Kandy, Sri Lanka

The Dental Root of Sinhalese Buddhism

On the same route
The Royal Palace
walk of faith
Candia and its Lake
The Tooth Chamber
Business in Black & White
Buddha in the Heights
aroma of buddhism
lake colleagues
Unlikely Trio
monks on the way
Lankathilakaya Buddha
DeSilva x 2
faith and fire
The hand
The Lankathilakaya Temple
Window Conversation
checkered buddhism
Berries against Bad Influence
Located in the mountainous heart of Sri Lanka, at the end of the XNUMXth century, Kandy became the capital of the last kingdom of old Ceylon and resisted successive colonial conquest attempts. The city also preserved and exhibited a sacred tooth of the Buddha and, thus, became Ceylon's Buddhist center.

Just after nine in the morning.

The Temple of the Tooth surrenders again to the ceremony Pooja, in its version of daily ritual, called Theva, in either case, a frenzy of faith that has long animated him.

Believers flow in, dressed in their clothes, but barefoot. The women in bright, shiny skirts and shirts and saris. The men, almost all in pants and shirts of the whiteness of purity.

Solemn, the ceremony takes place in a frame of corridors and chambers defined, from floor to ceiling, by carved and varnished wooden grilles.

Family Prayers, Flowers, Fruit and Faith

In a kind of antechamber, families gather, sit on the floor, in a communal prayer in which even the children remain engaged.

In front, along a table spread from one end of a corridor to the other, the faithful deposit the offerings with which they praise Lord Buddha.

Two employees help us organize them into a decent patchwork quilt. Freshly picked water lilies and distinct flowers of the same type and colors, together, and in sections where they match each other.

There is also rice and some fruits, of which exuberant pomegranate berries stand out, arranged and highlighted on paper platters as one of the three fruits that Buddhists consider sacred.

Bylaws are not for everyone present. Or, if it is, the almost daily routine of ritual has faded.

A temple official at a corner of the table looks around.

When he thinks he is safe from the eyes of others, he steals and delights in a handful of pomegranate, with an ethereal texture and flavor that Buddhists believe appeasers of evil and sins.

A Buddhist legend tells that a demon named Hariti got used to devouring children. And that Buddha cured her of this habit by giving her a pomegranate to eat.

Around the table, even if their noses barely pass it, children marvel at the changing exuberance of the board.

Young Buddhists still admire the understanding and elegance with which their parents, with their hands together in front of their faces, once again exalt the Enlightened One.

In a nearby courtyard, between large clay pots equipped with jambés, a trio of monks with shaved heads, in mustard-colored habits, carry out their own prayer, austere as the flagstone floor that supports them.

Arrived through a tunnel lined with intricate motifs – white, yellow, gold – more and more believers prolong the theva of the day. The supreme presence of the Buddha attracts them.

Candia and the Temple of the Tooth that Houses a Buddha Fang

In Cândia, there, in that same temple, the unusual manifestation of one of his teeth, a left canine, to be more rigorous.

Believers access the chamber that preserves it through a door to eternal wisdom, in itself, a kind of religious act fraught with symbolism.

Above the door, between two suns stamped on an undulating sky, is a dragon with a gaping mouth that seems to grant the passage.

On either side of the curtain that serves as a veil, two yellow guardians are accompanied by a doorman identified by a white sarong and vest. The interior reveals an altar, crowned by a gleaming gold Buddha and flanked by two targets.

The sacred canine is kept inside a bell, also a prodigious piece of jewellery.

The lack of a real exposition of the relic, both the room and its surroundings, appear decorated with other teeth.

Large ivories exposed in a curve towards the statues, in a way that is not at all subtle, pointing out their sacredness.

Candia, Tooth of Buddha, Ceylon, Temple of the Tooth

Buddhist priests appear out of nowhere.

They are positioned on another face of that same central chamber, between another set of ivories and a red-gold curtain kept closed.

They inaugurate chants, followed by a shortened mantra.

At the end of the recital, the entourage that accompanies them prostrate themselves in reverence. Of the esteemed monks and the holiness of the Buddha to which monks and any Buddhist aspire.

Mere mortals that we are, faced with such solemnity, our curiosity assails us as to how Buddha's canine would have ended up there.

The Journey of the Tooth of Buddha from India to Candia

Back to the plane of legend, after Gautama Buddha entered the final state of Nirvana, the tooth would have been stored somewhere in the Kalinga region (northeast coast of India).

From there, on the instructions of a local king named Guhasiva, his daughter Princess Hemamali hid her tooth in her hair.

With the protection of her husband Prince Dantha, she managed to travel to the island of present-day Sri Lanka.

In that era of the year 300 AD, Sirimeghavanna ruled the island, king of Anuradhapura before Kashyapa I, the successor who conquered the throne after walling up his father.

And who later took refuge at the top of the famous rock fortress of Sigirya.

Sirimeghavanna assumed the superior responsibility of guarding the tooth. From then on, this custody became part of Sri Lanka's history.

By the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries, Candia had become a spiritual center for the two largest sects in the world. Budismo, Mahayana and Theravada.

The Tooth Guard that Validates Ceylon Control

For a long time, the right and duty of custody of the dental relic corresponded to the legitimacy of governing the island.

Accordingly, successive kings built their own “temples of the tooth” next to their royal residences.

In the course of Ceylon's intricate history, the tooth ended up in the island's mountainous heartland, in Candia, since the late XNUMXth century, an expanding kingdom.

We left the Temple of the Tooth. We wander through the vastness that surrounds it and the large artificial lake to the south.

As you would expect in what is considered the Buddhist capital of Sri Lanka, we come across other temples and shrines.

We witnessed new offerings, among colorful flags, smoke and incense.

In this digression, we ended up diverging towards the secular sphere and towards an administrative plan for the city.

Cândia and its Dazzling Notarial and Advocacy Center

Fleeing the deafening roar of old buses and rickshaws, we find ourselves on a street bordered by two-story colonial buildings.

We see a sector of these facades covered in black plates with white letters.

When we examine them, we find that they bear Sinhalese words and, here and there, Western names.

Some sound familiar to us. We are in a domain of notaries and lawyers.

Among so many other Sinhalese, we find one such firm "DeSilva and DeSilva".

The colonial look, something decadent of the place seduces us. We get lost in their rooms, chatting with employees who, by hand, draw up building plans and other official documents.

“I bet they haven't seen a job like this in a long time!” one of them throws us at us, conscious of the classic preciousness of what she was doing.

In English, we still chat with others who make photocopies or dust off secular desks and drawing boards.

We realize that, apart from their workspace, they share the amazement that we saw interest there.

As is the case throughout Sri Lanka, most of the employees have Portuguese names.

Or at least family members who have them.

And yet we are in one of the few cities in Ceylon that have always resisted.

To the Portuguese, and to the other colonial powers with which the Portuguese disputed it.

The Early Arrival of the Portuguese in Ceylon

Portugal came across this island, which the Romans already knew as Taprobana, during Vasco da Gama's first voyage to India. On that expedition, the navigator learned that it was the only cinnamon producer in the World.

Now the spice was really appreciated and sought after in Europe.

Subsequently, D. Manuel I instructed the viceroy D. Francisco de Almeida that, if possible, Ceylon should be controlled.

In 1505, it is said that, dragged by a storm, the navigator son of the viceroy, Lourenço de Almeida, ended up there on the coast, forced to anchor next to the current port of Columbus.

In the one hundred and fifty years that followed (until 1658), stimulated by the importance of the island, the Portuguese established forts and trading posts.

The Gradual Mastery of the Ceylon Coast

Columbus herself, Galle, Jafanapatão, Negumbo, Baticalo and Tricomalee.

In addition to cinnamon, the island was filled with precious stones, pearls, and other riches that its kings and nobles displayed.

In such a way, that several influential personalities in the expansion of the Empire defended that its capital should be transferred from Goa to Ceylon.

Candia, the Tough Kingdom of the Mountains

Three great kingdoms disputed the island: Kotte, the predominant one; Jafanapatão, to the north and, owner and lord of the mountains at the heart of the island, Candia.

As they were used to doing around the world, the Portuguese explored the rivalries between these kingdoms, with missionaries of different orders trying to convert the local kings and nobles to Christianity and mold them to the Portuguese colonial sphere.

The Portuguese ensured the proper Christianization of more than one king of Candia. And, between 1589 and 1594, control of this kingdom. In those five years, the Crown found itself in trouble to designate a new Portuguese king.

This novel of the appointment of the king still existed when, enraged by the execution of a Sinhalese general, the allied forces of the island, disbanded.

And the Portuguese Debacle in Ceylon, at the hands of the Rebel de Cândia and the Dutch

Konnapu Bandara the Kandy Rebel, a feared Sinhalese rival Christianized as Dom João of Austria and who became King of Vimaladharmasuriya, took advantage of the vulnerability of the Portuguese, meanwhile surrounded.

In October 1594, served by a huge army, he cornered and slaughtered them.

He also kidnapped Cusumasana Devi, the native that the Portuguese named Dª Catarina and who, during the year 1591, managed to keep Queen of Cândia.

Soon, the Dutch arrived on the scene. They precipitated the colonial collapse of the Portuguese in Ceylon.

Candia continued to resist. She preserves her lofty place in Sri Lankan history.

It is the Buddha's canine that legitimizes him.

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