Temple of the Tooth Relic

Literary sources indicate that the sacred Tooth Relic was received by king Vimaladharmasuriya I with great veneration and placed in the new three – storied shrine built by him near the royal palace. The Dutch Plan of 1765 shows the ground plans of two shrines. The one at the back should be the original one built by the king. His successor was Senarat (1603 – 1634), a brother of the deceased king had to face severe opposition from the contenders. He had to live in such distant places as Mahiyangana. He was able take the Tooth Relic to a safe location at Madamahanuvara in the hills enveloped with thick forest cover. Even under these difficult conditions, king Senarat was able to give due honor to the sacred Tooth Relic by placing it in a suitable shrine. Rajasimha II (1634 – 1686) succeeded king Senarat. As the Portuguese interference in local political affairs was intensified, Rajasimha sought the aid of the Dutch to circumvent the situation.

Just north of the lake, the golden-roofed Temple of the Sacred Tooth houses Sri Lanka’s most important Buddhist relic – a tooth of the Buddha.

During puja (offerings or prayers), the heavily guarded room housing the tooth is open to devotees and tourists. However, you don’t actually see the tooth. It’s kept in a gold casket shaped like a dagoba (stupa), which contains a series of six dagoba caskets of diminishing size.

The entire temple complex covers a large area and as well as the main shrine there are numerous other temples and museums within the complex. The following are some of the key sites.


Sigiriya

Sri Lankan architectural tradition is well displayed at Sigiriya, the best preserved city centre in Asia from the first millennium, with its combination of buildings and gardens with their trees, pathways, water gardens, the fusion of symmetrical and asymmetrical elements, use of varying levels and of axial and radial planning.

Climb the 5th century Sigiriya rock fortress which is a world heritage site, built by King Kashyapa (477-495 AD). The "Lion Rock" is a citadel of unusual beauty rising 200 metres from the scrub jungle. The rock was the inner most stronghold of the 70 hectare fortified town.

A moat, rampart, and extensive gardens including the renowned water gardens ring the base of the rock. Visit the world - renowned frescoes of the "Heavenly Maidens" of Sigiriya, which are in a sheltered pocket of the rock approached by a spiral stairway. These frescoes are painted in earth pigments on plaster.


Dambulla

The city of Dambulla is situated in the Matale District in the Central Province of Sri Lanka, situated 148 km north-east of Colombo and 72 km north of Kandy. Major attractions of the city include the largest and best preserved cave temple complex of Sri Lanka, and the Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium, famous for being built in just 167 days. The city also boasts to have the largest rose quartz mountain range in South Asia, and the Iron wood forest, or Namal Uyana.

Walagambah in the 1st century B.C. And it is a world heritage site. It is the most impressive of Sri Lanka's cave temples. The complex of five caves with over 2000sq. metres of painted walls and ceilings, is the largest area of paintings found in the world. It contains over 150 images of the Buddha of which the largest is the colossal figure of the Buddha carved out of rock and spanning 14 metres.


Anuradhapura

A UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the north central part of the Island was the first capital (5th century BC - 9th century AD), the centre of the island's Buddhist civilization and undoubtedly the grandest city of ancient Sri Lanka. In antiquity and the interest, it is the equal of any ancient 'buried city' in the world. The oldest historically documented tree on earth (over 2,200 years old) - The Sri Maha Bodhi, brought as a sapling of the tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment, and the island's oldest Buddhist shrines - some dating back to the 3rd century BC.

There are impressive white 'dagabas' (relic chambers) and monuments embellished with handsome stone carvings or sculpture, pleasure gardens, beautifully executed stone baths and ponds and a superb irrigation system of reservoirs and canals are the main attractions of Anuradhapura.

Specific places to visit are - the Brazen Palace (2nd century B.C.), with 1600 significant stone columns are the remains of a magnificent multi - storied residence for monks - an engineering marvel at the time, Ruwanweliseya (2nd century B.C) the most famous of all the dagoba's, originally depicted the perfect water-bubble shape that modern restoration has not been able to accurately reproduce, Samadhi Buddha (3rd century B.C.) regarded as the finest rock sculpture in the island - depicting the Buddha in a state of deep meditation, lsurumuniya rock temple (3rd century B.C.) known for its rock carving of the "Lovers", Kuttam Pokuna, twin ponds (3rd century B.C.) which were used by monks of this glorious era as a bathing pool.

Thuparama (3rd century B.C.), the oldest dagoba in the island - enshrines the right collarbone of Buddha, Ratnaprasada with the best preserved Guard Stone, Mahasena's Palace with its renowned Moonstone, Abayagiri and Jetevanarama - a huge dagoba said to the largest brick built structure in the world.


Galle Fort

Galle Fort, in the Bay of Galle on the southwest coast of Sri Lanka, was built first in 1588 by the Portuguese, then extensively fortified by the Dutch during the 17th century from 1649 onwards. It is a historical, archaeological and architectural heritage monument, which even after more than 423 years maintains a polished appearance, due to extensive reconstruction work done by Archaeological Department of Sri Lanka.

The fort has a colourful history, and today has a multi-ethnic and multi-religious population. The Sri Lankan government and many Dutch people who still own some of the properties inside the fort are looking at making this one of the modern wonders of the world. The heritage value of the fort has been recognized by the UNESCO and the site has been inscribed as a cultural heritage UNESCO World Heritage Site under criteria iv, for its unique exposition of "an urban ensemble which illustrates the interaction of European architecture and South Asian traditions from the 16th to the 19th centuries.

The Galle Fort, also known as the Dutch Fort or the "Ramparts of Galle", withstood the Boxing Day tsunami which damaged part of coastal area Galle town. It has been since restored.


Yala National Park

Yala National Park or Ruhuna National Park is the second largest and most visited national park in Sri Lanka. Yala is situated in the southeast region of the country, and lies in Southern Province and Uva Province. The park covers 979 square kilometres and is about 300 kilometres from Colombo.

It had originally had been designated as a wildlife sanctuary in 1900, and, along with Wilpattu it was one of the first two national parks in Sri Lanka, having been designated in 1938. The park is best known for its variety of its wild animals. It is important for the conservation of Sri Lankan Elephants and aquatic birds.

Yala is one of the 70 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Sri Lanka. Yalaharbours 215 bird species including six endemic species of Sri Lanka. The number of mammals that has been recorded from the park is 44, and it has one of the highest leopard densities in the world. The area had been a centre of past civilisations. Two important pilgrim sites, Sithulpahuwa and Magulvihara, are situated within the park. The number of visitors has risen in 2009 since the security situation in the park improved.


Polonnaruwa

Polonnaruwa is a UNESCO World Heritage site, rose to fame as the capital after the decline of Anuradhapura. Its period of greatness was from the 10th - 12th centuries AD. The entire landscape of the region is punctuated by huge man-made reservoirs, veritable inland seas the most famous of which is the Parakrama Samudra or the Sea of Parakrama, larger in size than the Colombo harbor.

The monuments of this medieval city are relatively well preserved and give clear evidence of the glory of Sri Lanka's past. See the Royal Palace complex, the Quadrangle with its concentration of ancient heritage and the spectacular Gal Vihare complex of four massive images of the Buddha, cut from a single slab of granite - a highlight of ancient Sri Lankan rock carving.


Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

The Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is situated northwest of the town of Kegalle, halfway between the present commercial capital Colombo and the ancient royal residence Kandy in the hills of central Sri Lanka. There are about 84 elephants under protection. The orphanage is very popular and visited daily by many Sri Lankan and foreign tourists.

The Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, established in 1975, commenced with seven orphans. Today some of these orphans enjoy the fortune of seeing their grandchildren born in the same location. The original objective of establishing the orphanage was inclined more towards tourism, but it soon became a conservation and educational center.


Moonstone Mine

A moonstone is grey in colour and feels cool and smooth to the touch. When polished it has a glow like of the moon. Have you ever wondered where that pretty little moonstone on your finger actually comes from?

Moonstone’s are in the semi-precious category and are an important component of the Sri Lankan gem industry. The finest are bluish in colour and are found in high concentrations in heading inland 7km to Mitiyagoda, between Ambalangoda and Hikkaduwa.

Moonstone has been mined in these sweltering forests forever and the moonstone mines, little more than muddy rabbit holes, 6m or 7m long, are fascinating as is the process of filtering out the precious stones, cutting them up and polishing them up ready for sale. At the Moonstone Factory you can see or even go down into a narrow shaft where the stones are mined.