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Temple of the sacred tooth relic in Kandy, Sri Lanka or "Sri Dalada Maligawa" as it is known to many around the world undoubtedly is one of the most sacred places of religious worship that I have visited in Sri Lanka. The temple, which as legend explains, is the site which holds a relic of a tooth of Lord Buddha himself. The tooth, according to history, was smuggled to the Island by an Indian princess hidden in her hair and since then had been revered and held in the highest esteem by all believers in Buddhism in the island. According to another legend the temple itself, now where it stands, was built after a monk observed a rabbit who was being chased by a fox suddenly stop and start chasing the fox - the site where the hunter became the hunted. This site therefore was deemed auspicious and suitable to build the current temple of the tooth. From ancient times it was believed that whoever had custody of the relic had the power and right to rule the country. After the end of the Sri Lankan royal dynasty the duty of safeguarding the tooth relic has fallen upon the elected leader of the country and a sect of elite monks who protect and guard the relic to this day.
Though the temple is of great religious importance for Buddhist, one does not have to be of the faith to appreciate what's on offer at this historic site. Besides witnessing and participating in rituals and practices that bring blessings to oneself and others here is a place to marvel at the architecture, ponder a bit on the history and learn snippets of a rich culture.
The first impressions of this enigmatic place for us brought about a calming, soothing effect despite the hordes of worshippers gathered on that particular day. The sight of multitudes, quiet and calm, clad in their purest whites baring lotus flowers in full bloom was indeed a sight to behold. Our journey began with stripping off our shoes to pay respect to what lies ahead of us. As anyone who has visited a Buddhist temple would know it is a requirement that you do not step into the sacred grounds of a temple with your shoes on and there is no exception here at the temple of the tooth relic and understandably so. It is expected from all visitors to this sacred site to be respectfully clad and they are quite strict about it. They even have cover ups for those who unknowingly come clad with too much flesh showing. So no shorts and revealing clothes please. There are freelance guides who offer their services to take you around the site for a nominal fee but it is not too difficult to venture and roam inside by yourself even if you are a tourist.
Once you pass the security screening, payed your fees (foreign individuals only) and enter the premises there is a different world, one which is both mystifying and spiritual. The intense aroma of burning incense fill every nook and cranny of the magnificently decorated inside of the temple. Worshipers roam about baring various offerings from flowers to gifts covered with glittering wrappers. We joined in with the crowds and walked around the sacred grounds enjoying the healing sounds of chanting and the rhythmic drum beats. The place is a photographers dream. My husband, staying within the boundaries set by the authorities, clicked away capturing the alluring beauty of this historic sight and its well-maintained surrounds.
The icing on the cake of our trip to the temple was the instance we sighted the golden vessel which held the sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha. Its magnificence and the spiritual power that emanates from the exquisitely decorated vessel had no boundary. It is no surprise that worshippers fall to the ground in respect, some even with tears streaming down their cheeks for the wonder of the sight in front of them and for the hope of blessing that will be granted to them. Even for me, one of a different faith, it was a magical moment that I would treasure for years to come. The temple of the tooth relic in the hill capital of Kandy, Sri Lanka is a place worth visiting and witnessing.
Why? A sight of great religious significance, history and architecture.
When:All year round but the main event of the temple 'Esala Perahera' the annual pageant falls on the month of August. The entire city takes celebration mode during this time. Its busy time but the best time to visit Kandy for the full experience.