Tuesday 23 September 2014

Day 150: Kandy - Teeth of many sizes

Drummers at the temple of the tooth in Kandy
The Temple of the Tooth in Kandy perplexes me.  It's serenely-situated by a lake, contains a historic library of beautifully-bound palm-leaf books (a literature graduate can only approve) and it hums with the footsteps of devotees and visitors.  So far so good.  But why the tooth?

One of Anuradhapura's temples boasts a part of the Buddha's collar bone, so Kandy isn't alone in this fetish.  (Nor is Buddhism the only religion where such relics matter - how many churches are there with pieces of the cross?)  But if religion is generally about looking beyond the things of this world, can't we do without the body parts?  I'm confused.  But then I'm just an atheist.

Moving from Buddha's teeth to elephant teeth, we headed for the Millennium Elephant Foundation where we lifted a tooth that would need a much bigger casket than the one in Kandy's temple to house it.  The Foundation draws completely polarised reviews on TripAdvisor, from those who abhor its cruelty to those who are ecstatic about the chance to ride elephants.  I'd agree with the horrified brigade if elephants were being taken from the wild into captivity to give rides to tourists (or do anything else), but I'm less concerned if they were born into captivity, or rescued from the wild as orphans, and can't then be released.  In this situation, surely carrying my body weight (even after all the Sri Lankan curry) is hardly a cruel strain on an elephant?  What a day of religious perplexities and animal rights dilemmas!

Guy's ice-bucket challenge
Anyway, we enjoyed riding bare-back and then bathing the elephants, giving them a good scrub on their bristly hides.  Guy was then invited by the keepers to climb onto the elephant's back.  I assumed this was to ride her out of the water.  But no.  The elephant knew the drill and gave Guy one of the most thorough showers of his life by squirting him with her trunk.  The photos say it all.  (I politely declined the ducking.)

Back in Kandy, we spent an hour at the cultural show, combining local drumming, dancing and walking across flaming coals (talk about cruelty?!).   Then we finished the day to find that local banana fritters had replaced 'cheesecake' on the dinner menu.  We were very happy to get our teeth into them!

The container of "the tooth"
I felt bad for not wearing white
Musician in the temple of the tooth 
The juxtaposition of Buddhism
and Christianity in Kandy
Riding bare-backed
Drummer kicking off the dancing in Kandy
Dances get underway
Camp cobra
I know what you're thinking...
Sunset over the lake at Kandy

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