History Of The Sacred Tooth Relic Introduction

  • Sharebar

The worship of corporeal remains of the Buddha, as recorded in the Mahaparinibbana – sutta (the Record of the Demise of the Buddha), was sanctioned by the Buddha himself on the verge of his passing away. The Buddha declared that four noble persons are worthy of the bodily remains being enshrined and honored, the Buddha, the Personal Buddhas (Pacceka Buddhas,) the Arahanths (Buddha’s disciples) and the Universal Monarchs (Cakkavati kings).

The bodily remains of the Buddha, after their distribution among various states that claimed for the relics, were enshrined in the funerary mounds known as stupa. However, the four canine Teeth were said to have been separately enshrined and worshipped.

The right canine was worshipped in the heavenly domain of the king of gods, while another was worshipped by the king of Gandhara in modern Pakistan. The third was taken away by Nagas and worshipped in a golden shrine room. The fourth, the left canine was removed from the funerary ashes by a monk and was handed over to the king of Kalinga in Eastern India, as recorded in the Digha Nikaya.

Thenceforth, the Tooth relic of the Kalinga became an object of great veneration by generations of Kalinga kings, until it earned the wrath of brahmanical followers. Consequently several attempts were made to destroy the Relic by the fanatical rulers. Yet the Tooth relic was miraculously saved from such atrocities. For this reason, the kings of other states attempted to possess the Tooth relic for personal veneration. Thus, from the beginning itself, the Tooth relic came to be considered as an important symbol of veneration. The last Indian ruler to possess the Tooth relic was Guhasiva of Kalinga (c.3rd century AD).