Kandy was the capital of the Sinhalese Kings from 1592 to 1815. Fortified by a terrain of mountains and the difficult approach Kandy managed to operate in independence from Dutch, Portuguese and the English till 1815. The city is a world heritage site declared by UNESCO. Just north of the lake in the centre of the mountain city of Kandy is the golden-roofed Temple of the Sacred Tooth – also known as the Sri Dalada Maligawa – where rests the most important of Sri Lanka’s Buddhist relics – a tooth of Lord Buddha. The Sri Dalada Maligawa houses one of the two surviving Buddha tooth relics in Sri Lanka – an object of veneration for Buddhists. The other tooth relic is believed to be enshrined in a stupa called Somawathi Chethiya in northeast central Sri Lanka.
The Kandy Temple Complex covers a large area and there are numerous other temples and museums within the complex, in addition to the main shrine. The following are some of the key sites.
Alut Maligawa: A shrine hall displaying dozens of sitting Buddhas donated by Thai devotees. The design resembles a Thai Buddhist shrine hall in tribute to the fact that Thai monks re-established Sri Lanka’s ordination lineage during the reign of King Kirti Sri Rajasinha. The upper two floors of the Alut Maligawa contain the Sri Dalada Museum, with a stunning array of gilded gifts to the temple.
Audience Hall: To the north inside the compound and accessible via the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic is the 19th-century Audience Hall, an open-air pavilion with stone columns carved to look like wooden pillars. Adjacent in the Rajah Tusker Hall are the stuffed remains of Rajah, the famous Maligawa tusker elephant who died in 1988.
World Buddhism Museum: Just behind the main temple is the World Buddhism Museum. Housed in the former High Court buildings, the museum contains lots of photographs, models and displays illustrating Buddhism around the world.
Freelance guides will offer their services around the entire temple complex for around Rs 500, and free audio guides are available at the ticket office. An elevator facilitates access for travellers with disabilities.
The shrine receives many worshippers and tourists, with fewer tourists in the morning. Wear clothes that cover your legs and your shoulders, and easily removable footwear, as you may need to remove your shoes before entering the temple.