Buddhism in Sri Lanka

17:23 Alyson Tart 0 Comments

Our first exposure to Buddhism was during our time in China - a quick side trip in Shanghai found us in the Jade Buddha temple.

In Sri Lanka, there are several famed temples that we had the opportunity to visit and with a guide this time, learn a bit more about Buddhism.

The first stop was the Dalada Maligawa. This is probably the most famous in Sri Lanka due to it's precious relics, some of Buddha's teeth. When Buddha was cremated, 4 of his teeth were taken from his ashes. Legend says these teeth were sent separately to different temples, and one of them found their way over time around 1600 AD to what is more commonly known as the Temple of the Tooth. The tooth theme carries throughout the temple, with large tusks adorning various rooms within. There is also a special shrine just for the case that hold the teeth (you can't actually see the teeth themselves), although this shrine is only opened up at specific times throughout the day, and only removed from the temple once a year. We went during one of the shrine opening times: Pro - you can see the shrine, con - you're joining the rest of the throngs to see the shrine.

 After you queue and are ushered by the shrine, there are a few other rooms to wander around within the temple. One includes Buddha statues from all over the world, another closes shortly after the shrine with golden Buddhas, and the stone wall surrounding the building itself. At night, with the incense lit up in offering, lotus leafs and candles, it's magical (albeit crowded).

 The next day, we had a different experience at the Dambulla Cave Temple. These caves have been in use for more than 22 consecutive centuries, eventually developing into their current form around the 12th century.

Upon approaching the site of the caves, you see a giant gold Buddha on top of a building. Ignore this and proceed - while it's certainly a site, it's not what you're looking for. Follow the stairs up to the true attraction. It's a nice, somewhat steep walk, with monkeys darting across your path, hoping to steal your lotuses for an afternoon snack. Finally, you find yourselves at the entrance where you deposit your shoes before entering the grounds.

As you walk in barefoot, the heat of the sun made the concrete almost uncomfortable to walk on, but then, you find yourselves in the cool respite of the caves. The caves hold 157 different Buddha statues in 5 different caves, but the biggest draw are the paintings which fill all the temples. The caves aren't the ideal places for paintings with lots of moisture and natural elements, despite being sheltered by buildings that have been built around them, but they take care to re-paint them and keep up the tradition.

While we were in Sri Lanka for a short time and only got to catch the biggest highlights of the country, there are temples and ancient ruins to be found all over the country. Next time, there will be even more to explore!

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