The Temple of Sacred Tooth Relic is considered the heart of the Sri Lankan Buddhist community. In addition to its religious significance, we could also find several important festivals and events at the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic taking place daily, weekly, and annually.
Esala Perahara is the grandest and the most important festival associated with the Temple of the Tooth. Apart from this vibrant event, New Harvest Festival, New Year Festival, and Karthika Festival are the yearly events. In addition to these annual functions, daily rituals (Theva) take place three times a day inside the temple, along with one weekly service known as the Nanumura Ceremony.
So, let’s check out in-depth about these remarkable festivals and events and see why they are important.
Special Events And Festivals At The Temple Of The Tooth.
The Temple of the Tooth is not merely a place that is dedicated to worshiping. But it also hosts numerous unique, elegant, historically, and religiously important festivals and events.
These annual, weekly, and daily events are devoted to the Sacred Tooth Relic, which has been constantly carried out since ancient to present times. Some of these festivals or rituals are in place to sanctify the agricultural-based country with punctual rains and prosperity, while others signify the religious legacy of Buddhism.
Esala Perahera, or Kandy Perahera, is the most extravagant event held annually by the Temple of the Tooth. This vibrant procession typically lasts for ten days, while myriad festivities can be seen right throughout.
The Esala Perahera commemorates the Sacred Tooth Relic and the four ‘guardian’ Gods Vishnu, Natha, Kataragama, and Goddess Pattini. The procession of the Temple of the Tooth is followed in order by ‘Devalas’ (the temples dedicated to these Gods), which are situated in the setting of the Temple of the Tooth.
This is believed to have been a ritualistic festival since the 3rd century BC. The Sinhalese term ‘Perahera’ means a parade. If you visit Kandy during this time of the year, you and your family will be able to witness and experience this glorious procession of musicians, dancers, fire breathers, acrobats, and other eclectic performers.
At the same time, you could watch closely while capturing and filming the moments when those performers are escorted by a large number of embellished elephants and tuskers treading the streets in the merrymaking of this religious occasion.
A large number of people from all over the country and many tourists from around the world gather around the city to witness this grand and spirited festival each year.
New Harvest Festival (Festival of New Rice)
This festival is held in the month of January, and this is the final event for the year as per the Sinhala calendar. The New Harvest or New Rice festival is symbolized by preparing milk rice using the first yield of paddy and offering it to the Sacred Tooth Relic.
In archaic times, the King took charge of this ceremony while he also officiated the measuring and allocation of rice.
At present, the lay caretaker of the Sacred Tooth Relic, called “Diyawadana Nilame,” accomplishes the ritual. He distributes newly harvested rice to 91 temples and Devalas; the rest is allotted according to the 2nd and 3rd list. From the first rice harvest, 80 Serus (an ancient classic measurement which converts to about 100 kg/ 220 lb) of milk rice is offered to the Sacred Tooth Relic.
If you visit the Temple on the day this ceremony takes place, you can watch how this unique occasion takes place. You could even click photos or film the event, making sure that you will not obstruct the people on duty and their activities.
New Year Festival
New Year Festival is celebrated in the month of April, which is regarded as the official month of festivity for Sri Lankans. It is the first celebration of the year as per the Sinhala calendar. An official at the Temple of the Tooth known as “Mohottala” schedules all the auspicious times for the temple and other Devalas while he also observes the rituals and times.
Although the offering of “Pooja” to the Sacred Tooth Relic is a customary ritual, on the New Year Festival, everything is offered according to the auspicious times, including the five primary practices.
The dawn of the New Year sacred bath, boiling of milk, making food items, and oil anointing ritual which is held at the Natha Devala on the Wednesday following the New Year day. All these practices are observed for the plenitude of prosperity to the country and its citizens where you also could be a part of these activities with your whole family.
Especially, you’ll see locals are involved in oil anointing, which is usually done by a Buddhist Monk. Oil anointing symbolizes good health throughout the year, so if you join the queue with the locals, you too could be a part of this special event which will make a distinctive lifetime experience.
Weekly Service- The Nanumura Ceremony (Nanumura Mangallaya)
The “Nanumura” ritual or “Nanumura Mangallaya” takes place every Wednesday on the Temple premises. Two servicewomen known as “Alatti Amma ” are employed to accomplish the ritual. During the ceremony, the Chamber of Versifiers (the reciters at the Kavikara Maduwa) will recite poems in honor of Lord Buddha.
A small silver casket symbolizes the Relic casket, and the shadow of the casket is made to descend on a mirror which is cleansed with a special aromatic herbal concoction. Bathing symbols and idols is a custom of Hindus, and this tradition has been embraced presumably with the influence of South Indian Kings.
Once the ceremony is done, the fragrant herbal concoction is disseminated among the devotees who believe it has restorative power, where you, too, would be offered some if you were present during this occasion. Ultimately, fresh and fragrant flowers are offered to the Relic casket as usual.
The third celebration of the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic is the “Karthika” festival. It is commemorated in the month of November by having an exquisite procession on parade followed by lighted oil lamps being offered to the Sacred Tooth Relic at night.
This is similar to the Hindu “ Deepawali Festival,” and its considered “Karthika” festival was impacted by the South Indian Nayakkar kings who ruled the Kandyan Kingdom.
The main organizer of this festival is the “Diyawadana Nilame.” In olden times, the King allocated oil for the “Karthika” festival. Following the same tradition, the oil is provided by the Temple of the Tooth to the four primary Devala and other recorded rural temples and Devala. The oil distribution is carried out by the “Kariyakarawana Korala” of the Temple of the Tooth.
Daily Rituals Of The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic
Daily rituals, also known as the daily services or “Theva,” are conducted each day on the Temple premises. This beautiful ritual can be seen if you visit the temple during service hours.
This session is conducted early in the morning from 5.30 AM- 7.00 AM. It starts with the sound of “Hewisi” drum beats. Everything here is executed according to a timetable, and those who observe the services must stay till the custodians open the silver and golden doors, respectively.
The religious services possess a few steps where the offerings, including the fragrant and fresh jasmine flowers, are offered and removed with great devotion and according to a particular procedure. The venerations start with silver receptacles and end with gold vessels, and they are only allowed to be handled and touched by the priest (monk) who conducts the ritual.
The mid-day service begins around 9.30 AM and finishes at 10.30 AM. This is the daily meal offered to Lord Buddha called, which is known as the “Buddha Pooja”. First, the oil lamps are lit, and the wilted flowers from the morning service are extracted. Then the officer called “Geparala” handed over the silver tray with jasmine flowers to be offered to the Sacred Tooth Relic.
Afterward, the conch blower, along with other officers, carries the meal to be offered. This ritual is done by the same Monk who conducts the morning ritual according to scheduled ceremonial drumming (Maghul Bera) beats. The doorways are closed after the respective official reviews that everything is in order.
This session starts around 6.30 PM and proceeds till 7.15 PM while the Hewisi drums beat, the wilted flowers are removed, and fresh flowers are offered. The evening ritual is to offer Lord Buddha liquids/ juices (Gilan Pasa) and other offerings.
Sweets such as crystallized sugar and the sugary sap of Kithul palm (Althelijja) are offered in three small vessels, along with honey, ginger juice, and ghee offered in gold and silver tumblers. Generally, there are two “Gilanpasa” offerings per evening service session daily.
Poya Day “Sil” Program
Sinhalese calendar includes a “poya day” every month which is usually a national holiday, and Buddhist people often observe “sil” on this religious holiday. The Temple of the Tooth hosts an extensive Poya Day Sil program, and usually, a large number of locals take part in this event.
Hence, if you dress in respectful white clothing and inform an official in the Temple that you need to be a part of the Sil program, they will arrange a place around the International Buddhist Museum or inside “Magul Maduwa” to observe Sil peacefully.
You will also be offered meals, and you could get a tranquil experience by engaging in mindfulness activities like meditating.
Can I Take Photos/Videos Inside The Temple Of The Tooth In Kandy?
You capture photos and get videos with some exceptions. In fact, there are a few rules that you should follow when taking photos or videos inside the temple premises. Make sure the person posing for the photo doesn’t turn their back to anything significant like Buddhist statues or monuments.
In addition, taking photos and videos is not allowed inside the museums, which you will be informed of at the ticketing booth. Clicking selfies or photos of a person near the tooth relic chamber is prohibited, but you are allowed to take photos of the Tooth Relic Chamber.
Are There Any Other Temples Or Religious Sites Near The Temple Of The Tooth In Kandy, Sri Lanka?
You can visit the “Sathara Maha Devalas” made to pay homage to the Gods Vishnu. Natha, Kataragama, and Goddess Paththini, along with the “Wel Bodhiya,” which are located in the neighboring land of the Temple of the Tooth. You may also sometimes find elephants and tuskers feeding around this area.
In addition, you could also visit the Red Mosque and St Anthony’s Church located near the Temple of the Tooth and even reach Bahirawankanda Temple, Kataragama Devalaya, Pillaiyar Kovil, Malwathu Viharaya, and Adahanamaluwa Gedige Vihara within few minutes from the temple premises.
Are There Any Souvenir Shops Or Restaurants Near The Temple Of The Tooth In Kandy, Sri Lanka?
You can collect your free souvenir from the Temple of the Tooth souvenir shop at the International Buddhist Museum premises. Apart from that, you could purchase many other elegant souvenirs from this shop, while you may also find a few more shops outside the temple premises.
You’ll not find any other shops or cafes inside the Temple area, but there are plenty of different restaurants and cafes around. If we to name some:
- Queen’s Pastry Shop
- Balaji Dosai
- Pizza Hut
- Mulberry SugarCarb
- Devon Food Court
- The Bake House
- Delight Cafe
- WorldSpice- Kandy City Center
- Cafe Secret Alley
- OakRay Heritage Boutique
- Vito Wood Fired Pizza
More Reasons To Prove Why The Temple Of The Sacred Tooth Relic Is The Living Heritage Of The Sri Lankan Buddhists…
The Temple of the Tooth in Kandy, Sri Lanka, is arguably one of the most majestic places Sri Lankan Buddhists embrace and worship with immense respect. This place has been associated with the traditional religious heritage of the citizens, and we still see the legacy is carried out through the temple as various festivals and events like the magnificent Esala Perahera, New Year Festival, Nanumura Ceremony, daily services, etc.