Sri Lanka holds many surprises. Boasting a rich flora and fauna, the island also has an incredible cultural heritage. It is steeped in tradition and religion, and you can discover its wonders whether travelling as a couple or a family.
Sri Lanka has many archaeological or religious sites through which you can discover the island’s history. You will find different temples all over Sri Lanka, however the most famous one is undoubtedly the Temple of the Tooth, erected on the lake shore in Kandy. This temple bears testimony to the Sri Lankans’ religious fervour.
The Temple of the Tooth: a sacred place
This temple is a leading Buddhist religious landmark. Originally it was part of a vast architectural complex that included most notably the Royal Palace of the Kandyan sovereigns. The last king had the octagonal pavilion built to attend celebrations. Today it’s a library.
This temple became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. The inside of the temple bears witness to an incredible religious fervour. A relic brought back from India, the Relic of the Tooth of Buddha, is kept here in a golden casket.
This magnificent temple has an entrance fee and you can hire audio guides for added information during your visit. As a sign of respect you must take your shoes off and go into the temple barefoot with your shoulders and knees covered. Please also remember to respect the pilgrims who have come to meditate during your visit. They come to bring offerings such as flowers, fruit or incense and to pray.
Be aware that you won’t be able to see the famed Tooth of Buddha, but the magnificent decors are definitely worth seeing. There is a large gold-plated statue of Buddha and you can admire stunning colours on the walls. The room containing the Tooth’s casket is adorned with elephant tusks and gold.
Your visit to the Temple of the Tooth will make for unforgettable memories and give you the opportunity to get closer to Buddhism and to the Sri Lankans.
The Esala Perahera festival, a must-see event
The Temple of the Tooth is a site brimming with amazing energy, and it’s at its greatest during the Perahera festival. This festival celebrating the Tooth of Buddha takes place every summer to the delight of visitors. You can then expect ten days of nocturnal processions for which elephants and dancers wear colourful finery.
This Buddhist festival dates from 1747. At the time the tooth relic was deemed to be the private property of the king and the population couldn’t venerate it. King Rajasinghe decided that it would be presented during a procession, so that everyone could see and venerate the precious relic. Today this religious event attracts many Sri Lankans as well as tourists. It takes place in several stages, starting with the Kap Tree Planting Ceremony and five nights of nocturnal processions. A cutting of a jackfruit tree is planted in each of the four sacred shrines dedicated to the four guardian gods.
The 6th night sees the beginning of a period of increasingly spectacular parades. Every night you can admire brilliantly caparisoned elephants, dancers, drummers and fire jugglers. One elephant is chosen to carry a replica of the Tooth of Buddha. On the last day the festival concludes with a day-time ceremony. The guardians of the shrines go to the Getambe river to fill a container with water that will be kept until the following year.
This temple and ceremony will allow you to learn more about Buddhism. However you can find Buddhist sites all over the island. A tour of the island enables you to see the greatest number of exceptional Sri Lankan sites.