The Sacred City of Kandy

Kandy and the Lake, Sri Lanka
Kandy and the Lake

…it is believed that those in possession of the Sacred Tooth would also rule the country!

The Sacred City of Kandy is situated by a lake in the hills at some 500 m altitude in Sri Lanka’s Central Province. Capital of the kingdom since 1592, Kandy was a naturally fortified stronghold for Sinhalese independence until the British arrived in 1815. The city is home to one of Sri Lanka’s most important cultural and religious sites, the Royal Palace and the Temple of the Sacred Tooth. The Tooth relic is considered among the most significant in the history of Buddhist Sri Lanka, and as such, a must-visit place of worship for devoted Buddhists on the island. Legend has it that the tooth belonged to the Buddha, taken as it were, from the flames of his funeral pyre in 483 BCE and secretly brought to the city of Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka a century later.

The tooth itself is not on display. It is kept in a casket in the shape of a dagoba (stupa) in a guarded room open only during puja, the time of offerings and prayer. Since ancient times, it is believed that those in possession of the Sacred Tooth would also rule the country.

Kandy – Sacred Tooth Buddha Temple
Sacred Tooth Buddha Temple


The present Royal Palace was reconstructed under the reign of Sri Rajasimha (1747-82). Since the 4th century it has been customary to build a temple to house the sacred Buddhist relic, always in close proximity to the Royal Palace and whenever the capital was relocated or established in a new place. The main tooth shrine known as the Vahahitina Maligawa has a gilded roof over the relic chamber.

In addition to the the Royal Palace with the Great Audience Hall and the Temple of the Tooth, the area within the World Heritage zone also includes the Palace of Sri Wickrama and the Queen’s apartments and bathing house. Also situated in the complex is the World Buddhism Museum.


The annual Perehera Festival

For ten days in July/August each year the famous Kandy Esala Perehera (procession), one of Sri Lanka’s most spectacular festivals, takes place here. Held annually for centuries, the festival is dedicated to the sacred relic and celebrated with a fantastic display by thousands of dancers, drummers and processions of elephants.

Perehera Festival – Courtsey of Sri Lanka Tourism
Perehera Festival – Sri Lanka Tourism

World Heritage Facts

The Sacred City of Kandy was inscribed on the World Heritage list in 1988 for being an exceptional example of a Sinhalese palatial construction and of a temple edifice directly associated with the history of the spread of Buddhism, dating back to the 4th century. (UNESCO)

Header photo of Kandy and the lake © Kotelnyk |
Sacred Tooth Buddha © Dreamstime
Perehera Festival courtesy of Sri Lanka Tourism
Sri Lanka – The Cultural Triangle (Approach Guides 2015)