A Glimpse into Sri Lanka's Architectural Heritage


Nestled in the heart of Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka, the Hetadage stands as a testament to the country’s rich history and cultural heritage. This ancient structure, dating back to the Polonnaruwa Kingdom in the 11th century, holds great significance both architecturally and historically. In this blog article, we’ll delve into the fascinating world of Hetadage, shedding light on its historical importance, architectural marvels, and its role as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

A Brief History of Hetadage

Hetadage, also known as the “Tooth Relic Temple,” is a unique structure that was constructed by King Vijayabahu I in the 11th century. This sacred edifice served as a repository for the sacred Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha. It is essential to note that this relic played a pivotal role in shaping the religious and cultural landscape of Sri Lanka. Hetadage was built to protect this revered relic and became a center for Buddhist worship and ceremonies.

Architectural Marvels

One of the most striking features of Hetadage is its architectural brilliance. The structure is a fine example of ancient Sri Lankan craftsmanship and architectural prowess. Let’s explore some of the architectural highlights of Hetadage:

  1. Stone Carvings: The outer walls of Hetadage are adorned with intricate stone carvings depicting various aspects of Sri Lankan history, culture, and Buddhism. These carvings provide a visual narrative of the era and showcase the skill and artistry of the ancient craftsmen.

  2. Moonstone: The entrance of Hetadage boasts an exquisite moonstone, a traditional Sri Lankan feature. This semi-circular stone carving is a masterpiece of ancient artistry and symbolizes the path to enlightenment in Buddhism.

  3. Guard Stones: Guard stones flank the entrance, featuring fearsome mythical creatures designed to ward off evil spirits. These guard stones are not only artistic but also reflect the belief in protecting the sacred relic from harm.

  4. Bronze Relic Chamber: Inside Hetadage, you’ll find a bronze chamber that once held the Tooth Relic. Though the relic is no longer housed here, the chamber is a testament to the veneration and importance of the relic in Sri Lankan history.

Historical Significance

Hetadage holds immense historical significance in the context of Sri Lanka’s ancient kingdoms. It served as the center of Buddhism and religious activities during the Polonnaruwa period. The Tooth Relic, which was enshrined here, was a symbol of royal authority and played a role in legitimizing the rule of the Polonnaruwa kings. Moreover, Hetadage was a place of pilgrimage for Buddhists and a center of learning, making it an essential institution in the development of Sri Lankan culture and Buddhism.

UNESCO World Heritage Site

In 1982, Hetadage was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, recognizing its cultural and historical importance. This prestigious status has helped preserve and protect the site for future generations, ensuring that its architectural beauty and historical significance remain intact.


Hetadage, the Tooth Relic Temple in Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka, is not just a historical monument; it’s a symbol of the country’s rich heritage and its deep-rooted connection to Buddhism. Its architectural beauty, intricate stone carvings, and historical significance make it a treasure trove for anyone interested in exploring Sri Lanka’s past. So, if you’re planning a trip to Sri Lanka, don’t miss the chance to witness the majesty of Hetadage and immerse yourself in the country’s fascinating history.

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Useful Tips

  • Location: The Hetadage is located in the ancient city of Polonnaruwa, which is situated in the North Central Province of Sri Lanka.

  • Dress code: It is recommended to wear clothing that covers your shoulders, knees, and midriff. Additionally, it’s customary to remove your shoes before entering the shrine.
  • Photography: Photography is usually allowed at the Vatadage, but it’s important to be respectful and avoid using flash photography, which can damage delicate carvings and artifacts.
  • Nearby attractions: The Gal Vihara, Royal Palace of King Parakramabahu, and the Shiva Devale No. 2
  • Respectful Attire: Since Hetadage is a religious site, dress modestly and remove your shoes before entering the premises to show respect.
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