Written by Eason Wang, published by Mathilda Wu
"In this impetuous era, keeping a tranquil mind and being at peace on the inside, like the devotees in the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic do, may protect us from tumult or disorder on the outside."
"Ayubowan!" when being greeted by locals with this blessing word, I knew I have arrived in Sri Lanka, the Pearl of the Indian Ocean, where a nation famed for serene smiles and happy greetings lives. Unlike the mysterious Khmer Smile in the Angkor Wat, the Ceylonese smile reveals the inner peace and happiness of this nation. Ceylonese people always wear a smile on their face, mainly because of the all-year-round salubrious climate and laid-back ancient lifestyle, and perhaps the innumerable links with their Buddhism belief.
Kandy at a glance
Kandy is the second largest city and generally recognized as the cultural capital of Sri Lanka. Located in the mountainous center of the island, this city is miraculously surrounded by beautiful tropical rain forest hills, cascading waterfalls, crystal-clear rivers, lakes and valleys. Declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kandy is really a great place to explore the fascinating nature, magnificent architecture, unique history and profound culture of Sri Lanka, and to worship the sacred tooth relic of Gautama Buddha, one of most important Buddhist relics, which exerted a fatal attraction on me even though I am not a Buddhist and guided me to this sacred city.
A leisurely stroll around Kandy Lake
Kandy is pervaded with a peaceful, serene and relaxing atmosphere, especially around Kandy Lake in the heart of this hilly city.
It was in the afternoon, the sunlight was bright still, though the heat faded; I strolled along the shady lakeside path, passing by several monks wearing in colorful robes, cute little cats roaming around blithely and young men and women sitting and whispering in twos and threes on the lakeside seats. When I stood in a vantage point, the tranquil lake wimpling in the gentle breeze, the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic partly visible among tree canopies and the green hills serving as a scenic backdrop came into my sight. Everything here outlined a marvelous picture of Kandy and relaxed me completely.
The scenic Kandy Lake rippled in the gentle breeze.
The fabulous Kandyan Dance Show
While admiring the idyllic sceneries, I arrived at the Kandyan Art Association & Cultural Centre on the northern lake shore, a highly recommended venue to enjoy the traditional Kandyan cultural dance show. Composed of various styles of Kandyan dance, this graceful and rhythmic show reveals the profound cultural heritage of the Kandyan Kingdom.
At the very start of the show, I was deeply attracted by the special Ceylon drums. The drum sticks are thin and long rather than thick and short as I ever thought, and at the upward end there is a hook uniquely shaped like an elephant's trunk. The drumbeats are clear and euphonious, and sometimes joyful and dynamic, but always with a solemn feel, amidst which this wonderful one-hour show started and then ended, leaving a lasting and pleasant impression on me.
Drummers look serious, while dancers always keep smile.
The stage, lighting and costumes may not looks ornate, but the unique drumbeats and smiling faces of the excellent dancers aroused my deep respect to the extensive and profound culture of Sri Lanka.
The spectacular Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic
With the lingering charm of the dance show in mind, I headed to the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic within a stone's throw. Situated in the royal palace complex of the former Kingdom of Kandy and surrounded by four devales dedicated to four guardian gods Natha, Vishnu, Katharagama and the goddess Pattini, this golden-roofed temple is world-renowned for the tooth relic of the Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism.
The temple looks plain from outside, while in striking contrast, the interior is richly carved and elaborately decorated.
According to legend, there are only two surviving relics of tooth of Gautama Buddha. One is enshrined in this temple, and the other is treasured in Beijing, the ancient capital of China, both of which stand witness to the ups and downs of dynasties in their respective countries and receive worships from continuous waves of pilgrims from all over the world.
Passing through the approach bridge on the moat, I appreciated the exquisite paintings along the paved path leading to the lower floor of the temple. These paintings creatively show the grand occasion of Esala Perahera, the largest Buddhist celebration in the world, which is held during the full moon in late July or early August to pay homage to the sacred tooth relic of Gautama Buddha. During this 10-day torchlight parade, the tooth relic will be brought out from the temple and paraded on the backs of ornately decorated elephants in the streets and alleyways in Kandy, receiving the worship and homage paid by the throngs of pilgrims from all over the world.
At the end of this informative path lies the inner chamber of the lower floor. The tapestry coming into view depicts an incredible ancient story: in the 4th century, eight hundred years after the passing away of Gautama Buddha, Princess Hemamali and her husband, Prince Dantha smuggled a tooth relic of the Gautama Buddha to Sri Lanka from India on the instructions of her father King Guhasiva. She disguised herself as an ordinary civilian and concealed the tooth relic in her hair. The bun giving out holy white light was the part where the relic was hidden.
Inner chamber of the temple is elaborately decorated with inlaid woods, ivories, precious gems, and lacquer.
Stepping up to the upper floor, I walked toward the "Handun Kunama", the actual chamber where the tooth relic is carefully kept. The entrance door of this heavily guarded chamber will be open during the ceremonious rituals performed three times daily: at dawn, at noon and in the evening. The rituals are often accompanied by solemn drumbeats. The arched door of this chamber will be open after the rituals, so that devotees can get into the chamber to perform worship.
Here I saw many devotees wearing plain clothes and holding lotus flowers to present to the Buddha. They sat on the brown wood floor devoutly with their palms putting together, or prostrated themselves respectfully, chanting scriptures dedicatedly, praying for the Buddha’s blessings silently or redeeming a vow pledged to the Buddha gratefully.
A devotee is lighting the oil lamps in the chamber.
It is said that the tooth relic is placed on a gold lotus flower, encased in seven stupa-shaped and gem-studded golden casket of diminishing size, and is brought out only for special occasions. So the relic itself cannot be seen on ordinary days and the casket is honored as its representative. Be that as it may, continuous streams of devotees come and worship it and go unwillingly when the closing time of the chamber comes.
It was evening when I came out from the temple. The clear night sky was studded with thousands of twinkling stars, while the quite street was spotted with a few of pedestrians.
A wonderful memory of a lifetime
This spiritual tour revitalized my body and soothed my soul. It is like a dream to me now, floating through my mind in slow motion: the enlightening pilgrimage to the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, the stunning audio-visual feasts of Kandyan dance show, the fantastic relaxing stroll around Kandy Lake, the unexceptionable animal encounters in the Udawattekele Sanctuary, the incredible informative tour to the Ceylon Tea Museum, etc. I would love to explore Kandy again in a heartbeat if possible!
If you are also deeply attracted to this scenic and sacred city, please do not hesitate to contact Odyssey Tours at email@example.com. Our excellent travel consultant team will tailor-make an exclusive tour for you catering to your needs and preferences!