, there’s kind of a theory in Sri Lanka saying that “Kandy people are proud”. If you ask me Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic is the primary reason for this.
When talking about Kandy especially in the interest of tourist without a doubt the temple of the tooth relic is the first in the list. Native people call it Sri Dalada Maligawa which gives a meaning close to “Palace of the Sacred Tooth of Lord Buddha”. It’s a place where people have most respect to. Sri Lankans and all the other Buddhist all around the world believe the Tooth Relic has magical powers. I am more of a science person. But I will never forget what happened a few years ago. I can’t really remember the exact year, unfortunately. But there was a major drought in the country and people suffered a lot. Fortunate I didn’t suffer from it, except for the higher temperature. I consider myself lucky in that case as I have never suffered from any natural disasters. Definitely, Mother Nature loves me. Anyways I’m getting off the topic here. SO there was a drought. Everywhere was brown and trees were dying. I remember when I was traveling, seeing many areas like deserts which were once filled with green plantations. Nobody expected rain any sooner. Also, you should know among many magic powers that Tooth Relic has, giving rain was one of them, according to believers. So there was this event with the intention of making it rain. For this event, the Tooth of the Lord Buddha was taken out. Laymen have it that when the sacred tooth is shaken it causes rain. However, in the middle of this event, it began raining! Out of nowhere! Only covering a small area where the ritual was performed. Distance places didn’t get any rain. But I still remember how amazed I was to see that rain. Nobody predicted such weather. It just started happening when the ritual started! After that day the respect I had for the place increased. Maybe it was the collective belief of many people that made it rain, according to psychology. Maybe it was a sheer miracle. Whatever it was it was truly a miracle!
I know for most people too much history can be boring. I’ll keep it short here because it’s important to at least know a bit about a place you plan to visit. As one wise guy once said, “Know where you are going”. 😀
After the passing away of Gautama Buddha, it is said that the sacred tooth was smuggled to Sri Lanka by a princess and a prince called Hemamali and Dantha as instructed by the princess’s father. They handed it over to the king who was ruling the island those days, King Sirimeghavanna of Anuradhapura. The relic was then kept in the city, Anuradhapura with royal security and guard of the monarch. Since the king took the responsibility of protecting it, over the time it is said that the tooth relic became a part of the law as in it represented the right to rule the country. So each time a kingdom was established in the island the tooth relic was transferred and kept in a monarch build close the royal residence. Sometimes it was kept hidden too to protect it from potential enemies of the royal family.
It was brought to Kandy, where it is kept presently, by a royal authority called Hiripitiye Diyawadana Rala and a monk called Devanagala Rathnalankara Thera. The relic was again kept hidden at the time of the invasion by Portuguese. It was later recovered again and today it is kept in a palace built by the King Vira Narendra Sinha.
The palace was attacked recently too, maybe in 1989, by a terrorist organization called LTTE. Or it’s being said so. This organization has been completely terminated by the military in the country and no longer exists. So there’s nothing to worry about a terrorist attack if that ran through your mind.
Back to present day
Today the palace has been opened to everyone and you can see so many architectural values when you walk in there. There are so many sections and you shouldn’t miss a single section as everything is different from one another. You can see the Octagon, Temple of the Tooth building complex, International Buddhist Museum, Lake, Nation Museum of Kandy etc. Museums are great here. In one museum the culture of many countries like India, Bangladesh, and Myanmar have been integrated into to one building. It’s like walking through each country. You can take a boat ride in the Kandy Lake too.
Anyone can visit the temple of tooth relic between 5.30 AM to 8.00 PM. Mostly local worshipers go early in the morning especially if there’s a special event.
During special events or prayer hours especially in the morning, the room where the tooth is kept is opened. This room is heavily guarded during day and night. Still, you cannot see the real tooth as it is covered with a gold casket shaped like a dagoba (a religious building in Buddhism) to be exact it isn’t only one casket. The tooth is covered with 7 suck caskets, may be for the better protection.
Even when the door is open you cannot go inside unless you have special pass or permission. You can however photograph is from the outside as far as I know.
A model of this casket is displayed to the public during Esala perahera also known as the Festival of the Tooth. A trained and royally decorated elephant is used to carry the casket. It’s absolutely amazing and stunning. If you plan to come to Sri Lanka this time of the year which is July and August would be ideal as this festival is known all around the world for its grand sites.
For locals it’s free. For the tourist, they charge around 10USD.
I remember once I visited the temple with a foreign friend from Switzerland and he got pretty upset that they didn’t charge me but asked him to buy a ticket. He got into a “friendly” argument with the ticketing people there too. 😀
I hope this article has been of help to you and if you have any doubts feel free to contact me. I will definitely get back to you.