The Temple of the Tooth Relic in Kandy | Sri Lanka

I was meaning to spend only a night in Kandy before I head out to Dambulla. However—after experiencing the flamboyant bustles of the city—and fueled by a capricious wanderlust whims, I decided to extend my stay. It wasn't a bad idea, especially with Kandy situating in the midst of the plateaus of Central Sri Lanka, surrounded by rolling hills and tea plantations, the place presented an ideal opportunity for me to slow down a bit. I quickly discovered that much of the activities centers on the man-made Kandy Lake. A walk-around here, will lead you to ample heritage establishments and another of Sri Lanka’s UNESCO World Heritage Site; the Temple of the Tooth Relic.

Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic
Inside the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic Complex

Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic

Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988, the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic or Sri Dalada Maligawa, houses the relic of the tooth of the Buddha. In Buddhism, this is revered—especially in Sri Lanka—as a cetiya relic or a memorial piece of object from Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism.

The origin of Buddha's tooth relic originated after he died in 543 BC. After his body was cremated a sandalwood pyre at Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh, India—where Gautama Buddha attained Nirvana-after-death—his left canine tooth by one of his disciple, Khema.

The Hall where the sacred tooth relic is kept

This tooth relic was among a total of seven relics composed of three bone fragments and four teeth. The tooth relic became a subject of major conflicts because of a belief that whoever possess it earns a divine right to rule a kingdom. Over the span or more than 800 years and numerous change of possession, the left canine tooth relic found its way to  Polonnaruwa, then to Dambadeniya and finally to Kandy.

The sacred relic of the tooth of Buddha is now kept inside seven gold caskets, all shaped like stupas and adorned with gemstones. Since, photography isn’t allowed up close, I tried hard to look for it but saw nothing since the sacred tooth relic isn’t really shown for display.

They only take the sacred tooth relic out on a jeweled casket when a Buddhism ritual called Tevava is held three times a day. I was unfortunate to come at a wrong time—thus missing out on an opportunity to view the sacred tooth relic.

Kandy Esala Perahera Procession

Also known as the Festival of the Tooth, the Kandy Esala Perahera is held for ten days every July until August in Kandy, Sri Lanka. A procession of colorful sacred caskets lit up the streets—one of which houses the sacred tooth relic of the Buddha.