Monday, March 21, 2016

Travel Monday: A Foreigner's Guide to the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic

One of the most-visited places on the teardrop island of Sri Lanka is the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic in Kandy, also known as Sri Dalada Maligawa to locals. As the name indicates, the grand temple complex houses the remains of the tooth relic of the Buddha in a sacred chamber. It is believed to be the left canine tooth of Gautama Buddha that was retrieved from the funeral pyre by one of the Buddha's disciples and through history has found its way to Sri Lanka. 

The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic is considered one of the most sacred places in Sri Lanka as the sacred tooth relic is regarded as a symbolic representation of the Buddha by Sri Lankan Buddhists, and thus many offerings, rituals and practices revolve around the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic.

Pilgrims, travelers and tourists travel from near and far to visit, pay respects, make offerings and/or to witness the annual Esala Perahera held around August. Personally, I enjoy visiting this place because it has a very lovely energetic vibration and a definite flow of goodness beneath all the pomp and ceremony of the pujas and oftentimes heaving crowds.

This blog post is mainly for foreign tourists or expats who are curious about why the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic is so significant to many locals and Buddhist pilgrims and who want to know how to make the most out of a visit.

How to Learn Sinhala for Foreigners and Expats

A few years back, I wrote a blog post titled "The Funny World of Sinhala, Singlish and English" and it seems like an opportune time to revisit this topic in a more practical sense. Over the past year I've had a quite a few expats get in touch, who are either moving or have moved to Sri Lanka, expressing an interest in learning to speak Sinhala (and possibly to learn to read and write too). This is wonderful to hear and warms my little heart to know that there are other expats who keen to connect and communicate with locals in their native tongue, and also to feel more at home in Sri Lanka.

There have been plenty of expat articles that emphasize how learning the local language can be really beneficial to the expat experience of living in a foreign country. For one, it brings you closer to the locals and to better understand the local culture. It's a real revelation to be able to laugh and joke in the local language! Another reason, is that you will find more confidence living in Sri Lanka once you have a grasp of the language. It also is easier to navigate around the island using public transport and being aware of notices and signs for things of interest. Eventually, all this knowledge will make this place feel more like home, and what's not to like about that. I know all of this to be true from personal experience.

This blog post offers some practical advice and resources to assist expats and foreigners on learning to speak, read and write Sinhala.