Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic “Sri Dalada Maligawa”

by Lalantha Wijerathne
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Temple of the tooth

Sri Dalada Maligawa (also called the Temple of the Tooth Relic) in Kandy is the palace where the Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha (founder of Buddhism) is placed. Buddhists view this as a dwelling-house of the Buddha. They pay homage to the Buddhist Relics by accepting them as the living Buddha. Therefore, it is the custom of the Buddhists to treat the temples in Lumbini, Benares Isipatana (also called Sarnath), Veluwanaramaya, Puraramaramaya and the Sri Dalada Maligawa where the Temple of the Tooth Relic is located. The city of Kandy, where the Temple of the Tooth is situated, has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1988.


The Sri Dalada Maligawa (Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic) is one of the four sacred Tooth Relic that remains in Sri Lanka. It was brought by Princess Dantha and his sister Princess Hemamala who came to Sri Lanka from State of Udeni of India in a time of political turmoil. That was approximately in the 4th century AD. King Kirthi Sri Megawarna was the king of Ceylon at that time. Since then the Sacred Tooth Relic has become one of the most sacred religious objects in Sri Lanka. But later it becomes not only a religious object but also a political value as the owner of the Sacred Tooth Relic is recognized as the King of Sri Lanka. Therefore, anyone who comes to power in Sri Lanka becomes the legal guardian of the Sacred Tooth Relic. He had a genetic heritage to protect the Sacred Tooth Relic and preserving it as a protection of his kingdom. Because of this, the Temple of the Tooth was always built close to the royal palace. It received special protection.


During the Polonnaruwa Kingdom period from 1017 to 1232, the Tooth Relic was so protected that a specially trained Velaikkara army was recruited from India. This is evident from the Velaikkara inscription near the Atadage of Polonnaruwa. Although the Dalada Maligawa was kept in close proximity to the royal palace, it did not deter from the public. The Temple of the Tooth Relic was honored by a number of reasons, and a culture of worship was established. The people believed that the Tooth Relic had the power to rain and end the drought. As a result, the Sacred Tooth Relic was sacrificed incessantly. Whenever the kingdom traveled to different places, the Dalada Maligawa was built at that place. Its current lodging in relation to the era we live in is Kandy or Senkadagala. The Temple of the Tooth Relic in Kandy Town is a world famous Buddhist monument. The Temple of the Tooth Relic in Kandy was first built in Senkadagala city during the reign of King Vimaladharmasuriya I (1592–1604 AD) at Kandyan Kingdom era in the 16th century. It was first built as a two-storied house, but was later converted into a three-storied house by himself. But this Dalada Maligawa is not the Dalada Mandiraya that we see today.


It is said that King Vimaladharmasuriya II (1687–1707 AD) later made a three storied palace of the Tooth Relic. Because of the destruction of the city of Kandy by the Portuguese. However, according to historical sources, the three storied Dalada Maligawa which was created by King Wimaladharmasooriya II was later renovated and decorated with paintings by King Sri Veera Parakrama Narendrasinghe. It is said that in these paintings are based on two thousand Jātaka tales (The Jātaka tales are a voluminous body of literature native to India concerning the previous births of Gautama Buddha in both human and animal form). And also King Sri Wijaya Rajasinghe decorated the Dalada Maligawa with colorful garments.  


Architectural features of the Temple of the Tooth Relic


Generally, the Temple of the Tooth has its own unique architecture. The Paththirippuwa (The Octagon) is a great example for it. The Temple of the Tooth Relic was popular locally and internationally due to this building called Paththirippuwa. During the last king of Sri Lanka, Sri Wickrema Rajasinghe in 1802, The front section of the temple and Pattirippuwa was built by the royal architect, Devendra Moolacharya. This building was used by the King to address the public on special occasions. However, the majority of the buildings that remain near the Temple of the Tooth belong to Sri Veera Parakrama Narendrasinghe’s era. But it is King Wimaladharmasooriya I who has the honor of building the Dalada Maligawa in Kandy for the first time.


The Maha Wahalkada (The Great Gateway) is the main entrance to the palace. It was built with the bridge over the moat. This is a moon-stone (Sandakada pahana in Sinhala) made with the Udarata tradition. It is triangular in shape and has a lotus shape. The Guardstones (Muragala in Sinahala) on both sides here are special because they contain a note of an elephant (In previous eras, the elephant was not used for creating Guardstones). There is an argument as to whether this is a Guardstone, but we are called Muragala because it is located in the place where the checkpoints are located. 


After the Maha Wahalkada you can enter the Hewisi Pavilion by going under the tunnel called Ambarawa. The two storied building that made by King Narendrasinghe can be seen here. The lower floor is called the Pallemahala and the upper floor is called the Udumahala or Vedahindina mahala (living floor). The ceiling is decorated with wood and metallic carvings. In addition to the general staircase, there is a separate stairway for the monks and the officials in charge of the services.


During the renovations in 1956, two storied buildings were erected to cover the palace. The new palace which was built in 1956 to commemorate the Sambuddha Jayanthi celebration, P B Nugawela Nilame Memorial Museum has been established.


Walakulu Bamma or Cloud wall is a special architectural feature of the Dalada Maligawa. King Sri Wickrema Rajasinghe had begun the construction of the cloud wall around the Kandy Lake, but was unable to complete the construction of the wall due to the British invasion of Kandy in 1815 and the king’s imprisonment. The clouds wall still remains in the same unfinished state with a length of 2060 feet. The patterned windows in the cloud wall are lit by lamps. The beauty of these windows, when the lamps are lit, can be enjoyed at night. And at the center of the lake, there is a small island with flowers and trees with ancient constructions. This small island has used as a summer palace by ancient kings of the Kandyan Kingdom era. 


Important Locations at the Sri Dalada Maligawa Complex


The present Dalada Maligawa is a building complex. It houses various buildings such as the Royal Palace, the Temple of the Tooth, as well as museums. These buildings include the Four Maha Devalayas as well as the Elephant Kraal. Listing all the places in the Dalada Maligawa complex will make your trip easier and perfect.


  • Temple of the Tooth
  • King’s Palace
  • Raja Tusker Museum
  • Archeological Museum
  • Sathara Maha Devales (Vishnu Devale, Natha Devale, Pattini Devale, Kataragama Devale)
  • Royal Bathhouse
  • Royal Summer House (At the middle of the Kandy Lake)
  • International Buddhist Museum 




New Year Festival


Nakath Mohottala, who was employed in the Rajawasala work in the Dalada Maligawa. Therefore, it is his job to prescribe the auspicious time for the four annual festivals and all other related activities. It is also the duty of the Buddha Pooja on New Year’s Day to set auspicious times. The Buddha Pooja is celebrated on the Sinhala New Year. Therefore, the Sinhala New Year day is slightly different from the pooja of the normal day. A special ritual is performed to burn the stoves, cook the milk, and bathing the cage of Tooth Relic. The Sri Dalada Maligawa will specially decorate for the New Year.


New Rice Festival


Since the beginning of human’s agricultural livelihood, rituals have been performed in various parts of the Orient. The history of Vap Magul is celebrated with the participation of Kings, officials and religious leaders of ancient times. There has been a lot of rituals that have come to Sri Dalada Maligawa since time immemorial. The first harvest the farmer receives as an annual ritual is to be offered to the Sacred Tooth Relic. It was started by King Narendra Sinha(1707–1739 AD). 


The Kartik Festival 


The Kartik Festival is held on the November Pole Day. Kartika is a name for the November. Some believe that this feast is performed in honor of the God Skanda. However, this festival is also seen in Indian culture. Accordingly, the Kartik festival has been practiced by Sri Lankans since ancient times.


During this festival, representatives of ancient temples gather at the Natha Devalaya. According to a list prepared at the Natha Devalaya, oil will be distributed to each Viharaya for each temple. This oil is supplied to Natha Devalaya by the Sri Dalada Maligawa. Those who obtained the oil should conduct the procession and carry the oil to their own places and offer lamps for the king. Sri Dalada Maligawa, Asgiriya Temple, Gedige Viharaya and other temples are to be decorated on the day of the festival. The Maligawa Perahera and the Devalaya Perahera will parade the streets of the Temple of the Tooth. The Perahera is more unique than the other festivals.


Dalada Perahara


Dalada Perahera (also known as Senkadagala Perahera) is a traditional festival held annually in the city of Kandy in Sri Lanka. These festivals are organized by the Dalada Maligawa and the Four Maha Devalas. The most popular part of the Esala Festival is the Perahera Festival held in Nikini month (August). The festival has become a unique symbol of Sri Lanka. This is a Buddhist festival consisting of dances and elegant elephants. The festival marks the conclusion of the traditional water cutting ceremony held on the full moon day of Nikini. 


This is one of the most important historical celebrations in the world. You can find out more about the Dalada Perahera via our main article attached below. (ලින්ක් එක දාන්න)


A foreigner has to pay US $ 10 to enter the Sri Dalada Maligawa and is open from 5.30 am to 8.00 pm. 


Visit the Dalada Maligawa will reach you a lifetime experience of the historic, political and religious as well as the unique architecture.

Sri Dalada Maligawa is the Temple where the Tooth Relic of the Buddha (founder of Buddhism) is placed. It is located in Kandy, Sri Lanka. During the Kandyan Kingdom (1592 to 1815 AD), it was built inside the Royal Palace Complex. The custodian of the Tooth Relic, as accepted by the people from the past, should be the king of the country. Because of this, the kings of the past protected the sacred Tooth Relic with special concern. The Sri Dalada Maligawa was first built by King Wimaladharmasuriya (1592-1604 AD) during the Kandyan Kingdom.


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