TEMPLE of the TOOTH RELIC
The gates of the temple opened into a huge complex. Young bride and grooms were coming in to get the blessings of God. Some were even doing photo shoots inside the temple. Clad in complete white which is a mark of respect and purity to the Buddhists, the devotees were thronging the temple. We left the shoes in the shoe stand and proceeded to further go into the temple. Though the outside walls are just like a white washed, no sculptures, no great architecture and looks just like huge tiled building; the moment you enter you are in for a surprise. The whole temple has colorful paintings. Some depicting life of Buddha, some depicting life of Buddhists and some on life lessons. The colorful walls lead to the two storied temple, in fact it looks like a part of the palace itself with a ground floor and a first floor. The ground floor is where there is a closed room and apparently all the hourly poojas and sevas are done by priests or monks inside this chamber. It is also where lot of processions happen and there is the drummer’s courtyard. The first floor takes you to the sanctum sanctorum of the temple where the tooth is preserved.
History of Temple of the Tooth Relic
Legend says that when Gautama Buddha died and was on the funeral pyre, His two canine teeth were taken. One was smuggled into Sri Lanka by Princess Hamemali who fled her kingdom from Hindu armies who were besieging her father’s kingdom in India. Apparently she hid the tooth relic in her hair and brought it into Sri Lanka. It is believed that whoever had the custody of the tooth also had the right to rule. The princess and her husband landed in Sri Lanka and handed over the tooth to the King Sirimeghavanna of Anuradhapura. It was passed on across many generations and when the capital moved to Kandy so did the tooth relic. The current temple of the tooth relic was build and rebuilt many times by different kings owing to renovations and so on. The temple also has a moat around it to protect the same. The octagonal structure seen in front of the temple is called Patthirippuwa and initially was used by kings for recreational activities but now it is also a part of the temple. There is also a Sinhalese movie by name Siri Daladagamanaya, which is based on the tooth relic temple.
It is only when I walked to the first floor of the temple where the tooth relic is preserved, I understood the earnestness of the temple. There were hundreds of Buddhists clad in white, carrying flowers in their hands and chanting a prayer or two, eagerly waiting to near the sanctum and get His blessings. I joined the queue as well and soon I felt clicking pictures was the most odd thing to do with so many devotees around. I joined my hands in prayer and walked towards the main sanctum. The tooth relic now kept inside seven gold caskets which are ornate with gems. This gold casket is what we get to see. The crowd was so much that after being pushed and shoved, you get to see for just a minute and then you will be moved on.
The devotion of people were very evident even outside the temple. There were rows and rows of lamps that were lighted by them. Incense sticks were lighted and kept, bringing wonderful aroma through out the temple complex. There were tons of volunteers who ensured you get the blessings and exit out of the temple safely. A huge prayer hall shows more devotees offering their prayers to Lord Buddha. As we just stepped outside the temple, not even the complex, a sense of calmness descended and the vibes were still around.
Initially the sacred tooth relic was taken in procession at least once a year during a ten day festival called Esala Perahera. However due to concerns of safety, now only the casket is carried around representing the tooth relic. But it is still a fun festival to watch with drummers and decked up elephants and the whole place decorated with lights. The festival dates fall between late July and early August.
Around the temple are numerous shops to do shopping and juice shops to savor your favorite taste. What I decided though was just to stroll around the lake. With the peace already hovering around me, strolling by the lake was even more healing to do.