I shot this photo just after I had queued to catch a glimpse of the golden casket that allegedly holds one of the Buddha’s teeth. The monk is entering a chamber one floor below where the the tooth is located. As such, he must be a pretty important monk to get solitary access to such a special place. (Make sure you click on the image to get the full deal.)
The Holy Tooth Relic Temple is the most important religious site in Sri Lanka due to the tooth. The tooth itself has taken on a special meaning and wars have been fought over it. It doesn’t seem very Buddhist to fight a war over a tooth, but through the ages, ownership of the tooth has come to symbolize one’s divine right to govern. Without the tooth, one would be an usurper.
In the picture below, you can just see the golden casket where the tooth is located in the far chamber beyond a few people’s heads. The casket is shown for brief periods twice a day and then the door abruptly shuts. Consequently, people queue by the thousands to catch a glimpse of the golden container. Everyone is hustled along and no one is allowed to stop or to take pictures at the chamber door—this is as close as I could get for a shot. The people sitting in front of the door have probably waited for years to worship in such a special place. You can also see some of the offerings that come into the temple by the armload.
All this for a tooth in a golden container.
These kinds of things always make me wonder, “What would the Buddha with his message of non-attachment and emptiness think about all this?”