Kandy and The Temple of the Tooth, Sri Lanka
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The Chaaya Citadel, Kandy, Sri Lanka
By about 1.30 we’d arrived in Kandy and made our way to our second hotel – the Chaaya Citadel. This hotel is almost as impressive as the first and is run by the same company. The hotel staff are very friendly and take our bags up to our rooms. We have adjoining bedrooms at the back of the hotel which overlooks a large swimming pool which has an interesting chequered floor and past that the hotel is situated right on the banks of a river. Our rooms both have great balconies and the view is spectacular.
We have a busy late afternoon/evening as we plan to visit the famous Temple of the Tooth and take in a performance of traditional Kandian dancing. However the children are by now itching for a proper swim and in short order we’re all kitted up for a swim before lunch.
Despite the hotel appearing to be pretty busy, the swimming pool is completely deserted and we have it all to ourselves. The boys immediately devise a new game which will continue pretty much throughout the entire holiday – novelty diving/jumping into the pool. The rules are pretty simple, a theme is chosen and each of the three children has to perform a dive in keeping with the chosen them. For example, the theme was often “characters from Star Wars” which generally resulted in Obi-Wan Kenobi, Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker to name a few, swiping their light sabres as performer jumped, span or dived into the pool. Each round required scoring out of 10. It is fun but as an adult it does get tiring after a while (even though I was only scoring!) – the children never seem to tire of it.
We grab a quick bite of lunch – just a few platefuls of chips which we eat by the pool. I have to admit that bizarrely this feels like probably one of the happiest moments of my life. The constant sightseeing, the different culture and the complete relaxation all combine to push all work worries and thought completely from my mind (which doesn’t happen too often!). It’s a spectacular moment and I think we’re all realising just how amazing this holiday is going to be.
The Temple of the Tooth, Sri Lanka
Chris picks us up at around 3pm and we drive into the centre of Kandy. It is a large city by Sri Lankan standards and it is busy with shops and people going about their daily business. We find ourselves in the first traffic jam we have come across so far and we’re extremely grateful for having Chris to drive us around as he ferries us to within walking distance of the Temple of the Tooth.
The story of the Temple of the Tooth is a strange one to western ears. The temple was built to house the “Tooth Relic”. It’s not the first as we saw in Polonnaruwa there have been previous places to store the relic. However it is the relic itself which is interesting. It is alleged to be a tooth from the Lord Buddha which was extracted at from Buddha’s funeral pyre in India but at some point transported the Sri Lanka for safekeeping. The tooth appears to have moved around Sri Lanka for a while, even returning briefly to India for a while. The Portuguese are purported to have taken it and destroyed it but Sri Lankans maintain that this is not so and that only a replica was destroy. The tooth relic is now kept in the Temple of the Tooth and is only shown very rarely.
So we park beside the Lake Kandy and walk a few hundred yards to the temple passing along a long narrow boulevard right in from of the distinctive bright white frontage. This is topped by a white octagonal tower with its red roof with the rest of the temple rises behind this it. Throughout the square leading up to the temple there are attractive, black street lights in the style of gas lamps. The whole area is swarming with people visiting the temple.
Unfortunately a few years back there was a terrorist attack on the temple and a large part of the front of the building was destroyed. It has been completely restored but the result is that security is very tight and we have to pass through two security checks. The first is still a good 100m from the temple on the other side of the road. The second is right at the entrance. In both cases we have to split into male and female to carry out the checks but after a quick bag check, we’re through without any trouble.
Just like at the Golden Temple, we are required to remove our shoes but again there is a handy stall available to look after them. Inside the temple is crowded. The place where the tooth relic resides is obvious immediately with its bright red and gold entrance topped with four elephant tusks with two stone lions guarding it. The whole area is surrounded by gold railings to prevent people getting too close. Unfortunately you don’t get to see the relic itself which is a shame.
Walking around the tooth’s resting place we get to a large hall which has more impressive statues of the Buddha at one end of the hall. In this case all the statues are mainly gold. There is a single main statue of the Buddha in the Bhumisparsa mudra (with his fingers touching the ground) with a golden canopy overhead and elephant tusks curving out from the walls. Other statues (some golden and some of other materials) surround the main statue. Some of these are of the Buddha but others seeming representing other people.
Around the hall are a series of pictures which follow the key scenes in the life of the tooth relic, showing how it was taken, supposedly destroyed but ultimately returned to safety. Walking round the room, following the progress of the tooth is a great way for the children to learn the story – better than reading it a guide book (which incidentally none of the books actually cover anyway!)