Updated: 5 days ago
I do not consider myself a religious person, but I do have an interest in religion, therefore I was keen to go to The Temple of the Sacred Tooth, where the left canine tooth of Gautama Buddha is enshrined. This temple is of great significance to Buddhists around the world and there were a number of devotees in attendance the afternoon I visited.
I was asked to remove my shoes and I was thankful for my socks as, unlike the worshippers, I am not used to walking on bare stones and pavements. It was easy to spot tourists as they were the ones vellicating their way into the temple which is surrounded by a moat and white wall, known as the water waves wall. It is easy to see why.
I entered through the main doorway and, despite the number of people, the interior, beautifully decorated in granite, wood and gold leaf, was serenely quiet.
Women were dressed in white, men in muted colours as a sign of respect. I had not been told this and felt a little out of place wearing a brightly patterned top and lime green culottes! I stood to one side to watch the men, women and children climb the stairs to the first floor many holding lotus blossoms or bouquets. These they put on a table in front of the shrine, then they sat or knelt to pay homage to Buddha.
The shrine is beautifully decorated in oranges, yellows, greens and golds depicting a mystical beast guarding the painting of the caskets in which the tooth is housed. The ivory tusks of elephants arch over the painting too, and the flags of Sri Lanka flank the granite pillars, intricately carved and decorated with portraits of worshippers and floral motifs.
A rather poignant feature in the temple is a railing in front of a stupa on which are tied white pieces of cloth wrapped around money. This contribution is made by couples to be blessed with children. This stupa was also decorated with lotus blossoms and I hope their prayers for children are answered.
I left the main temple to visit Raja, a majestic elephant who, having served as the lead in an annual Buddhist procession, is now preserved via taxidermy for all to see. Highly lauded by many, Raja participated in the Escala procession in Kandy for over fifty years. He was the chief casket bearer in this procession and on his death a day of mourning was declared. He certainly was a magnificent animal and I apologise for the reflections in the photograph, but he faces an open door and is looking out onto the gardens.
In the grounds of the temple is a statue of a young boy, Madduma Bandara Ehelapola. In the early nineteenth century his father was a courtier of the King of Kandy who accused him of treachery. The king ordered the death of the courtier and his family. On May 17th 1814, Madduma Bandara, at the tender age of nine, stepped up and asked the executioner to behead his older brother, who was terrified, with a single strike of his sword. The plaque beneath the statue states that the boy said:
“Fear not dear brother,
I will show you how to face death.”
The boy was then beheaded, his sisters forcibly drowned in the lake. Nine-year-old Madduma Bandara is lauded for facing his unjust execution with dignity and courage.
Not wishing to end this blog on a sad note, I will say that in the here and now young people of Sri Lanka are encouraged to embrace education. In Kandy (and elsewhere) I saw signs for students to learn English in a number of countries, but this costs money, which many people do not have. Nevertheless, I was impressed by the fluency of many with whom I spoke, English being the third language of the country and there is no better way to learn a language than by speaking it. You don’t have to go to university to do that!
My day in Kandy also meant a quick look around the market where tobacco is sold for people to chew, not smoke! To get a nicotine fix the tobacco is wrapped in a leaf then popped into the mouth. Yuk! I really hope this doesn’t catch on elsewhere and people stick to the delicious fresh fruits, vegetables and fish which are cooked with wonderful herbs and spices.
The Queen’s Hotel, a fine colonial building, features later in another blog and I was hoping to get a beer there, but alcohol is not served anywhere near the Buddhist temple so I had to go without until later that evening when I enjoyed a lovely beer with a fine meal and a stunning view of the city of Kandy and its verdant vegetation.
My visit to Sri Lanka began with a tour of the capital city Colombo. Please click on the link to discover more:
I was driven everywhere to explore the country and being on the roads was an adventure in itself. Please click on the link to learn more:
The animals in the national parks were AMAZING. Discover more by clicking on the link:
I spent my final few days in Sri Lanka in Kalutara, in a fabulous hotel by the Indian Ocean. To learn more please click on the link.