The Buddha’s Tooth Temple and the Botanical Gardens in Kandy, Sri Lanka
Kandy is the second largest city in Sri Lanka, located in the center of the country, surrounded by hills covered in tea plantations and lush green mountains.
There is a small lake in the center of the city which people walk around, to look at the resident ducks and geese, and to enjoy the cool breeze.
The city is dotted with stupas and large images of the Buddha, seated at some major road intersections.
But despite the idyllic scenery, the city is noisy, busy and constantly clogged by traffic.
It is easy to imagine how lovely it must have looked before the development of motor vehicles and scooters.
Kandy is famed for a few ancient and sacred Buddhist sites.
At the center of town, on the banks of Kandy lake, sits the large Buddhist complex called the Temple of the Tooth (Sri Dalada Maligawa).
It houses one of the teeth of the Buddha, a great treasure in the Buddhist world, and a relic which made kings powerful, or stripped them of their reigns, if defeated in battle, they lost ownership of the tooth.
Whoever possessed the tooth relic ruled the country.
The city is the seat of Buddhism in Sri Lanka.
There is evening chanting of the Buddhist sutras, a Buddhist University, a Buddhist museum, Buddhist TV and Buddhist radio, all with large temples and offices around the city.
The Buddha’s tooth is held inside a gold reliquary, studded with precious and semi precious stones.
The reliquary is kept inside a shrine in the large temple, and the shrine is opened to show the reliquary three times per day.
The tooth itself has not been displayed for more than ten years.
There are several stupas, large gates, and other temple shrines inside the temple complex.
A large, new shrine details in paintings and words, the journey of the Buddha’s tooth through the years, since it was taken from His funeral pyre.
At the temple’s museum, we saw historical artifacts from Kandy and around Sri Lanka, along with details of the recent truck bombing in 1998, which severely damaged the temple.
The temple was restored and the traffic around Kandy Lake was permanently rerouted as a result of this act of terrorism.
Now the busy main road does not pass by the Temple of the Tooth, as it used to, thus greatly adding to the already massive traffic congestion.
At the temple’s front courtyard, there are many large metal hoops cemented into the ground.
I was told that these are used to tie up the beautifully decorated elephants that appear at the annual celebration of the Esala Perahera festival.
It involves a large procession, costume clad dancers, mask dancers, elephants and song.
The temple complex is vast and requires a few hours.
In front of the Tooth shrine, we took the time to sit on the cool polished wood floor and meditate.
When I closed my eyes, Jules and I were alone, with only a few local people who stopped for a few moments to press their heads to the floor, clasp their hands and pray to the Buddha.
When I opened my eyes some twenty minutes later, we were surrounded by nearly a hundred foreigners from Europe (mostly France) and from China, Korea and Taiwan, all meditating around us.
I love it when that happens, and it does happen to us often.
When we traveled around the Himalayas in India, China, Nepal and in Bhutan, whenever we chose to sit and meditate in a cave or a temple, we always unintentionally started a small meditation group…
Across from the Tooth temple, we found a cafe that served cappuccinos and food.
I also bought there some tea there to take home.
On the advice of our driver, we took a two hour stroll in the botanical gardens, to enjoy the quiet and the tropical plants.
No tropical Botanical garden matches the one in Singapore.
But we must remember that Sri Lanka is a developing country, and as such, the gardens were well maintained and lovely, with many varieties of plants indigenous to the island of Sri Lanka.
A very amazing sight in the garden were giant trees overloaded with fruit bats.
The bats were hanging upside down from the tree branches, in the thousands, all resting and waiting for the shelter of night to get active.
The sound of thousands of bats was really something.
That night we slept in the Earl’s Regency hotel in Kandy.
We got a lovely room overlooking the large and clean swimming pool and we got very good full body massages, from Thai girls at the Hotel’s SPA.
The next evening, we attended a performance of Kandyan dance and drumming, held nightly at the Kandy Cultural Association.
The auditorium was large, and every seat was sold out, with both European tourists and Sri Lankan visitors in attendance.
The two drummers played non-stop for the hour’s performance, and each dance piece featured either elaborately costumed female or male dancers as well as a fire dancer who proceeded to burn the hair of his arms.
The dance style is more energetic and less precise than traditional South Indian classical dance, and was very enjoyable to watch.
While in Kandy, Jules and I decided to order our twenty year wedding anniversary rings, made of local Sri Lanka Topaz.
I chose blue sky Topaz, because it is the color of the sea and the sky, which is Kūkai or Kōbō-Daishi’s name.
Kūkai means the Sky and the SEA.
Kūkai was the Grand Master who propagated Buddhist teachings in Japan in the years 774–835.
He was a well documented Japanese Buddhist monk, a civil servant, a scholar, a poet, and an artist who walked around Shikoku island, made miracles, bent huge rocks, produced springs of cool, running water from rocks, healed people and founded temples.
He is the father of Shingon or “True Word” school of Buddhism in Japan.
In 2016, Jules and I walked a 1200 Kilometer pilgrimage around Shikoku island, visiting 88 of the temples associated with Kūkai, over a two month time period.
In Kandy, it took the jewelers in our hotel only one night to create our anniversary rings in remembrance of the Master Kūkai.
As I look at our rings now, I see the colors of the eyes of the Buddha, looking with compassion and love into infinity…. into the blue sky……. and into the blue sea….
With humble gratitude,