The temple of the Tooth in Kandy guards the islands most valuable treasure, one of Buddhas canine teeth. The relic has been moved several times over the centuaries, but now it captivates the followers of an enlightened Buddah in the temple in Knady.
Every year in July/ Auguest during the eleven day Perehera of Kandy, it is carries through the town on a magnificiently decorated elephant “Nadungamuwa Raja” who is the main casket bearer of the procession of Esala Perahera gifted by the Mysore Maharaja.
The history of Kandy is that of all the royal cities in Sri Lanka closely linked to the historu of the holy tooth relic, which has gathered its fair share of legends. After the solemn cremation of the Buddhas remains in Kushingara, India in 483 BC a number if unburnt fragments if bone including a collarbone were fund in the ashes and also four teeth.
One of the teeth webt to the King of Kalings in Ssoutthern India, where it was venerates for 800 years. When the Buddhist faith disappeared from India the relic was at risk of being stolen by Hindu Kings and possibly destroyed.
One legend has it that the tooth had resisted all attempts by Panda King to destroy it, and was even raised on a lotus blossom back to the surface of a pond into which it had been thrown.
The Buddhist nun Hemamala, daughter of King Guhasiwa brought the Tooth- concealed in her hair to Sri Lanka in AD 313. King Sirimeghavana has a special temple built for it in his palace precinct and in the succeeding years the Tooth was taken annually in solemn procession to the Abhayagiri monastery where it could be venerated by all the faithful.
In the political turmoil of the late10th century when Anuradhapura had to be abandoned as the capital, the migration of the relic bagan, although it continued to enjoy the particular attention of the kings.
Finally its possession came to be the most important bargaining point for any claimant to the throne. It initially passed through the principality of Ruhuna and then among other places, Kotmale, the Beligala rocks, Dambadeniya and eventually Yapahuwa where it was stolen and taken back to India by the Pandyas who had stormed the fortress towards the end of the 13th century.
By clever negotiation, King Parakramabahu the second managed to get the tooth back, and it was ateken back to Polonnaruwa. After that it was in Kurunegala and Gampola where allegadley it was kidnapped and taken to China, like the Sinhalese King himself. King Alakesvara is said to have got it back again abd it can be proved to have been present at the coronation of Parakarama Bahu the sixth in Rayigama in 1415.
From there the tooth was taken to the new capital of Kotte, where it fell into the hands of the Portugese at the end of the 16th century. They are said to have taken it to their Indian colony of Goa and destroyed it. In order to legitimize himself as king to the people, however King Vimala Dharma Suriya I, who seized power in Kandy in 1592, needed the Holy Tooth. So he spread a rumour that the portugese had only destroyed a copy and that he possessed the original.
The people decided to believe the King. Since then, the Tooth in Kandy has been regarded as the holiest relic in Sri Lanka.
The temple is accessible all day long, but the shrine, a two storey wooden structure in the inner courtyard is only opened for the religious ceremonies at 5.30am, 9.30am and 6.30pm. These occasions are announced by loud gong beats and drum rolls.