7 Things you should know before visiting The Temple of the Tooth Relic in Kandy – Sri Lanka

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If you’re considering a trip to Sri Lanka, the Sacred Temple of the Tooth Relic (also known as Dalada Maligawa in Sinhala) is surely already on your list of “must-see” places.

Situated in the capital of the hill country-Kandy, The Temple of the Tooth Relic houses the Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha which is highly adored and respected by all Sri Lankans and all Buddhists around the world. Although this place is now a major religious center, it used to be the palace of the last King of Sri Lanka.

So, not only will you be able to see the Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha while you are here, but also you will have the opportunity to see some of the greatest architectural marvels of the Last Sri Lankan Kingdom, stunning wood carvings, oil paintings, very intriguing cultural rituals and traditions, museums, a Buddha statue completely made out of gems, and even to take a boat ride on the Bogambara Lake next to the Dalada Maligawa, to name a few.

I’ll tell you more about the things that you don’t want to miss while visiting Dalada maligawa in a separate article. 

But today, I wanted to share with you 7 things, that in my opinion as a Sri Lankan, will be useful for any foreign visitor who plans to visit Dalada maligawa.

The Best Time of the day to Visit

To avoid unnecessary crowds and queues, it is highly beneficial to know the schedule of Dalada Maligawa and to know the when it is crowded and when it isn’t.  

Dalada Maligawa is open from 05.30 am until 08.00 pm. But, you won’t be able to see the casket of the Tooth Relic during this whole period. It is possible only during The Service Hours (“Thewa” in Sinhala).

There are 3 of such services per day.

Morning Service

5.30 – 7.00 am

Midday Service

9.30 – 11.00 am

Evening service

6.30-8.00 pm

During the service hours, there’s a traditional band playing a traditional Sri Lankan melody as a sound offering to the Lord Buddha, and hundreds of devotees queue inside the premises to offer flowers, food, and other material offerings to The Sacred Tooth Relic as a tribute to Lord Buddha. During this time the casket which houses the Sacred Tooth Relic is displayed to the public. Also, the neighboring temple where you can see the Buddha statue which is made of Gemstone is also open only during service hours.

But here’s the thing, the service time is the most crowded time of the day.

So, if you are planning to have a peaceful visit to the sacred temple and enjoy the arts and crafts but don’t mind not seeing the casket of the Sacred Tooth Relic it’s better to avoid the service hours.

Usually, the midday service is the most crowded time slot of the day in Dalada Maligawa. So, if you can visit during morning or evening service you’ll be able to enjoy the perks of the service time without much rush. But, on some days during morning and evening service hours, it can be pretty crowded too. Particularly on Poya Days, which are public holidays that are marked on the full moon of every month to commemorate an important moment in Lord Buddha’s life.

Don't forget to buy some beautiful flowers from the entrance to offer to The Lord Buddha (Photo by Rajiv Perera on Unsplash)

What to wear?

Key points:

  • Dress something that will cover most of your skin (covering both shoulders and knees)
  • Wear white or a light color clothing

The majority of foreign tourists experience uncomfortable circumstances because of this dress code. (Mostly female tourists). I mean, who really wants to wear a cloth that fully covers the body in a tropical country. Right? Yet you’ll see all the devotees who are visiting Dalada Maligawa are wearing clothes that almost completely covers their body. And if you try to enter The Temple wearing shorts and a top with some kind of straps that doesn’t cover your shoulders (forgive me, I’m no fashion expert in any way), you’ll be asked to cover your upper body and skin up to your knees (a bit below knees at least) with some kind of cloth. I know. Sounds terrible right. But don’t take your frustration out on the poor security guards. They are just doing their jobs. They are not allowed to let anyone enter the premises who is not wearing “culturally appropriate” clothing. Neither a local nor a foreigner.

Bear with me while I explain why it is a big deal in Sri Lanka to wear clothes that are called culturally appropriate when you visit any religious place. This is only for places with religious importance. So, you’ll have so many places to dress as comfortably as you feel.

This tradition to cover most of the skin while visiting religious places and wearing white or light colored clothing is something that Sri Lankan Buddhists have practiced for centuries to show respect to Lord Buddha. 

And it has something to do with the fact that when the Buddhists are visiting a temple, their goal is to take a step towards Nirwana which is beyond all worldly possessions. And they wear something very plain with no intention to improve one’s appearance. Something that won’t arouse anyone’s sexual feelings. They wear clothing for the sole purpose of covering the body. It comes from generation to generation in Sri Lanka that dressing up in white or a pale colored clothing which covers most of your body is like the least sexy thing. Haha! Anyways, It’s kinda written in stone in our culture. So, anyone who’s visiting a religious place is expected to wear appropriate clothing.

 The thing is, what is considered as appropriate and completely normal in the western culture is sometimes considered not appropriate in Sri Lankan culture. I mean, don’t get me wrong. We love western fashion. The young generation loves fashionable clothing that is inspired by western culture. And you’ll see many Sri Lankans wearing pretty and modern western fashioned clothes in Sri Lanka. We are becoming more and more open-minded actually. But, no one usually wears a dress that’s very bright in colour or something that doesn’t cover most of their body, to a religious place. If a local do wear something that is so-called inappropriate he or she would have to face some serious criticism and might even be asked to leave the premises, given that he was allowed to enter in the first place.

My suggestions:

When you go shopping for your trip, try to find something “culturally appropriate” for a Sri Lankan religious place. Something very easy-breezy, cuz it can get a bit hot in Sri Lanka.


For men:

For women


Short sleeve shirt  or a T-shirt

Something you’re comfortable with that has sleeves and covers backside and chest area (can even be a piece of cloth big enough for you to just wrap around your body)


A sarong (A traditional Sri Lankan men’s wear)

Or a trouser or a Three quarter length trouser (Something that covers up to your knee)

Some kind of clothing that is longer than the length of your knees (You can wrap a cloth around the hips too.)

It will be a pretty good experience for you to wear some cultural clothes in Sri Lanka. And I’m sure you’ll get a ton of compliments from the locals, when they see a foreigner dressed in a sarong or a traditional dress. I think you’ll all look awesome in Sri Lankan traditional dresses.

Let me know your thoughts about this tradition in the comments below. I’d love to know what you think. 

No shoes inside the Temple

Walking bare feet
Photo by Sandro Gonzalez on Unsplash

This tradition also has to do with the fact that Dalada Maligawa is a religious place.

It’s customary for Sri Lankans to remove any footwear or headwear before entering a religious place as a gesture of respect.

I understand that for most of you, removing shoes and walking barefoot on an unknown ground sounds like a recipe for disaster. Especially if it’s a rainy day.

Don’t worry. There’s a solution. Even though you are supposed to remove your shoes you can wear plastic foot covers. How many of you are relieved by this? HaHa! Of course, you can enter barefoot if you like. The decision is totally up to you.

  • You can leave your shoes in the shoe-keeping hut near the entrance to the Temple. It’s actually close to the ticket counter for foreign visitors.
  • Make sure to give your shoes to one of the shoe keepers and take a token with a number. 
  • If you visit as a group, it’s best to put all your shoes into one bag and give it to them. 
  • Also, it’ll be useful if you can look where the shoe keeper keeps your shoes so that when you come back to collect them you can give him the token and point to the place where your shoes are. It’ll save you a lot of time.

You’ll see many locals tip the shoe keeper. It’s kind of a custom to tip as gratitude for taking care of our shoes until we visit the Temple. But it’s not obligatory. And it doesn’t have to be a lot of money either. If you don’t have change it’s okay not to tip the shoekeeper too.


View of Dalada Maligawa from across the Kandy lake (Photo from advantiko.com)

Well! As you all probably know Sri Lanka is a country whose economy relies a lot on the tourism industry.

So, even though it’s free of charge for the local folks to enter the Temple, foreign visitors are needed to purchase a ticket before entering.

You can buy tickets from the ticket counter at the entrance or even buy tickets online using Tripadvisor.com. So, you won’t have to wait in lines to buy tickets.

Funny story! When I was visiting Dalada Maligawa one day, I overheard a foreign tourist making the humorous comment that he believed Lord Buddha to be one of the most expensive people in the world because many religious sites require visitors to purchase tickets before entering. Haha! Think this way. With the money you pay for the ticket, you’re helping the Sri Lankan economy to grow, and by that, you’re helping the Sri Lankan people. In return, you get the chance to visit and make memories in one of the most prominent World Heritage sites. So, it’s a Win-Win situation! 

The online ticket price for foreign visitors (according to Tripadvisor.com) is like $24.36 for an adult. It will sound as a bigger amount in Sri Lankan rupees because 1$ is around 360 Sri Lankan rupees. (might be changed when you’re reading this article). But trust me. Dalada Maligawa is something that you don’t want to miss if you visit Kandy. It’s kinda like the flagbearer of the central hills and in a way, of the entire nation actually.

Everyone is willing to help if needed

Sri Lankans are well known for their kind and welcoming nature towards foreigners.

So, if you need any help, don’t hesitate to ask a local when you are in Sri Lanka.

Beautiful rock carvings inside Dalada Maligawa (Photo from: blogspot.com)

Most of them speak English. Even if they don’t speak English they’ll understand if you use sign language.

But, in some situations (rarely) locals can get intimidated when a foreigner asks something. You know, they might feel a bit shy. Don’t think they’re being rude if they suddenly become shy as soon as you said “Hello”. But I can assure you 99% time they’ll help.

One other thing is that, even if someone asks you for money just because you requested directions or similar assistance, you actually don’t have to give money. This can happen extremely seldom. Most of the time, a local won’t even take money even if you try to give it as a gesture of gratitude. They’ll just smile and say no.

If you say “Bohoma Sthuthi”, which means “Thank you Very Much” in English, that will speak to a Sri Lankan’s heart.

Although, I don’t want to whitewash Sri Lankans saying they can do no bad. Yes, Sri Lankans are a very polite and helpful community. But, A very small percentage can try to take advantage of your vulnerability and ask for money to help you. You really don’t have to give any money to people like that.

Be acquainted with Sri Lankan traditions and manners inside a religious place

Beautiful view through the tunnel at the entrance to the Palace (Photo from: blogspot.com)

This one might sound weird to some of you. No PDA is allowed inside religious premises! 

I think the western society is very expressive when it comes to love. But, like in any South Asian country, Sri Lanka is very private about expressing love and romance. Especially inside a religious place, kissing and intimate expressions of love are considered inappropriate.

If a local is found to be expressing love in an intimate way inside a religious place, he or she can actually be arrested for misbehavior.

Of course, a foreigner won’t be arrested for such an act. Locals do understand that for a foreigner, an intimate kiss is just an innocent expression of love between 2 people. 

But, I thought it will be useful for you guys to know. Just to understand how we as Sri Lankans behave inside a religious place.

One more thing!

Be careful not to take photographs turning your back to a Buddha statue or sit on the lap of a Buddha statue. It’s considered to be a disrespect to Lord Buddha.

And also pay attention to signs that say “No photographs”. In some places (usually in museums) they won’t allow taking photographs. In some locations, it is allowed to take photographs but without using flash. (like when photographing frescoes)

Dalada Maligawa decorated with lights for preparation of Kanday Dalada Perahera
Dalada maligawa at night (Photo from: flickr.com)

It is not allowed to use mobile phones inside the Temple (like for calling)

When you are entering the Temple you’ll see signs on the walls stating you can’t use mobile phones inside the Temple. This is to avoid distractions for the devotees and also for security reasons.

But, you can use your phone to record a video or take photos. (I have seen people doing that).

If you want to take a call, it’s better to go outside of the building and take the call. Also, better to put the phone on silent mode while you are inside the temple.

These are some of the things that in my opinion, can help you as a foreign tourist, to make your visit to Dalada Maligawa simple and enjoyable avoiding unnecessary problems.

This post became longer than I actually wanted it to be. (Just like the last week’s post). However, I hope it was helpful and gave you all a decent idea of what to anticipate and how to be ready before visiting Dalada Maligawa. If it did please share with others who are interested in Sri Lanka and don’t forget to join our newsletter so you won’t miss updates about our new weekly articles.

Please let me know in the comments, what you thought about this article, what you would like to read in the future and what you like about Sri Lanka. I would love to know. 

Thank you so much for reading this article. We’ll meet again with another interesting and informative post.

නැවත හමුවෙමු😉 (Newatha hamuwemu = Let’s meet again)

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