Visiting Sri Lanka Buddhist temples, Sri Lanka temple dress code and temple of the tooth dress code
Visiting Sri Lanka Buddhist temples is an integral part of every holiday package offered the island. If you have also planned a trip to Sri Lanka and visit Sri Lanka Buddhist temples, here are 9 rules that you should consider. Same times I make a special note on the Sri Lanka dress code and temple of the tooth dress code. I specially mention the temple of the tooth dress code, because the temple of the tooth is the most sacred Buddhist temple and it is in the bucket list of every traveller. Since it is popular as a tourist attraction, I thought of dedicating a paragraph to describe the temple of the tooth dress code. Therefore my reader will not encounter unexpected difficulties during their visit to the tooth relic temple.
Sri Lanka is an island in the tropics, the island is small in size but has a population of 21 million people ( More information about Sri Lanka on this link ). This tiny island is undoubtedly a popular destination among the traveller, who look for a destination to enjoy pristine beaches, culture, nature and history. The island is the centre of tourist attractions in southern Asia for many decades. Attributed to the rich historical past, culture, awe-inspiring historical man-made structures, wide-open beaches, delicious sea-food, the island is on the radar of every traveller. When you plan a Sri Lanka tour and beach holiday, there are several activities that you essentially need to consider, such as visiting cultural triangle, Visiting Sri Lanka Buddhist temples, having the authentic Sri Lankan cuisine, relax on the palm-fringed pristine Sri Lankan beaches ( Top 10 things to do in Lanka ).
Buddhism an art of living
Sri Lanka’s story is told with an explanation of the teaching of Buddha. Buddhism is one essential part of Sri Lankan life and it is the foundation of Sri Lankan culture and tradition. The island has a Buddhist dominated Sinhalese culture in the most part of the island, but the Hinduism is the dominating in the northern part of the island. The religion is very present in everyday life, perhaps even more than in Thailand. Sri Lankans are a bit strict with rules when visiting Buddhist temples and Hindu temples, even if it is ruined in the historical places such as Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa.
The awe-inspiring gigantic temple with dagobas, palaces, parks and reservoirs of world heritage sites (Learn more on UNESCO world heritage sites) in the island show the pieces of evidence of a rich advanced culture that prevailed in the past ( Ancient irrigation works). The extensive use of agriculture and the dedication of rulers for the development of the country paved the way to the origin of advanced agriculture-based society in the island. The island is a country with a rich historical past and modern present. You will feel it along the crowded streets of Colombo. Or maybe you feel it as you present at Dalada ceremony or better known as Esala ceremony in Kandy.
The island had a grim past on various occasions due to the foreign invaders and colonial influence. But, the country has shown the resilience to all these hurdles and recorded a commendable development after every devastating effect. Today, this tiny island has become one of the most popular places for holidays in the world. The island attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors every year and tourism has become one of the leading foreign exchange earners for the country.
There is a large number of religious places, scattered throughout the island and most of them are Buddhist temples (click here to visit most sacred Buddhist temple known as tooth relic temple, Pinnawala elephant orphanage and tea plantations in our Kandy-Nuwara Eliya 2 days tour). Therefore, finding a tour package without a Buddhist temple is unbelievable. Most of these Sri Lanka Buddhist temples are considered as important places because they hold great cultural and historical value, especially the Buddhist temples in the cultural triangle. Buddhist temples such as the temple of the tooth relic, Sri Maha Bodhi are top religious sites visited by thousands of devotees every day. Therefore visiting such places without offending the local people is a duty of every foreign traveller.
The island is a multi-religious country, you will encounter some kind of religious place at every corner of the island. Mainly you will encounter Buddhist temples, Hindu temples, Mosques and churches since they are the most widely practised religions in the island. By far the Buddhism is the most popular religion in Si Lanka claim for 69% of the population of the country.
Visiting Sri Lanka Buddhist temples
Visiting temples is a very common activity included almost in every road trip of Sri Lanka. Because Buddhism is the predominant religion in the island and visiting Sri Lanka Buddhist temples is important to get to know the religion. In fact, Religion is one of the important aspects of Sri Lankan life and almost every person is engaged in some sort of religion. The base of Sinhalese (the majority of Sri Lankans) Culture is attributed to the Buddhism; hence visiting a Sri Lankan temple is an easy way to learn more on the culture and the way of Sri Lankan life.
Sri Lanka temple etiquette is a complex subject for most travellers, who are visiting the country for the first time. Therefore we thought of making a note on this subject in details for travellers, who are planning to visit the island in the future.
There are several temple rules to consider and observe before entering Sri Lanka Buddhist temples, in order to explore the temple without offending the devotees. The rules mentioned here should be thoroughly considered especially when visiting the religious places in the archaeological sites. It is essential to have attention on these etiquettes and rules because Buddhist temples are places with great cultural and historical importance. You may find policemen or moderators at the entrance of a few temples instructing you to have the suitable attire. But in most temples there are no moderators, so be your own moderator and follow the guidelines below.
If you have been to a Buddhist temple in one of the other Buddhist countries such as Thailand, Singapore you will feel a huge difference as soon as you enter a Sri Lankan Buddhist temple. Sri Lankan Buddhist temples differ from temples in Thailand or Cambodia in many ways. Buddha statues and dagobas in fancy styled such as gold-plated statues are very rare in the country, only a few temples have gold plated Buddha statues such as Dambulla golden cave temple. Most temples belong to the Theravada school of Buddhism while most South-east Asian countries have Mahayana Buddhism. There are many differences between these two forms of Buddhism.
Four major elements of Sri Lanka Buddhist temples
Stupa/ Thupa or Dagoba
Bo tree / Bodhiogara (Ficus religiosa)
Living quarters of the resident monks at Sri Lanka Buddhist temple
Every Buddhist temple includes above mentioned 4 major parts and the temple is demarcated with a wall or a fence from the outside world. A Buddhist temple is a public place and any visitor (regardless of the beliefs, race or any other criteria) is allowed to enter the temple. Usually, the visitors and devotees can visit all places except the living quarters of the monks. Normally the visitors and devotees are not supposed to enter the house, where the monks live without an invitation from the monks. Make sure you remove the shoes and take off the hats before entering the Image house, Stupa area and Bodhigara.
Apart from the aforementioned 4 major parts of Buddhist temples, some temples are equipped with meditation cottages and libraries. The visitors are strictly prohibited from entering the meditation area because it can disturb the monks, making it difficult to concentrate. Some temples maintain museums, child care centres, schools, communication centres etc within the temple as a community service.
Sri Lanka temple dress code and other rules
Being a tropical country it is very warm and humid and it is very comfortable to wear a hat. The requirement of shoes is also great due to the paved gardens in Buddhist temples. But, as a rule, you are not allowed to have both hats and shoes while entering a Buddhist temple. Every visitor must remove the shoes and hats before entering the Buddhist religious places. Usually, a person, appointed from the temple secure the shoes of the visitors and he is provided with a permanent hut at the entrance of the temple. The visitors need to pay for protecting their shoes, it is usually 25Rs per person.
It might be difficult to walk barefoot in some places of the temple, especially in the Buddhist temples in the cultural triangle due to the heat. In some places, the garden is paved with stone slabs or sand and temperature can be really high during the day. For instance, Ruwanweliseya Dagoba of Anuradhapura is one of the most important historical Buddhist temples with a garden of stone slabs. Visiting this temple during the day, barefoot, will be very difficult, believe me, your feet burn. One can visit such places early in the morning or evening to avoid the heat. Otherwise, take a pair of socks all the time with you and wear it as you enter the temple, the visitors are allowed to retain socks, and thereby they can reduce the effect of excessive heat of the stone slabs.
Temple of the tooth dress code / Sri Lanka temple dress code
There is a large number of historical places in the country and most of them are popular tourist attractions. Most of these places include historical Buddhist temples. Maybe these Buddhist temples are not functioning as normal but they are also treated as sacred places and Sri Lankans are careful to behave in such places with great respect. There are cops in these historical sites and monitoring badly behaving people and visitors, who are in unsuitable Sri Lanka temple dress code are not allow entering those temples. A suitable Sri Lanka temple dress code helps you to hang around the important places without any issue and helps you to enjoy your holiday.
“What is the temple of the tooth dress code” is the first question comes into one’s mind even at the stage of planning of a Sri Lanka tour. Because there is no Sri Lanka tour package is complete without a visit to this highly important religious site.
Modest clothing is the best temple of the tooth dress code and the same concept can be applied to all other Buddhist temples as well. While visiting the tooth relic temple or any other Sri Lanka Buddhist temple, tight attire for both men and women is not a suitable temple dress code. The Buddhists are very conscious about the dress code, especially the temple dress code and they wear white coloured clothing when visiting a Buddhist temple. The white colour is considered to be the colour of purity. The most suitable temple of the tooth dress code should need to cover the body least up to knee while the upper portion of the dress should cover the shoulders.
In some places, visitors may be allowed to enter the site with the more open dress, but in some places, the moderator adheres to the proper temple dress code for the visitors. People who find some difficulties to enter the temple due to the inappropriate temple dress code, especially in places like the tooth relic temple, Dambulla golden cave temple, try your luck with a person who lends temple dresses. There are people who lend suitable dresses to visitors at the entrance of the temples. This facility is available at Buddhist temples that are frequently visited by foreign tourists such as the temple of the tooth relic. If you wearing a short or you have a dress with open shoulders do not forget to have a scarf with you. You can cover the legs and shoulder as you enter the temple and later take it off.
The visitors are allowed take photos in Buddhist religious places on the island. Photography and videography are free of charge in most Buddhist temples. But, visitors should never make photos while standing back to Buddha statues. If you like to make a photo of the Buddha statue, stand sideways in front of the statue. In some historical places, the flashlight should be turned off while it harms the colours of the paintings.
Commercial filming and photography need special permission from the state authorities such as Film Corporation, defence ministry, and ministry of religious affairs.
Don’t touch statues and paintings
It is not allowed to touch the statues and painting in the Buddhist temples. Some people even tap on the statues to check what material is used to build the statues. The main reason for discouraging people to touch the statues and paintings is to stop the discolouring. Especially in the historical places such as Dambulla golden cave temple (1st century BC), the paintings are very fragile and crumble with the touch.
Keep the silence
It is essential to maintain the silence at every Buddhist temple. Devotees are engaged in meditation and chanting religious verses, therefore they like to have the peace of mind to continue with their activities. If you happened to go to a Buddhist temple with children try to keep the noise as low as possible. Usually, the rule is applied to all Buddhist temples, whether it is a historical place or modern temple.
Can I smoke in Sri Lanka Buddhist temples?
NO, Smoking is not allowed in Sri Lanka Buddhist temples. Whether you see a nonsmoking sign or not people are not allowed to smoke in Buddhist temples. Smoking in public places such as Buddhist temples is a severe offence and can lead to an expensive fine and a jail term. Sri Lanka has some strict rules so don’t throw garbage outside the designated areas and refrain from smoking not only in temples but also in all public places.
Don’t shake hands with monks
Devotees pay respect to Buddhist monks and always keep some distance from them. Normally the greeting to Buddhist monks is different than usual methods such as shaking hand. You have to keep the hands together in front of the chest and say “Sadu” while keeping the body on knees.
Don’t smell flowers
The devotees bring flowers when they visit a Buddhist temple. The flowers in the temple meant for offerings. The devotees bring the fragrant flowers and it may be tempting to smell them. But as a rule, you are not allowed to smell the offerings.
Don’t drink alcohol and enter Sri Lanka Buddhist temples
You can’t get away with bringing bottles of wine or liquor to a Buddhist temple. Especially in the places such as the temple of the tooth in Kandy. Not only the temple of the tooth dress code but also other Buddhist temple rules are strictly observed here. And don’t try to enter a Buddhist temple after consuming alcohol. Moderators at the entrance may check you and if they found that you have consumed alcohol, you don’t get the access to the temple.
Buddha tattoo not accepted
Mistreatment of Buddha image is an offence and treated with a penalty. Showcasing a Buddha tattoo is not accepted in Sri Lanka and treated as a mistreatment of the Buddha image. It is considered as a disrespect for the Buddha and also considered as an act of offending the Buddhist sensibilities. There had been many instances in the past in which several foreigners were deported from the island due to displaying a Buddha tattoo. If you have a Buddha tattoo cover it to be left-out from unnecessary troubles.
Don’t feed monkeys
Spotting the animals in Sri Lanka Buddhist temples is not a surprise, cats, dogs and monkeys are most common animals in Sri Lanka Buddhist temples. Usually, the dogs and cats are fed by Buddhist monks and visitors. But visitors are not expected to feed monkeys. Because they start to make it a habit to hang around the temple when they get food from visitors. There had been many occasions in which, the people were facing difficulties due to wild monkeys.
Please do keep in mind all rules we discussed here valid for all any Sri Lanka temple, regardless if it is old or new. Whether the Buddhist temple is in a modern city or less crowded historical place travellers suppose to respect the above-discussed rules.