Santani Journal

A Dive into The Cultural Temples in Kandy, Sri Lanka

Discover the intricate architecture and ornate carvings of Kandy’s temples, each telling a story of devotion and reverence passed down through generations.
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The city of Kandy might be the bustling heart of Sri Lanka’s hill country, but it is also renowned for its cultural heritage and spiritual richness. Nestled within the verdant hilly regions in the centre of the island, its historical significance and cultural allure cannot be overlooked. Kandy was the last capital city of the ancient kings of Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) and hence is the perfect place for one to visit to gain a brief understanding of the rich but complicated past of this beautiful nation.

While staying at one of Sri Lanka’s luxury resorts in Kandy, you could visit any of the temples mentioned below to experience the religious and cultural significance of the city of Kandy. This city is home to a multitude of temples and each temple offers a unique glimpse and story into the island’s rich tapestry of religious beliefs and architectural marvels.

One thing all travelers must keep in mind when visiting these temples is that all of them are steeped in history and tradition and are a part of the cultural and religious legacy of the country. Even though everyone is welcome at these temples despite the visitor’s religious beliefs, as the temples are considered to be sacred sites, maintaining a respectful appearance is required. The usual rules of no littering and no unruly behavior would apply as people attend these places to worship, but in addition, visitors are also required to abide by a modest dress code. This might differ from each temple, but it usually refers to wearing long dresses/skirts/pants and avoiding sleeveless tops as it is not deemed appropriate. Additionally, footwear is usually removed at the entrance as well.

Temple of the Tooth Relic
Temple of the Tooth Relic in kandy

At the heart of Kandy lies the Temple of the Tooth Relic, locally known as Sri Dalada Maligawa. Enshrined within its hallowed walls is the sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha, making it one of the most revered pilgrimage sites for Buddhists worldwide. Visitors can witness mesmerizing rituals and ceremonies that pay homage to this revered relic. The Temple of the Tooth Relic is not merely a place of worship; it is a living testament to Sri Lanka’s rich cultural heritage. Throughout the year, the temple hosts a myriad of rituals and ceremonies that pay homage to the sacred tooth relic. One of the most revered rituals is the ‘Dalada Perahera’, held in July and August, a majestic procession that parades through the streets of Kandy, showcasing the sacred tooth relic to the faithful. Accompanied by traditional drummers, dancers, and adorned elephants, the procession is a dazzling spectacle that attracts visitors from far and wide. Today, the temple serves as a symbol of national pride and cultural identity, drawing pilgrims and tourists alike to experience its timeless allure. The admission fee for foreigners is a nominal 2000 LKR.

Lankatilaka Temple
Lankatilaka Temple in kandy

Further into the cultural landscape of Kandy, you’ll encounter the majestic Lankatilaka Temple. This architectural masterpiece stands as a testament to the ingenuity of ancient craftsmen. Its towering walls and intricately carved pillars are a sight to behold, offering a glimpse into Sri Lanka’s glorious past. This temple has sections for gods Vishnu, Saman, Vibhishana, Ganapathi and others as they had been worshipped here as well.

Embekka Dewalaya
Embekka Dewalaya in kandy

Located amidst lush greenery, the Embekka Dewalaya stands as a testament to Sri Lanka’s rich artistic heritage. This 14th-century temple is renowned for its exquisite woodcarvings, depicting tales of ancient lore and mythology. Visitors can marvel at the intricate craftsmanship that adorns every corner of this historic sanctuary free of charge!

Maha Vishnu Devalaya
Maha Vishnu Devalaya in kandy

With its vibrant murals and ornate sculptures, this revered Hindu temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and serves as a beacon of Hindu spirituality and devotion. The temple is open daily between sunrise and sunset, however, if you like to visit during pujas (prayer times) to experience the chanting and watch pilgrims make offerings; aim to arrive at the opening time or about 10.30 am or 6 pm.
Nelligala International Buddhist Centre

Amidst the timelessness of Kandy’s ancient temples, the Nelligala International Buddhist Centre stands as a modern marvel of architectural splendour as its construction began in 2015. As it is located on top of a mountain, it is a popular destination for tourists and sightseeing visitors due to its breathtaking panoramic landscape.

Bahirawakanda Temple
Bahirawakanda Temple in kandy

Perched atop Bahirawa Kanda hill, this serene temple offers breathtaking views of Kandy’s picturesque landscape. It is also the highest Buddha statue in Sri Lanka at 48.8m (160 ft) high. You could either make your way via a tuk-tuk or by foot, which will guarantee a spectacular experience during sunset. The Buddha statue is currently a symbol of serenity and a peaceful atmosphere.

Sandagiri Maha Viharaya
Sandagiri Maha Viharaya in kandy

This relatively new temple is the largest stupa in the Kandy district. This stunning architectural marvel treats visitors to a mesmerising appreciation of the Hanthana Mountain range. The architecture incorporates many references to Buddhist and Hindu traditions that hold great value and will fascinate you!

Matale Aluvihare
Matale Aluvihare in kandy

Traced back to the 3rd Century BC, this historic rock cave temple offers a glimpse into Sri Lanka’s rich religious and cultural heritage. This was the historic location where the Pali canon was first written down on palm leaves.

Gadaladeniya Temple
Gadaladeniya Temple in kandy

If you are interested in architecture, visiting this large rock temple built in the 14th Century is a must. The temple was designed by a South Indian architect following Hindu artistic styles. This unique construction incorporated Dravidian, Sinhalese and other Indo-Chinese architectural patterns.

Madawela Tampita Raja Maha Viharaya
Madawela Tampita Raja Maha Viharaya in kandy

Built entirely with thampita, a traditional Sri Lankan architectural material, this temple stands as a symbol of cultural preservation and heritage conservation. This temple holds great reverence among the locals as it is a hub for Buddhist religious activities and holds great religious, architectural, archaeological, and aesthetic value.

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