kandy Tooth Relic

kandy Tooth Relic

Established at the end of the 16th century, the Sacred City of Kandy was Sri Lanka’s last independent kingdom. At that time, most of the North and the coastal regions had fallen in the hands of either the Dutch, the British or the Portuguese. The last ruling dynasty was the ‘Nayaks’ of Kandy until they also were conquered by the British in 1815 when the last Sri Lankan monarchy was deposed and the British monarchy took over.

At that time, the capital was home to the Tooth Relic of the Buddha. A tradition started in the 4th century dictated that the royalty be the protector of the relic and ruler to the land. Even after the British conquered Sri Lanka, the city maintained its function as the religious capital of the Sinhalese and a place of pilgrimage for Buddhists. The relic was not only an important religious symbol but also the representation of power. It was believed that whoever held the relic was to rule the country hence its importance to the Sri Lankan royalty.

Tooth relic room

Tooth relic room

History tells that The Tooth Relic was originally in India and was sent to Sri Lanka by the Kalinga ruler, who found himself in imminent danger of losing in battle and therefore losing the Tooth Relic and resolved to send it to his friend, the Sri Lankan king, who at that time was a prominent supporter of Buddhism. This way, the relic was transferred from India to Sri Lanka. During its trip, the relic performed several miracles giving it superhuman powers.

Kandy Royal Palace

Kandy Royal Palace

Kandy is a famous and popular destination in the country. Visitors flock to its fresher air, the feeling of being in the mountains and the highlands surrounding it. There are tea plantations, trees, jungle and rice paddies. But the most important sight in Kandy is the Sri Dalada Maligawa or the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic where the tooth relic is held. The temple was built as part of the royal palace complex near Kandy’s lake. The sacred city of Kandy is a UNESCO site since 1988. Although the relic has been in Sri Lanka since the 4th century, its location shifted several times until it ended up in Kandy with the last ruling monarchy in the 16th century.

Door at Kandy Royal Palace complex

Door at Kandy Royal Palace complex

Today, the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic is a functioning temple so daily worship rituals are conducted three times a day at dawn, noon and in the evening. On Wednesday, there is a symbolic bathing (Nanumura Mangallaya) of the Sacred Relic with a herbal preparation made from scented water and fragrant flowers. The water is thought to have healing powers and is distributed among the presents so make sure to be there if you are in town on a Wednesday.

Kandy Tooth Relic temple

Kandy Tooth Relic temple

Through the years, various devotees including Heads of State, have made donations to the Tooth relic which are today on display at the Museum. The palace complex is large and can be explored over few hours. There are museums, shrines, sacred trees and beautiful buildings.

Beyond the palace area Kandy is an eminently colonial city. It is busy and packed with visitors and locals with traffic heard through the various multilevel streets of the city and towering buildings spread across the valleys. But life is a while behind Colombo and still shows clear signs of the British occupation. Old photographs, buildings and structures are still visible. One has the feeling that time has passed at a slower pace and, although Colombo is surely showing quick signs of development and openness, Kandy is lagging behind and taking it slower.

Kandy Royal Palace

Kandy Royal Palace

Aside from the Palace and the Tooth Relic, Kandy is well known for its beautiful Botanical Gardens, originally started during the 14th century when the King kept residence at Peradeniya, 5km from Kandy, where the gardens can be found.Expect thousands of orchids and beautiful lawns.

  • Any place with a name like “candy” is a place for me…lol. Never really thought about Sri Lanka but this post has really opened my eyes. Their is always more room on my to-go-to-list for another county. Great post.

  • Phenomenal Globe Travel Blog

    Interesting piece of history! Cool how the tooth was important both for religious reasons as well as in determining who would be in power!

    • I agree! Its really interesting to see how religion had such a great impact in the ruling of a city. 🙂

  • Sri Lanka is still very high on my to visit list. Thanks for sharing some of the beauty of Kandy with us!

  • Really interesting history about the relic. Do you know what miracles it’s said to have performed? I’d like some of that water. It’s like when you drink from the pure water of a glacier, it’s supposed to be healing and make you look younger!

  • Megan Claire

    Wow, this is fascinating. So, the relic is believed to actually be the tooth of Buddah? It’s this kind of history which really makes a city stand out much more in my eyes when I’m choosing our next destination.

    • Yep the tooth of Buddha – a piece of it actually! I agree, reading up on history really helps in appreciating a city more for me. It comes alive a little more if I know what had happened and who lived there before. 🙂

  • Jenna

    Very interesting–history like this is so intriguing! I would love to see the tooth relic and the palace, and I always enjoy checking out UNESCO sites so exploring the city of Kandy sounds fantastic! That’s cool that old photos and buildings are still visible, too!

    • You definitely should! Both the temple and the surrounding landscape are beautiful, and very rich in history and culture. Extremely worth a visit especially if you’re into UNESCO sites 🙂

  • The Tooth Relic looks like it could double as a door knocker! Its history of being sent from one place to another and performing miracles sounds like something out of a movie. Interesting stuff!

    • I think so too! I’m glad its accessible to visitors, its such a good bit of history to know and share about 🙂

  • Laura Lynch

    The city is really impressive. It’s always interesting to me to learn about ancient customs and beliefs, especially things like the tooth relic. What an interesting story.

    • It is. 🙂 I was fascinated myself, and really glad they still practice their old traditions and rituals with the same dedication.

  • Marta Cunha Grilo

    Such an interesting story! Kandy seems one of those magical places where you can easily go back on their history!

    • It really is! They’ve preserved everything so well, and because its still functioning you can see all the practices and appreciate them even more 🙂

  • Joe Ankenbauer

    I’ve never heard of this place before! It looks incredible! I need to put this on my bucket list!

  • Cai

    Interesting place to visit. I only wish that there’s a direct flight to Sri Lanka from Manila. Would really love to visit this country.

  • I’ve been seeing more and more posts about Sri Lanka lately! It seems to be a real treat. Anything else you can recommend to do outside of Colombo? Would you say that it’s safe for a solo female traveler?

    • Definitively, Colombo and Sri Lanka is safe, last time I went there alone and found no issues. I am not sure what else is there nearby, but I would totally recommend the Cultural Triangle, like I did, and the south, Galle (UNESCO site) and Tangalle for the beach – happy travels!

You may also Like:

100 Trips of a Lifetime
Recommended reads