Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic
Religious and Political Symbolism
Within the royal palace complex of the ancient Kingdom of Kandy, the Sri Dalada Maligawa (or the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic) is a Buddhist temple that is home to the tooth relic of Lord Buddha. The city of Kandy was the last great capital of Sri Lanka’s ancient kings, and the presence of the temple is a major reason that the city was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The relic that lies within the temple has played a major role in Sri Lanka’s political history, as it was believed that the holder of the relic possessed the right to govern the country.
When the tooth relic was first brought to the shores of Sri Lanka, the king who ruled at the time had it enshrined in the city of Anuradhapura. The protection of the tooth relic became one of the duties of the monarch, and so over time it became a symbol of the right to rule. This is why the temples that were built to safeguard the relic were situated so close to the monarch’s royal residence.
What You Can See
The main entrance gate to the temple lies over a moat. A moonstone can be found carved into the ground in the traditional Kandyan architectural style, before the steps that lead up to the gate. The stairs are flanked by two elephants carved into stone. Inside, beyond the temple, the royal palace can be found to the north, and the royal audience hall where kings held their court can be found at the centre of the complex.