When you’re in Kandy, along with the cricket ground where Murali grew up and the elephant orphanage, you will visit the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. This temple complex houses one of the most important Buddhist relics in all of Sri Lanka, an object so sacred it bring throngs of devotees to the temple threshold every year.
I’m sure from the name, you can guess what’s housed in the temple – a tooth of Buddha himself in a golden box. According to legend, the tooth was taken from the Buddha as he lay on his funeral pyre. It was smuggled to Sri Lanka in 313 AD, hidden in the hair of Princess Hemamali who fled the Hindu armies besieging her father’s kingdom in India. There is a statue in honor of both of them in the complex grounds.
It was moved from place to place and over time the belief spread that whoever was in possession of the tooth had the right to rule the land. Replicas were created to protect the integrity of the tooth and even today the location of the original relic remains unclear. Whether the tooth housed in this shrine is the real deal or not, it still possesses great religious significance for Sri Lankan Buddhists who strive to pilgrimage to its threshold at least once in their lifetime.
Entrance Fee & Dress Code
The grounds of the temple are very manicured and taken care of but the entrance fee for tourists visiting from SAARC countries is LKR 100, and alternatively LKR 500 for other foreign nationals – so be prepared to give up your shoes and $10USD each in order to enter the temple. As with most religious sites in Sri Lanka, decent attire is expected of all visitors; below-knee length pants or skirts, shoulder covered tops and no head gear.
The complex consists of three sections
- Royal Palace
- Audience Hall
Regardless of the story of how the tooth came to be, the temple is the highlight of Kandy town. It’s situated on the lake and has a little moat wrapping around the outside which doesn’t really deter anyone or any monkey; but it makes it look lovely. To get into the complex you will have to cross the moat but from an architectural and stylistic perspective, there are so many wonderful elements that you can photograph, that you will surely spend at least two hour shooting macro details of the complex.
If you’re into architecture … then you can’t help shooting all the small elements, from the ceilings with support beams to the stucco walls and ceilings of the Royal Palace,
On most days, there will be a crowd lining up, but thankfully when we went there wasn’t a large crowd to deal with but nearly everyone there came with flowers or other offerings. Many of them queued for what seemed to be a rather lengthy wait in order to present those offerings in the appropriate sanctuaries.
Another of my favorite areas was the Buddhist museum with shiny marble floors, numerous statues of Buddha from around the world, and a soundtrack of chanting filling the long, highly reflective hall. It was lined with paintings which each were a ‘story panel’ of the famous tooth and how it came to be in Kandy.
If you’re tired of all the architecture, you can always watch some dogs playing with cloth.