13 RULES TO OBSERVE WHILE VISITING SRI LANKA BUDDHIST TEMPLE, SRI LANKA TEMPLE DRESS CODE AND TEMPLE OF THE TOOTH DRESS CODE.

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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.

Perhaps you have booked one of the Sri Lanka temple tours in view of visiting a few important Buddhist temples, however, visiting Sri Lanka Buddhist temples is an essential part of every Sri Lanka trip. Especially, if you are venturing on a Sri Lanka trip that includes cultural triangle such as 5 days Sri Lanka cultural trip, 7 days classical tour, you will visit a dozen of Buddhist temple.

Why visit a Buddhist temple?

The travellers in Sri Lanka are drawn to Buddhist temples due to few reasons: Some of the religious sites such as tooth relic temple and Dambulla golden temple are world-renowned and globally branded, with the emblem of UNESCO world heritage site; Most ancient Buddhist temples features exemplary architecture (like Sagrada Família); Sometimes the temples are associated with historical events or popular people (like St Paul’s Cathedral and the royal wedding). There’s also the spirituality component: many people find inner peace visiting Sri Lankan Buddhist temple.

What is the Sri Lanka Buddhist temple dress code?

  • Trousers/pants/skirts or any other dress long enough to cover the knee
  • Shirt/t-shirt/blouse or any other dress should cover the shoulders
  • No hats and headcover
  • No shoes/sandals or slippers

What are the Sri Lanka temple rules?

  • Dress properly– Cover your shoulders. Sri Lanka can be very hot in the summer, many tourists forget to cover their shoulders and legs before entering places of worship. One way to plan ahead is to dress in layers and bring a scarf or shawl along, no matter where you go. When visiting temples, capri pants and long skirts are preferable to shorts, although men can sometimes get away with wearing long shorts.
  • Remove shoes and headcovers (hats, Burqa, Niqab, Chador, Hijab…) at the gate– Take off your shoes and headcovers before entering. The visitors can see a sign at the entrance of the temple pointing the visitors that designated area cannot be visited with shoes and hats. The many pairs of visitors’ shoes clumped together will tip you off.
  • Take permission before making photos- Ask permission before taking pictures. It may not be allowed to use your camera in some places, because the flashlight of the camera can cause damage to the paintings. It is better to find out if it is allowed to take photos inside before doing it. If you do take pictures, it’s always nice to leave a donation.
  • Don’t turn your back to the statues while taking photos– Don’t turn your back to Buddha statues. You may notice people walking backward away from the Buddha. Follow their lead, turning around only when you are a few feet away from the statue.
  • Don’t touch statues and paintings– Don’t touch Buddha statues and paintings. The visitors are not allowed to touch paintings and Buddha statues as it could discolour them.
  • Don’t shake hands with monks– Don’t shake hands with Buddhist monks, especially if you are female. Use the traditional local greeting.
  • Stand when monks or nuns enter – Stand when monks or nuns enter. It is customary to respect the monks and nuns in the temple, all the visitors expected to respect the rule, try to remember to stand up when a monk or nun enters the room.
  • Keep the silence
  • Don’t smoke
  • Don’t smell flowers (Offerings)
  • Don’t drink alcohol and smoke the cigarettes inside the temple
  • Buddha tattoo not accepted
  • Don’t feed monkeys
13 rules to observe while visiting Sri Lanka Buddhist temples, Sri Lanka temple dress code and temple of the tooth dress code
Tooth relic temple Kandy

10 popular Sri Lanka tours to visit Sri Lanka temples

7 Popular Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka

If you are venturing in Sri Lanka round tour, you definitely visiting a few temples. E.g below places are included in most Sri Lanka tours and they are tourist hotspots in Sri Lanka. However, how many of these temples are included in your trips is decided by the tour itinerary you have.

1. Colombo: Gangarama temple

Gangarama is the most popular Buddhist temple in Colombo and it is included in almost every Colombo sightseeing tour. This beautiful temple sits in the busiest part of Colombo, next to the Beira lake. If you need more information on Gangarama temple, please read my article on “Beautiful temple in Colombo-Gangarama“.

2. Dambulla: Golden cave temple

The golden cave temple is a UNESCO world heritage and part of every Sri Lanka trip. However, there are short trips such as one-day Dambulla trip available for travellers to visit the temple, in case they cannot allocate time for a multiday trip. If you need more information on Dambulla cave temple, Kindly check my article under the title, “DAMBULLA CAVE TEMPLE“.

3. Anuradhapura: Sri kaha bodhi

Another UNESCO world heritage site with many dozens of historical monuments and temples. Anuradhapura is one of the most historical cities on the island, dates back to 3rd century BC. If you are wondering what are the important places to visit in Anuradhapura, Kindly check my article under “7 PLACES TO VISIT ANURADHAPURA SRI LANKA“.

4. Polonnaruwa: Gal Viharaya

The second most ancient city of Sri Lanka with dozens of temple and most of them are built by Sri Lankan in the past. If you are wondering what are the important places to visit in Polonnaruwa, Kindly check my article “20 BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN POLONNARUWA“.

5. Sigirita: Pidurangala temple

This historical Buddhist temple located near Sigiriya rock. The temple is not very popular among travellers, but it is very convenient to visit on your visit to Sigiriya rock. Read more about Piduirangala temple, please click here, “PIDURANGALA TEMPLE WITH SIGIRIYA ROCK“.

6. Kandy: Tooth relic temple

Most visited Buddhist temple on the island and visited by many thousands of travellers every day. Usually, it included in every Sri Lanka trip. More information about tooth relic temple Kandy, please check “TOOTH RELIC TEMPLE“.

7. Bentota: Kande Vihara

One of the most popular Buddhist temples on the west coast of Sri Lanka. It is one of the very convenient Buddhists temples to visit from south and west coast beach resorts. The temple is a popular Buddhist pilgrimage site and visited by thousands of local devotees every day. The temple is also an important historical site and harbours hundreds of Buddha statues and paintings. Newly built gigantic Samadhi Buddha statue is a highlight for most visitors of the temple.

Visiting Sri Lanka Buddhist temples-what you need to know

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 Lankan Buddhist temple Vs Thai temple

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.

Sri Lanka temple etiquette

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 suitable attire. But in most temples there are no moderators, so be your own moderator and follow the guidelines below.

Visiting a Sri Lanka Buddhist temples is part of every trip

Visiting Sri Lanka Buddhist temples is an integral part of every Sri Lanka trip. If you have also planned a trip to Sri Lanka, I’m pretty sure you are visiting few Sri Lanka Buddhist temples.

Every visitors of Buddhist temple should follow some guidelines, if you are a foreigner you may not know about the temple rules, here are the rules that you should consider when you visit a Buddhist temple. Same times I make a note on the Sri Lanka dress code and the temple of the tooth dress code and believe it is going to help you.

  • Shoulders should be properly covered with the dress
  • The dress should be long enough to cover the knee
  • Enter the temple without shoes, slippers and sandals
  • Hats, caps or any form of head cover not allowed

Sri Lanka is an island in the tropics, the island is small in size but has a population of 21 million people. 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.

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Buddhist temple dress code

Temple of the tooth dress code

  • Shoulders should be properly covered with the dress
  • The dress should be long enough to cover the knee
  • Enter the temple without shoes, slippers and sandals
  • Hats, caps or any form of head cover not allowed

What is the temple of the tooth dress code” is the first question that 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.

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. Whether you are on a round trip or visitors on Sri Lanka temple tours, visiting the temple of the tooth relic is included in your trip, because it is one of the most popular iconic tourist hotspots.

Since the tooth relic temple is a tourist hotspot and visited by many thousands of foreign as well as local travellers, you should adhere to the proper dress code. Unlike most other temples on the island, the temple watchers of the tooth relic temple do not entertain any flexibility with regards to the rules of the temple dress.

Can I wear socks in a Buddhist temple?

YES! you can wear socks in the Sri Lankan Buddhist temples, it is only the shoes, sandals and slippers you have to leave the entrance. In fact, it is recommended to wear socks when you visit a temple. The surrounding area of some temples are paved with granite stones and those stones get warm making it difficult to walk barefoot, therefore it is recommended to take socks. Ruwanweli dagoba (pagoda) in Anuradhapura is one such temple, that included in most cultural triangle tour.

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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 Hinduism dominates in the northern part of the island.

The religion is very present in everyday life, perhaps even more than in other Asian countries. 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.

Awe-inspiring historical monuments

The awe-inspiring gigantic temple with dagobas, palaces, parks and reservoirs of world heritage sites on the island show the pieces of evidence of a rich advanced culture that prevailed in the past. 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 on 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 invasions 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.

Sri Lanka cultural triangle tour-2 days

Buddhism is the main religion in Sri Lanka

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.

Religious harmony in Sri Lanka

5 Most important cities in the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka

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 on the island. By far the Buddhism is the most popular religion in Si Lanka claim for 69% of the population of the country.

What are the major elements of Sri Lanka Buddhist temples?

  1. Stupa/ Thupa or Dagoba
  2. Bo tree / Bodhiogara (Ficus  religiosa)
  3. Image house
  4. 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, childcare 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 the temples 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 the excessive heat of the stone slabs.

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Visiting historical temples on Sri Lanka temple tours

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 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.

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.


I do not have a proper dress code, what should I do?

In some places, visitors may be allowed to enter the site with the more open dress, but in some places and popular Buddhist temples, the moderator adheres to the proper temple dress code. In places like the tooth relic temple, Dambulla golden cave temple, proper dress code is essential.

There are a large number of people find difficulties to enter the temple due to the inappropriate temple dress code, most of them are foreign travellers. This happens mainly due to the lack of knowledge on the temple dress code.

Most travellers from foreign countries like Thailand, Myanmar, Japan and India know the dress code for Buddhist temple, therefore they do dress suitable manner while visiting a Buddhist temple.

However, if you do not have a suitable dress you can hire a suitable dress, which cost only a couple of US$. 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.

None of the headcovers worn by Muslim women such as Burqa, Niqab, Chador, and Hijab is allowed in Buddhist temple

Making photos on your Sri Lanka temple tours

The visitors are allowed to 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 take 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.

Do not touch statues and paintings

It is not allowed to touch the statues and paintings 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 historical places such as Dambulla golden cave temple (1st century BC), the paintings are very fragile and crumble with the touch.

13 RULES TO OBSERVE WHILE VISITING SRI LANKA BUDDHIST TEMPLE, SRI LANKA TEMPLE DRESS CODE AND TEMPLE OF THE TOOTH DRESS CODE.

Keep the silence in the temple

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.

Do not 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.

Do not smell flowers that reside on the Tempel altar

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.

Do not 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 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.

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Don’t feed monkeys roaming in the temples

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, 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 that all rules we discussed here are valid for all  Sri Lankan temples, regardless if it’s status (ruined or new). Whether the Buddhist temple is in a modern city or less crowded historical place travellers are expected to respect the above-discussed rules.

What are the 7 best temples in Sri Lanka?

  1. Gangaram Buddhist temple Colombo (Western Province)
  2. Kande Vihara temple Bentota (Western province)
  3. Temple of the Tooth relic Kandy (central province)
  4. Srimaha bodhi Anuradhapura (Central province)
  5. Pidurangala temple Sigiriya (central province)
  6. Veherahena temple Matara (southern province)
  7. Somawathiya Polonnaruwa (East coast)

Wish to make a tour to Sri Lanka with historical temples

Seerendipity tour is a fully locally owned travel company with the head office in Colombo. The highly experienced local staff is a key strength of Seerendipity tours and they can plan your dream holiday to Sri Lanka.

Best price for your Sri Lanka trip

When you book a tour with us, you directly book the tour with the local company, it means there are no middlemen and therefore you can guarantee the best price. Simply get in touch with us and let us know when you travel and what you like to see.

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Our staff make a personalized program for you, which you can change until you find the best package for you. You can also browse our existing tour packages for inspiration; all our ready-made tour packages are customizable and can be tailored to meet all your expectations. Write us on admin@seerendipitytours.com

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5 thoughts on “13 RULES TO OBSERVE WHILE VISITING SRI LANKA BUDDHIST TEMPLE, SRI LANKA TEMPLE DRESS CODE AND TEMPLE OF THE TOOTH DRESS CODE.”

  1. Sri Lanka offers lot os intersting things to do and visiting the temple is a must because most of their temples are thousands of years old.

    Reply
  2. We visited many dozens of temples in Sri Lanka during our Sri Lanka trip last month. Fortunately, we read this article before visiting those places and we were better prepared ahead of our visit.

    Reply

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