The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic is a Buddhist temple in the sacred city of Kandy, Sri Lanka. It is located in the royal palace complex of the former Kingdom of Kandy, which houses the relic of the tooth of the Buddha. Since ancient times, the relic has played an important role in local politics 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 World Heritage Site mainly due to 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 called Nanumura Mangallaya. This holy water is believed to contain healing powers and is distributed among those present.
The temple sustained damage from bombings by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in 1998 but was fully restored.
According to Sri Lankan legends, when the Buddha died in 543 BCE, his body was cremated in a sandalwood pyre at Kushinagar and his left canine tooth was retrieved from the funeral pyre by his disciple, Khema. Khema then gave it to King Brahmadatte for veneration. It became a royal possession in Brahmadatte’s country and was kept in the city of Dantapuri (modern Puri,Odisha, India).
A belief grew that whoever possessed the tooth relic had a divine right to rule that land. The Dāṭhāvaṃsa recounts the tale of a war fought over the relic 800 years later between Guhasiva of the republic of Kalinga and a king named Pandu.
Legend states the Abhayagiri vihāra was first appointed custodianship of the relic when it was brought to the island after the conflict in Kalinga. As time went on, the land was threatened with foreign invasions; at one time, the king of Bago, Burma offered the Portuguese £50,000 as a ransom of the tooth; and the seat of the kingdom was moved from Anuradhapura to Polonnaruwa, then to Dambadeniya and other cities. Upon each change of capital, a new palace was built to enshrine the relic. Finally, it was brought to Kandy where it is at present, in the Temple of the Tooth.
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