Another stop on our trip was the exotic locale, Sri Lanka. While there, we visited The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, a Buddhist temple in the city of Kandy, Sri Lanka. It is located in the royal palace complex of the former Kingdom of Kandy. It houses the relic of the tooth of Buddha. The relic has played an important role in local politics since ancient times because it is believed that whoever holds the relic, holds the governance of the country. Kandy was the last capital of the Sri Lankan kings and is a UNESCO world heritage site.
Monks conduct daily worship in the inner chamber of the temple. Rituals are performed three times daily: at dawn, at noon and in the evenings. On Wednesdays, there is a symbolic bathing of the relic with an herbal preparation made from scented water and fragrant flowers. This holy water is believed to contain healing powers and is distributed among those present. Sandy & I were able to see the evening celebration and the opening of the golden shrine doors to see the Golden Shrine containing Buddha’s tooth relic.
We learned that Buddhism predates Christianity about 600 years. There were thousands of people in the shrine area and most were dressed in their best clothes, had offerings, their hands together in prayer, and observably devout. We gained greater understanding and respect for these people and one of the world’s great religions.
The Tooth of the Buddah Shrine is actually six golden and jeweled shrines within one another. It was difficult to take a photo due to all the mass pushing of the crowds trying to get just a glimpse of it during the five-minute viewing.
We were also fortunate to see an illuminated festival! The Esala Perahera is a grand festival with elegant costumes held in July and August in Kandy, Sri Lanka. This historical procession is held annually to pay homage to the Sacred Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha. The 15-day festival has processions and consists of many traditional local dances such as fire-dances, whip-dances, Kandyan cultural dances, and elephants who are brightly painted or in lavish garments. The highlight is large tusker elephant carrying the Casket of Buddah’s Tooth Relic, which the masses see and venerate.
Earlier that day, we started our day with breakfast on the terrace overlooking the lake at the Lake Hotel in Polonnaruwa. We felt like royalty when the staff set up a cooking counter next to us on the terrace and prepared our breakfast to order.
After breakfast, we visited several sites of the Polonnaruwa ruins, a Unesco World Heritage Site. There are a lot of ruin sites in a small area. They show the advanced architecture and irrigation systems from ancient times.
We also had a lot of fun see the elephants at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage. The Elephant Orphanage was first established by the Sri Lankan Department of Wildlife Conservation in 1975 to feed and provide care and sanctuary to orphaned baby elephants that were found in the wild. Today, Pinnawala is notable for having the largest herd of captive elephants in the world. In 2011, there were 88 elephants, including 37 males and 51 females from 3 generations, living in Pinnawala taken care of by 48 mahouts, or elephant handlers.
We also had breakfast at a lovely spot that overlooked the elephant orphanage!
Our day ended at the Galle Face Hotel, now celebrating its 150th year in operation and it the oldest hotel east of the Suez. This hotel brings you back to the British Colonial Empire times. It is listed as one of the 1,000 Things To See Before You Die. It has a gallery of over 60 guests from royalty, movie stars, world leaders, writers, and now, Sandy & I. We enjoyed many sunsets, drinks, and dinners watching the Indian Ocean waves come in.
Sandy and John Dominy
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