How is the Sacred Tooth Festival in Sri Lanka

The Sacred Tooth Festival, known as Esala Perahera, is dedicated to a relic located in a temple located on the grounds of royal palace in Kandy. According to legend, one of the Buddha’s teeth was extracted from his funerary pyre and was kept for some time in the Indian city of Puri. It was believed that the owner of this tooth would become the supreme ruler, why because of the relic there were unjoking disputes that escalated into armed conflicts. To save an object sacred to Buddhists, the daughter of one of the Indian rulers hid a tooth in her headdress and brought it to Sri Lanka. On the orders of the ruler of the island, a temple was erected on the grounds of his palace, in which the salvaged relic was placed. In the 18th century, during the reign of King Kirti Sri Rajasingha, temple ministers began arranging a colourful procession so that people who had no access to the royal palace grounds could worship relics.

The festival begins with a ritual in which a portion of the trunk of a freshly cut tree is installed in each of the four temples near Sri Dalad Maligawa, or Temple of the Tooth . Festive ceremonies are performed at each of these temples over the next five days. On the sixth day of the festival, men appear in the streets with whips, clicks of which drive away evil spirits and alert them to the beginning of the procession. Traditional dance performers, musicians and banner bearers follow the washed up streets. Elephants in richly decorated popons perform in the center of the procession. On the back of one of them is a bark with a Sacred Tooth. Processions following from the temples of Vishnu, Skanda, Nathi and Pattini join the procession. The feast, accompanied by colorful processions, continues for five days. On the morning of the eleventh day of the festival a water-cutting ceremony is performed. This ritual symbolizes the purification of the sword of the Hindu god Skanda after his victory over demons. The head of the temple of Skanda dissects with a ritual sword the water of the Mahaweli Ganga River and plunges a jug into it. Water collected on the day the festival ends is stored for a year and is considered to have magical properties.

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