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Sri Lanka: Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic

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Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic > Sri Lanka > Asia

[Visited: March 2019]

After a walk around the small lake in Kandy, we arrive at the Queen Bathing Pavilion, a rectangular building standing partly in the city lake. Behind it, we walk into the palace buildings. To our right, an impressive complex rises above a moat: the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic and other buildings. We decide to first explore the area to the west. We find stupas, small temples, people dressed in white, carrying beautiful flowers in red, yellow, purple, to be donated in one of the shrines. We find a fence with garlands. Temples with elephants carved out around its walls. See people walking besides the wall surrounding the complex. When we return to the moat, we give our shoes in custody, and discover that we need a ticket to enter the temple complex. Since it is almost dark, we decide to postpone our visit, so we can fully appreciate it.

Picture of Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic (Sri Lanka): The sacred part of the Temple of the Sacred Tooth, opened only a few minutes a day to show the relic

We are back the next afternoon, and when we cross the moat, make our way up the stairs into the Temple of the Sacred Tooth. We walk through a richly decorated passage, the walls and ceiling paintings depicting religious scenes, and reach the inner part of the temple. We marvel at the rich carvings of stone on the stairs and in sculptures, the abundance of flags and other decorations. When we reach the upper floor, we find a crowd, many sitting on the floor. Many carry flowers, and we find a long table fully covered in flowers. When we reach the sacred part of the temple, we need to push a little to get to the front. There, behind a richly decorated curtain, and tusks standing upright, is where the sacred tooth of Buddha is kept. There are three times a day the curtain opens for a couple of minutes, and given the difficulty of reaching this spot even now, we can only imagine how difficult it would be to get close to the relic on those occasions.

Picture of Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic (Sri Lanka): People and stupa, close to a church, directly west of the Temple of the Sacred Tooth

The sacred tooth was taken to Sri Lanka by princess Hemamali in the early 4th century CE, and it was then kept in several different places in the country, until it was finally taken to Kandy in the 16th century. A two-story building was built to house it, and it is kept in a casket embellished by gem stones. For Buddhists, this is a sacred place, and besides local worshippers who are immersed in prayer on the floor, we also notice foreign Buddhists coming here as pilgrims. We walk through some other noteworthy buildings, richly decorated with tusks, golden Buddha statues, and elephant sculptures, and make our way to the outside where we find the World Buddhist museum, and also a glass building in which women are lighting coconut oil lamps.

Picture of Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic (Sri Lanka): Inside the Temple of the Sacred Tooth complex
Picture of Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic (Sri Lanka): Outside view of the Temple of the Sacred Tooth: a moat running along the Paththirippuwa
Picture of Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic (Sri Lanka): People laying flowers in the sacred interior of the Temple of the Sacred Tooth
Picture of Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic (Sri Lanka): Small temple close to the Temple of the Sacred Tooth
Picture of Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic (Sri Lanka): Richly decorated beams of the Temple of the Sacred Tooth
Picture of Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic (Sri Lanka): The fine carvings in the backside of the Temple of the Sacred Tooth
Picture of Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic (Sri Lanka): Women lighting oil lamps on the grounds of the Temple of the Sacred Tooth
Picture of Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic (Sri Lanka): Richly decorated passage into the Temple of the Sacred Tooth
Picture of Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic (Sri Lanka):
Picture of Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic (Sri Lanka): Hall with golden Buddha and tusks in the temple complex
Picture of Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic (Sri Lanka): Fence iwth fresh flowers close to the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic
Picture of Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic (Sri Lanka): Close-up of steps leading up the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic
Picture of Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic (Sri Lanka): Shrine with enlightened Buddha close to the Temple of the Sacred Tooth

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