Sri Dalada Mligawa Early Period of Service.
Sri Dalada Mligawa Early Period of Service.
Photograph by Palitha Weerawansa

Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic (Sri Dalada Maligawa)

Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic (Sri Dalada Maligawa) is a well-known place of worship around the world. It houses Lord Gauthama Buddha's left canine tooth. UNESCO designated this holy site as a world heritage site in 1988.

BY Palitha Weerawansa
PUBLISHED ON February 8, 2021 | LAST MODIFIED ON May 30, 2021

History of the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic

The temple, which has a lot of meaning for Buddhists all over the world, also has a lot of cultural value. The architecture is of the unique Kandyan architectural style, with a combination of the unique style used to build the “Dalada Mandira,” the shrines that previously housed the Sacred Tooth Relic in other kingdoms.

Kandy's Sacred Tooth Relic Temple is near the ancient Royal Palace to the north, and the forest reserve is known as "Udawaththa Kelaya" to the east. Kandy Lake, also known as "Kiri Muhuda" to the south and "Natha & Paththini Devala" to the west. Intricate carvings in gold, silver, bronze, and ivory adorn the temple.

The Sacred City of Kandy is the final resting place of Gautama Buddha's Sacred Tooth Relic. During the reign of King Keerthi Sri Meghavarna, Princess Hemamala and Prince Dantha brought the sacred relic to Sri Lanka from the ancient Indian city of Kalinga (Kithsirimevan 301 -328). It became a symbol of Sri Lankan kings and was carefully guarded in a special shrine built within the royal palace precincts, wherever the capital was located. Ruins of such structures can still be found in the ancient capitals of Anuradapura, Pollonnaruwa, Dambadeniya, Yapahuwa, Kurunegala, Kotte, and Gampola. While in Kandy, the last Kingdom, the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic continues to be the most revered shrine in the Buddhist world.

The first “Dalada Madura” in Kandy, which housed the Sacred Tooth Relic, was built by King Wimaladharmasuriya between 1592 and 1604. According to history, the Portuguese destroyed this during their invasions. The second temple which was destroyed by the Dutch was built in the same location by King Rajasinghe the Second between 1635 and 1687. According to Dalada history, in the year 1687, King Wimaladharmasuriya the Second built a three-story Dalada Madura and performed Dalada rituals with great devotion, but the building decayed and was destroyed over time. Later, King Sri Veera Parakrama Narendrasinghe, who reigned from 1707 to 1739, built the two-story Dalada Madura that stands today. The South Indian Kings who ruled the country from Senkadagala renovated and protected King Narendrasinghe's shrine.

King Keerthi Sri Rajasinghe meticulously renovated and beautified the temple to its current state. Paththirippuwa, also known as the Octagonal Pavilion, was built by King Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe, who reigned from 1798 to 1815.

The protection of the Sacred Tooth Relic and the uninterrupted performance of religious rituals continue to this day under the strict supervision of the three chief custodians of the Tooth Relic, the Most Venerable Mahanayake theros of Malwatta and Asgiriya chapters, lay custodian, and Diyawadana Nilame.

Theva or Daily Services

The daily rituals for the Sacred Tooth Relic are known as "Theva" or Services, and there are tree services. There is an early morning service, a midday service, and an evening service. There are also traditional sound offerings.

Theva or Daily Services time table

Morning Service5.30 a.m. - 7.00 a.m.
Midday Service9.30 a.m - 11.00 a.m.
Evening Service6.30 p.m - 8.00 p.m.

Early Morning Service

The Early Morning Service begins at 5.15 a.m., with the beating of the Hewisi drums. Everything here is done on time, and those who come to the services must wait until the caretakers open the doors, the silver door first, then the golden door.

The religious services are simple, and Ananda Thero's devotion to the living Lord Buddha is also extended to the Sacred Tooth Relic. Offerings of jasmine flowers, known as "Saman Pichcha," as well as other offerings, are made with great devotion. The removal of offerings is also done with great devotion by a system. Starting with silver vessels and progressing to gold vessels. These vessels are handled with such reverence by a Monk assigned to this task that only he is allowed to touch them.

Mid-Day Service

This is the daily meal offered to Lord Buddha called "Buddha Pooja," which begins at 9.30 a.m. and ends at 10.30 a.m. This service is also performed by the monks in charge of Thevava and the officials who perform the morning service. The oil lamps are lit first, and the withered flowers from the morning service are removed. The official is known as "Geparala" then hands over the silver tray containing Jasmine flowers or "Saman Pichcha" to be offered to the Sacred Tooth Relic. The conch blower and other officials then bring the meals or "Buddha Pooja" to be offered.

The same Monk is also in charge of removing the vessels. In ceremonial drumming or "Maghul Bera" sounds, according to a schedule. After the respective official has inspected that everything is in order, the doors are closed.

Evening Service

This begins around 6.30 p.m. and continues until 7.15 p.m. in Hewisi sound withered and old flowers are removed and new flowers are offered. The evening service includes juices or "Gilan Pasa" and other offerings to Lord Buddha. Sugar, Sukiri, and the sugary sap of the Kithul palm or "Althelijja" are available in three small goblets, and Honey, Ginger Juice, and Ghee are available in a gold and silver goblet combination. The first and second “Gilanpasa” offerings are available. During the reign of King Keerthi Sri Rajasinghe, the second “Gilanpasa” offering began.

Route to Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic