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World Celebrations: Tooth Festival

Scowen & Co
Wikimedia Commons

Esala Perahera (The Festival of the Tooth) begins on August 7, 2013 and runs for 10 days. The titular tooth apparently belongs to The Buddha and was purloined from his cremated remains. It was smuggled in to Sri Lanka, then known as Ceylon, by Princess Hemamala, and kept by King Rajasinghe. The king decreed that the Tooth would be taken in procession for the masses to venerate. After Britain invaded, the Tooth was handed over to the Buddhist clergy for safekeeping.

Today these massive processions and entertainments make up a double celebration. An appeasement to the rain gods and the Tooth Procession are preceded by a purification of the streets, with the sounds of exploding cannons and whip cracking young men. The Tooth is actually a replica, which is a throwback to the time of the British, who decreed that only a facsimile could be used. The celebrations are lavish and completely over the top. They are attended by thousands of devoted worshippers. As to the validity of the Tooth, that is a matter of faith.

Hear more about this and other celebrations happening around the world on World Music with Deirdre Saravia, Saturday night at 8:00 on KSTX 89.1 FM.

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