Temple of the Tooth

This is another blog that I had written for our class blog and thought I would share here. It is about reading culture-something that can be very difficult to do, especially when you are first introduced to that culture, so please forgive my lack of knowledge about Buddhism.

Sri Dalada Maligawa, or the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, is a Buddhist temple located in the town of Kandy, Sri Lanka. The temple is located in the royal palace complex formerly known as the Kingdom of Kandy, which houses the relic of the tooth of Buddha.

It is believed that whoever holds the relic holds the governance of the country, thus affecting political issues within the country. Kandy was the last capital of the Sri Lankan kings and the presence of the temple has contributed to the town being designated as a UNESCO world heritage site.

A daily worship in the inner chamber of the temple is conducted by monks and rituals are performed three times daily: at dawn, at noon and in the evenings. On Wednesdays there is a symbolic bathing of the Sacred Relic with scented water and flowers, called Nanumura Mangallaya. It is believed that this holy water contains healing powers and thus it is distributed among those present.

Keyline #6 asks what it means to read cultures. A major part of this trip revolves around us seeing, learning, and experiencing the traditions and customs of other cultures and relating them back to our own selves, beliefs, and lives.

We visited the temple in the evening, so we were able to witness the evening ritual, which included traditional costume and music. It was very cool to see how the slow beat of the drums escalated dramatically as what I am assuming to be the relic was carried into the tomb. As the doors opened, a box was carried in and the audience was able to catch a quick view of the inside before it was secured again.

After the relic was brought into the tomb, one of the drummers began to play music on an instrument similar to a flute. Hearing the changes in beat and type of music helped us to understand the importance of the different aspects of the ritual. While we were not fully versed on what the ritual represented, it was necessary for those watching to understand the importance of the entire process.

The ritual takes place as the sun rises, when it is at its highest point, and as it sets. Reading culture means to realize the fact that the event goes according to the movement of the sun and then to understand the purpose of that. According to the Life of the Buddha (http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/buddhism/lifebuddha/2_1lbud.htm), the Buddha experienced the Sun of Enlightenment when “desire dies, illusions end, and ignorance vanishes like the night.” Maybe this has absolutely nothing to do with the times of the ritual, but it is important to recognize that the Sun does play a role in the Buddhist religion in several aspects and therefore should be taken into consideration when a part of the culture or religion is examined.

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One thought on “Temple of the Tooth

  1. Beautiful pictures and good reflection on this experience, Rachel. Thanks for taking us on your journey in this way!

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