A Guide to Temple of the Tooth also know as Sri Dalada Maligawa
Temple of the Tooth (Sri Dalada Maligawa)
The Temple of the Tooth (known as Dalada Maligawa) is what we see as a magnificent temple that lies adjacent to an ancient palace in Kandy, being the most sacred spot for Buddhists both in Sri Lanka and abroad today. However, what we witness at this historically prominent locale at this current day and age has come a long way from old times, and herewith are some lesser known facts about this very Dalada Maligawa that are bound to entice you to come and give it a visit at least once in your lifetime!
Find out more about Best Places to Visit in Kandy.
A bit of History to the Temple of the Tooth
This holy tooth relic of Lord Buddha has known to be smuggled into Sri Lanka by Princess Hemamali and her husband Prince Dantha from India, concealed in her hair all the way back during 313 AD. This was because rival armies had invaded the territory that King Guhasiva (Princess Hemamali’s father) reigned upon in order to claim this relic.
Since this tooth relic was believed to endow power to rule one’s land upon attaining it, many have fought for its ownership. From battles to bombings, it has miraculously remained unharmed by any kind of damage inferred to it though!
This tooth relic is ceremoniously bathed every Wednesday with a scented herbal concoction called Nanumura Mangallaya. This preparation is known to have healing powers and is thereby distributed to worshippers and all those who may be present at the time.
A grand tusker by the name of Raja was a prominent participant in the Esala Perahera for 37 years at a stretch; he carried the tooth relic consecutively from 1950 to 1987, until he died in 1988. Raja’s body has been carefully preserved and is exhibited for public viewing at the Museum of Raja within the Dalada Maligawa itself.
Prior to being established in Kandy as it is today, there have been numerous ‘Temple of the Tooth’ shrines all over Sri Lanka previously; upon arrival to Sri Lanka, Lord Buddha’s tooth has been stationed initially in Anuradhapura and from here onwards following various unfortunate incidents such as battles and shifting of capital cities – in Polonnaruwa, Dambadeniya, Yapahuwa, Kurunegala, Kotte and Ratnapura.
The tooth that is enshrined today at the Dalada Maligawa wasn’t the only of its kind as Lord Buddha laid down to rest. In fact, there were a total of four tooth relics, each of which were separately retrieved and worshipped by different Gods in different regions:
- One was worshipped by Śakro Devānām Indraḥ (Sanskrit for ‘Śakra, Lord of the Devas’), who was a ruler of the Trāyastriṃśa Heaven according to Buddhist cosmology,
- Another one was worshipped by a king of Gandhara (Gandhara is one of the kingdoms that has been mentioned in the Mahabharata epic). This is now technically situated in Pakistan,
- The third one was worshipped by the ‘Naga’ (Sanskrit for ‘snake’) people who, as their name suggests worshipped snakes,
- The fourth and final tooth relic came into the possession of King Guhasiva of Kalinga which was an East Indian kingdom back then that consisted of a portion of modern day Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh of India. This is the very tooth that is now found at Kandy’s official ‘Temple of the Tooth’ today.
The moat of Temple of the tooth (Dalada Maligawa) that had been built for protection for royal buildings during ancient times still exists today. The main doors are known as the Mahawahalkada. At the foot of these doors is an authentic Kandyan moonstone (known as ‘Sandakada Pahana’ in Sinhalese). Two more guardian stones are also present at the landing of the flight of stairs over here.
At first glance of this Temple of the Tooth, you may feel that this vicinity is minimally constructed and designed for most people’s liking. However, as you step inside, you’re sure to expect a pleasant surprise as you witness the intricate carvings and various other forms of artwork along the walls, columns and ceilings (especially that of which is located directly above the shrine in the relic’s chamber).
At the ‘Handun Kunama’ of the Dalada Maligawa (this is the room where the relic is carefully kept) the seven golden caskets which are embellished in gemstones for the placement of the ever precious upper left canine tooth relic of Lord Buddha can be seen, along with the special casket for transporting the same during a Perahera.
Other buildings apart from the Dalada Maligawa
Apart from the Temple of the Tooth itself, this vicinity bears homage to the ancient Royal Palace of Sri Lanka’s former kings too. Inhabited by a number of reigning entities both local and foreign i.e. the Dutch and Portuguese, this portion of the Dalada Maligawa has been converted into a museum today. The Audience Hall which was also used by kings and their courtiers to perform routine meetings is now carefully preserved, yet utilized for State ceremonies in the country.
The ‘Patthirippuwa’ is a gazebo-like structure that can be easily spotted, owing to its remarkably prominent octagonal shape. This platform was initially built for leisure purposes for the benefit of Kings. Now, it contains palm manuscripts and is a library.
See Also : Kandy Itinerary
The Esala Perahera
Immensely famous among Sri Lankans both Buddhist and otherwise after the Temple of the Tooth itself, this vibrant and culturally rich parade has been pompously celebrated midyear (between July and August), every year for the past two centuries and counting. While elephants are clad in intricately embroidered robes along with musicians, acrobats and other performance artists for the purpose of majestically presenting the tooth relic in its casket over one of the male elephants in the procession, it’s a treat to the eye to witness man and beast passing along the streets of Kandy very much in unison to and from the Temple of the Tooth for 10 nights consecutively, ending at the full moon night of August.
Related links to Kandy Perahera :
- Guide to Kandy Perahera
- 5 Interesting Facts about Kandy Perahera
- 5 Places to Visit during Kandy Perahera Season
Directions and means of transportation to reach Kandy from Colombo
At a distance of approximately 115km between both major townships, Kandy is easily reachable from Colombo via the A1 highway either via a drive, a bus ride on an Intercity coach or on the Intercity Express train that takes roughly 3 to 4 hours for a one-way trip, depending on traffic and other factors.
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