The only known relic left of Lord Buddha is his left upper canine tooth which is most sacred to all the Buddhist all over the world is uphold in The Temple of the Tooth which is located in Kandy in Sri Lanka.
Once a upon a time…
The legend, tells the story of how the tooth was taken from Lord Buddha when he was on his funeral pyre. It was the courage of Princess Hammamali, who hid the tooth in her hair and fled from her own country to Sri Lanka even when his father’s kingdom was being besieged. She took refuge in Sri Lanka in 313 AD.
It is still much sought relic and there have been number of attempts to capture and destroy it. The tooth is object of reverence and has been enshrined with jeweled reliquaries. The saga of the tooth has been tale of chronic misshapenness, and this relic of the most peaceful and serene idol of the earth has survived it. When the tooth was brought to Kandy, it was placed in a temple which was built in the awe and memory of the relic of Lord Buddha. It was under Kandyan kings in the years 1687 and 1707 who built the temple.
The temple got damaged during colonial wars in eighteenth century which was against Portuguese and Dutch. The temple was revamped from wooden structures to using of stone but the original structure was kept intact with usage of stone.
Sri Lanka faces the political turmoil which also added a blow to the temple by trying to blow the temple with bomb by Hindu Tamil in January 1998. Yet the temple saw its restoration and the grandeur that it emits can only be measured by the followers and people paying homage there.
The greatness and the dignity with which this temple stand is must visit for Buddhist pilgrimage as well as for people who don’t follow Buddhism yet this place has the finest architecture and interior of those times and see its withstanding history.
The temple is visited by white-clad pilgrims carrying lotus blossoms to offer the Lord Buddha along with Frangipani, with hordes of people coming everyday.
For a person who is judging the temple form outside will not find it magnificent, as building is simple with no elaborate decorations but white color buildings having red color roofs, with the Kandy Lake in middle.
But when he enters the building and sees the interiors he is going to be awe struck for interiors is rich and splendid, with rich carvings on woods, lacquer and ivory which are ornamented and decorated.
The whole place is surrounded by low stone wall in white color, which has simple yet delicate carvings which has openings where at times of festival the candles are placed to add on the glory of the temple. The lighting of the front is such a pretty sight.
The tooth is placed on lotus flower made in solid gold which is encased in casket which itself is placed on a throne, this all is situated in the two story shrine of the temple which is manned by two huge elephant tusk.
The temple has now a Pattriripuwa tower in octagon shape, which houses palm leaf manuscripts collection. Also the place has Kings Palace in compound.
This festival started in eighteenth century, and it takes place in late July or in beginning of August, according to the full moon. It’s a well known festival in Asia and believed to be the largest celebration by Buddhist from all over the world. It is a ten day torchlight parade where elephants are ornamented and decorated, where dancers and drummers make merry and walk behind the elephants, which are followed by dignitaries. It is during these days that the tooth relic is removed from shrine once a year but now due to political tensions going with insurgent Tamil Tigers and the constant qualms about the relic being harmed, stolen or damaged the relic has not been brought out since 1990 during the festival days also. Instead its casket is being honored then tooth relic being taken out from its shrine.
The procession has a royal male elephant who is very beautifully ornamented to the best of finery carries on his back the reliquary of sacred tooth ( now though the casket) and leads procession which is then followed by two more elephants of that stature but are smaller then royal one.
The procession takes place in the city with some hundred elephants which are well decorated in finery making the way in town. They are followed by torch carriers and fire dancers who believe to be fending of curses, while there are whip cracking porters who clear the way for procession to move forward as the route has throngs of devotees and pilgrims flanking the place. The procession has noble families’ members taking part in procession wearing the traditional Ceylonese garb. The procession is then also followed by musicians, boy dancers, acrobats, jugglers and torch bearers. On the last day procession goes to the temple from city which is led by some elders who garb themselves as ancient kings of Kandy carrying a lit candle. As the procession enters the compound it encircles the shrine which moves from east to west as the direction of sun rising and setting in the sky. During these festival days the whole place is teaming with the devotees and pilgrims and also with dignitaries.
The festival has some million people attending it, with vast numbers of devotees and onlookers coming from far of and also the Sri Lankan people irrespective of their ranks in society come here to pay homage. The festival has brought about a expression of cultural heritage in many mixed blood Christians and even Tamil Hindus, the national heritage of the tooth temple has brought this remarkable unity in these people as these people take part in the festival and thus sharing a common bond.
Also during this festival, to keep the traditions of nationalist Buddhist, the President and major political leaders attend this festive and declare themselves as dedicated to the service to the people, with the presence and blessings of the sacred relic.