The Temple of the Tooth, which houses the Sacred Tooth of Lord Buddha, is one of the jewels of Sri Lanka’s cultural heritage. Entering the Temple of the Tooth is more than a mere visit to a tourist site. Rather, it is bearing witness to the devotion of the pilgrims who come to get a glimpse of the sacred relic. This is an authentic as well as an unforgettable experience.
The legend says that the Tooth was found intact among the ashes of the funeral pyre of Lord Buddha, in India, in 543 B.C. In the 4th century, the Relic was brought to Sri Lanka hidden in the hair knot of a princess. The tooth was conserved thereafter by successive kings of the country, until it became a symbol of power, in addition to its spiritual aura.
The relic is displayed to the public at dawn, at midday, and in the evening, in the sacred chamber of the Temple. The Tooth is encased in a golden leaf placed on a casket covered with diamonds and rubies, which is again encased in seven golden caskets studded with precious stones in a reliquary shaped like a stupa.
At present, the temple built by Wimaladharmasuriya I does not exist anymore, as it was destroyed on several occasions during times of war, before being reconstructed and transformed. The last restoration took place after the bomb blast carried out by the Tamil Tigers during the Civil War. Yet, despite these upheavals, the sanctuary conserves a homogeneous oriental style. If the exteriors of the temple offer a sober architecture, the interior is decorated affluently and richly with gold, limestone, and ivory.
The library, which is in the small octagonal courtyard of the temple, contains a collection of books of very high value, like the Pansiya Panasjathakaya, the text tracing the life of Lord Buddha. Also not to be missed are the murals depicting the Esala Perahera in one of the halls of the temple. The Perahera, which is the biggest Buddhist ceremony in the world, takes place every year in Kandy between July and August. In the night of Kandy, in front of thousands of pilgrims, one can see an extraordinary procession of about one hundred magnificently decorated elephants, accompanied by dancers and musicians under the light of torches.