Cultural Heist: Temple of the Tooth, Kandy

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Cultural Heist: Temple of the Tooth, Kandy

temple of the tooth

So you’ve made it to Kandy, the big cultural draw in the heart of Sri Lanka’s hill country. This is one of the island’s most exquisite destinations with just so much to see, taste and do. A bright, colorful city haven like no other in the world, Kandy is the right place to savor a true tropical feast. Historical jewels such as the Temple of the Tooth, kovils and cultural centers make the city one of the most visited stops in Sri Lanka.

Kandy is a treat for the eyes, with its silver mists beautifying a perfect skyline as the sun flickers to life. We don’t doubt you’ll fall in love with this place; the art, colorful culture and the ever-interesting sights are sure to snare your soul.

This is a world divided; Kandy is a deeply spiritual stop entwined with the secular that guards the gates of an age that is centuries old. And nowhere is this more apparent than in the proud city’s loftiest creation; the Temple of the Tooth.

A timeless masterpiece; the Temple of the Tooth is one of Sri Lanka’s most treasured historical sites. Here’s what you should know before visiting this spectacular shrine

You’ll find the Temple of the Tooth right in the heart of the sprawling city, above the bustle of the masses. You couldn’t miss it if you tried. The building is beautiful in itself with its white washed walls and golden roofs. But that’s not why its famous. As the name goes, this temple houses a tooth of the Buddha himself. You’ll see a lot of Buddhist devotees around the place, wearing white and carrying lotus blossoms.

temple of the tooth outside

Image Source:

A peek into history

So how did the tooth get here? Legend tells us this much. The tooth was removed from the Buddha once he had passed away in India. It was brought to Sri Lanka by a fleeing Indian princess who hid it in her hair. Once it reached Kandy, it was laid to rest in the most extravagant shrine the city had to offer. Instantly, the Temple of the Tooth became an iconic site of the greatest honor and prestige. So there you have it; the history of the sacred tooth relic.

The temple interiors

You won’t find a lot of decorative artwork on the temple’s exterior. But inside, you’ll see countless rich carvings embedded with exotic wood specimens and ivory. A simple white stone wall runs around the building interiors with small openings used to light candles during ceremonies. There are also a few small temples and museums inside the complex.

temple of the tooth interiors

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

As for the sacred tooth relic itself, you’ll find it housed in an inner shrine of the temple. On the downside, you won’t actually be able to see the tooth. It’s safely locked in a beautiful gold casket shaped pretty much like a stupa on the outside. What you won’t see is that the relic rests on an intricate gold lotus flower and encased in a glittering casket lined with jewels.

The Esala Perahera

The relic is only supposed to be removed once a year from its bejeweled house of safety. And that’s at the annual Esala Perahera hosted by the Temple of the Tooth. Sadly, due to troubled times caused by the civil war, the tooth hasn’t actually been brought out for display since over 20 years now. The yearly Esala Perahera is quite a sight to behold with its fire dancers, torch bearers, dancers and majestic elephants. So if you’re here at the end of July, you’re in for a fantastic treat!

temple of the tooth perahera

Keep in mind that when visiting the Temple of the Tooth, you’ll be expected to wear clothes that don’t leave your shoulders or legs exposed. You’ll also be expected to remove your shoes at the entrance.

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