KANDY TEMPLE OF THE TOOTH RELIC

Traverse the ancient city of Kandy and visit its pinnacle the Kandy Temple of the Tooth Relic

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Kandy, the hill capital is filled with religious and cultural landmarks and is must visit location

Kandy became the capital city of the last remaining independent kingdom in Sri Lanka after the coastal regions had been conquered by the Portuguese. Invasions by the Portuguese and the Dutch (16th, 17th and 18th century) and also by the British (most notably in 1803) were repelled. The last ruling dynasty of Kandy was the ‘Nayaks’ of Kandy while the Kingdom preserved its independence until it finally fell to the British in 1815. The British deposed the king, Sri Wikrama Rajasingha, and all claimants to the throne, thus ending the last traditional monarchy of Sri Lanka, and replacing it with their monarchy. As the capital, Kandy had become home to the relic of the tooth of the Buddha which symbolises a 4th-century tradition that used to be linked to royalty since the protector of the relic was seen fit to rule the land.

Thus, the Royal Palace and the Temple of the Tooth were associated with the administrative and religious functions of the capital city

The Temple of the Tooth Relic

The crown jewel of the city is the famed Sri Dalada Maligawa, also known as the Temple of the Tooth. ‘Maligawa’ literally translates to palace, and the temple is part of the palace complex. The entire complex is over three centuries old at least, and has seen many a king’s rise and fall. It has seen bloody wars and peaceful reigns and is one of the most historical places still standing in the island.

The entire temple complex, from peaked tiled roofs to white walls with large airy windows, is built using classical Kandyan architecture. The main shrine has two floors. There are various chambers in the floors including the one where the tooth relic is kept known as ‘handun kunama’.

The Temple of the Tooth is an art and history lover’s paradise. The first thing a visitor sees as they approach the entrance gates which lie over the moat is the large carved entrance arch with its elephants on either side. The ground before the entrance has a carved ‘welcome mat’, also known as a ‘moon stone’. The moonstone is similar to a full moon cut in half with rows of animals and other carvings depicted in concentric rows inside the sector. The flat area is placed along the edge of the entrance with the curved area facing the visitor.

The insides of the shrine are covered in beautifully detailed and elaborate paintings. With low curved ceilings of corridors and paved floors with their stones polished by a million feet, the shrine transports its visitors to a different age when kings walked the soil of Sri Lanka.

In addition to the main shrine there are other attractions such as the Royal Palace that now spends its days as an archeological museum, the Audience Chamber which now doubles as a chamber for ceremonies, and various other associated structures.

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The Kandy Esala Perahera

The Esala Perahera is a sort of festival held in July to commemorate Lord Buddha’s Conception, Renunciation, and First Sermon. This celebration is part of the social tradition of Sri Lanka, and has colorful processions with entertaining circus like elements such as elephants, sword dancers, fire eaters, stilt walkers, etc.

However the main attraction of the event is the Tooth Relic brought out on the back of a decorated elephant for all to worship. The Kandyan dancers too play a major role in the procession. The lunar month of Esala is a month for festivals and peraheras all around the island. Easily the finest and most famous is the Esala Perahera, held at Kandy over the 10 days leading up to the Esala Poya day (late July or early August). The festival dates back to ancient Anuradhapura, when the Tooth Relic was taken through the city in procession, and the pattern continues to this day, with the relic carried at the head of an enormous procession which winds its way round and round the city by night.

The perahera becomes gradually longer and more lavish over the 10 days of the festival, until by the final night it has swollen to include a cast of hundreds of elephants and thousands of dancers, drummers, fire-eaters, acrobats and many others – an extraordinary sight without parallel anywhere else in Sri Lanka, if not the whole of Asia.

The Kandy Temple of the Tooth Relic and the Esala Perahera are part of Sri Lankan tradition and must be seen by any and all visitors to the country.

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