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Kandy and the Tooth

Date: May 5, 2016 | By: bigfive | Category: Travel Blog

The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, Sri Dalada Maligawa, houses one of the most sacred artifacts of Buddhism – a tooth belonging to the Buddha. The tooth, somewhat ironically, is located in Kandy in a temple in the royal palace complex of the former Kingdom of Kandy. Many believe that Buddha died around 543 BCE. According to Buddhist tradition, after the Buddha’s body was cremated, four teeth and three bones were sifted from the ashes. Exactly what happened to all the relics is not precisely known, but this tooth was taken to India and preserved in a temple in Dantapura. But in the 4th century, that city was threatened by war, so to keep it safe, it was sent to Ceylon, now Sri Lanka.

The relic long played an important role in politics. It is believed that whoever holds the relic has the power to govern the country. The safeguarding of the relic was the responsibility of the monarch, so over time, the custodianship of relic came to symbolize the right to rule.

Kandy was the last capital of the Sri Lankan kings and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in large measure because of this temple. The present day Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic was built by Vira Narendra Sinha, (1707–1739 CE), the last Sinhalese King of Kandy.

Sri Lanka’s Festival of the Sacred Tooth is one of the oldest and grandest of all Buddhist festivals, and features dancers, jugglers, musicians, fire-eaters and lavishly decorated elephants. The date of the ten-day observance is determined by lunar calendar and usually occurs in July or August.

Explore this fascinating island during a 16-day Sri Lanka Adventure.

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