Temple of the Tooth - History and Facts | History Hit

Temple of the Tooth

Kandy, Central Province, Sri Lanka

The Temple of the Tooth is one of the most sacred Buddhist shrines. UNESCO-listed.

Image Credit: Arkady Zakharov / Shutterstock

About Temple of the Tooth

The Temple of the Tooth (Dalada Maligawa) is a colourful temple which is said to hold the tooth of Buddha – one of the most important Buddhist relics.

History of the Temple of the Tooth

The subject of fierce fighting, it is said that the tooth – one of the Buddha’s teeth and therefore one of the most important Buddhist relics – was first brought to Sri Lanka in the 4th century AD and has been part of the politics of the local region ever since. Legend has it that whoever owns the tooth has governance over the local area. However, the Temple of the Tooth itself was first built in 1603, with the current temple dating back to the 18th century.

The Temple of the Tooth was part of Kandy, a royal city founded in the 14th century that became the capital in the 16th century. Subject to various colonial invasions, Kandy fell to the British in 1815. The Royal City of Kandy is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The temple was damaged by militant organisations in the late 20th century, but was rebuilt extensively both times.

The Temple of the Tooth today

The temple complex has stop-start opening hours throughout the day – it’s a working temple, so visitors aren’t always permitted. When they are, it can be extremely crowded: expect to be jostled and cover up before you go – legs and shoulders shouldn’t be on display.

Guides and audio guides are available on site and are two useful resources. You can learn more about the Temple of the Tooth at the complex, although you can’t view the tooth itself. There are plenty of conspiracy theories about the tooth itself – many believe it’s not authentic because it’s not on display and is so closely guarded. The elaborate case is on display however.

Getting to the Temple of the Tooth

The temple is on the outskirts of Kandy – the city is small and you can walk here from the city centre and the main railway station. Kandy itself is in central Sri Lanka: it’s about a 4 hour train ride from Colombo through some gorgeous scenery.

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