Saturday, August 30, 2008

The India Confusion
photo by Mistral
This writeup is intended to throw some light on the various facets of India for those who are still searching to locate India on a map. It is difficult to explain all of India in this short article, and any attempt to do so results in the oversimplification of a complex topic. But I do hope that it provides a glimpse of India for the novice India tourist.

This is not a "quick fix" India travel guide, or a "sure shot" India travel plan for the India candidate. Nor is it an attempt to suggest the optimum India travel itinerary. Where to go and what to see is not discussed here. Also this is not an attempt to scare you away or discourage you with the "real facts" of India.

Those planning an India trip are in a special league of tourists, with a taste for a mini-adventure and a quest to see a new way of life. This is not an easy or lazy experience. At the same time, you do not have to be a brutally brave macho to visit India. Put it this way, it’s neither a cakewalk nor a mission impossible.

But, a better understanding of the scheme of things goes a very long way towards a memorable India trip.

The India confusion

photo by Mistral
India in one word: Unexplainable. It’s more biology than physics. Your India travel plan invariably starts with the classic confusion - India or Not. The experiences narrated by the ones who have already visited India only adds fuel to fire, and anyone can convince you either way, with proof and contradicting facts about India.

The stories I have personally heard range from tales of people flying out of India on the next possible flight within hours after landing, to tales of travelers dreaming about their next India trip while at the very beginning of their first India tour. I have heard tales of people facing a real cultural shock on returning home. And, I’ve been convinced beyond reasonable doubt about reasons for all their points.

The excitement a traveler seeking from the "ancient spiritual India" is comparable with that of the Microsoft executive visiting India for business. Both are enthusiastically scratching the India itch but at the opposite ends of a century!

It is a unique, overlapping, and entangled landscape - one living within the other. India is one part stuck in history. You, as a tourist, are going there to experience this living past. The other part is the modern India that facilitates you as a traveler.

India’s past collides with her present in the middle of the road. You witness this never-ending and mind-boggling fusion of contradictions. This is the simplest explanation of hysterical chaos that is India. It’s akin to two huge elephants wrestling ferociusly - nothing bothers them, nor can anyone can stop them.

A man driving a Mercedes honking his horn at a bullock cart to persuade it loudly to give way is not just a funny sight. It’s a real life picture you experience on the Indian roads.

At every turn awaits you a hither to unknown surprise. This suspense hounds you all the way from the "India or Not" decision, through the India adventure, to your departure, and finally fades into a feeing that becomes India nostalgia.

The rude welcome

photo by SitaParityaga
Your welcome to India is not a friendly one. The first thing you notice is the people. I mean lots of people. People moving in all directions. You have to deal with the worst of India head-on, and it’s really raw. Be it the beggars, the touts, the poor children, or the local taxi drivers, you have to deal with all of them minutes after your arrival.

Whatever tricks and tips you have prepared yourself with are forgotten in a matter of minutes after facing this rude welcome. It’s like learning to swim by reading a book, and them jumping right into the pool. India teaches you new lessons only after you have failed the test.

And it is powerful enough to change the way you view life. The shock treatment strikes you at the very core of your being. No amount of homework can prepare you to handle this. Nevertheless, you won’t be caught totally off the guard if you have done some research.

A regular foreign tourist in all probability won’t interact much with their equivalent Indian social classes during their tour. The shock is more due to this reason as well.

Even for an Indian visiting an unfamiliar Indian city, the environment is as eventful as a foreigner doing visiting. The India poison works quickly on you. You need to give it some time before you get a handle on the scheme of things.

It’s bizarre but this is how India welcomes you. This shock is also very much part of experiencing an India trip.

There is no India culture!

This is a fact about India. And you fail miserably if you are on a mission to find "real" Indian culture. India is not a monolithic cultural block. It’s an anthology of a thousand countries within a country.

photo by olias
More than a dozen languages are spoken principally within various geographic regions. This diversity is visible not just in language, but in food, costume, traditions, and local customs. The way people look and think are different all over India. The ways people cook and eat are different all over India. Each place has different festivals and customs. Even the religious holidays are varied in different regions.

For an Indian living in a southern town, Varanasi at the north is a mysterious place far away from his visual range and comprehension. If you are traveling the length and breadth of India, you arrive everyday at a new India, different from the one you saw yesterday. The north, south, east and the west are all distinctively different. No cities or towns are stereotypical representations of India. All are unique in their own way. It’s a never-ending roll-of-the-dice, and a menu for you to pick places that suit your taste.

Culturally this country falls somewhere in between orthodox and modern. You find a lot of sex ual symbols and signs of modernism almost everywhere in India, like women in the cities walking around in tight T-shirts and jeans, and huge billboards advertizing modern attire. Make no mistakes about it - deep down India has a conservative culture that respects tradition.

The difference between sleeveless blouses and ones with elbow-long sleeves is huge in terms of modernism. It’s technically possible to make traditional Sari sexier than a tight T-shirt and jeans, but the latter is still accepted grudgingly.

The younger generation is a century away from that of their parents. The cultural clash is most experienced in the middle-class Indian living rooms, than in any social setting a western tourist may experience. Indians are notorious in “Indianizing” everything they like. The numerous “Chinese fast food” joints dotted all over the country serve food that is neither Chinese nor Indian. The vegetarian McDonald and the Indian version of MTV, "Empty-V" as it’s pronounced, are other examples.

But the peculiar thing about this diversity is that you feel the presence of a strong, and widely-spaced, common cultural net that encompasses all the individual Indian cultures. The blood circulating between them is common.

The Social structure

photo by beach
There is nothing like the contrast between the poor in villages and the rich in the cities. The extreme rich and the unimaginably poor live almost side-by-side in any Indian city. The burgeoning middle-class lives somewhere in-between.

All share, more or less, the same public landscape. The cultural co-existence of these classes is an unexplainable miracle. Accommodating a foreign tourist in this society is not a surprise when compared to their own social contradictions.

The sheer size of all these classes creates a unique economic system that accommodates and caters to all of them. As a tourist this plays to your advantage. You can fit into any slot in the economic spectrum. This is one reason why it is possible for you do an India tour with a lavish or a tight budget.

Your choices are limitless, as the luxury and comfort of hotel accommodations are available whether you pay $3 a day or $300 d day. You can cover three thousand kilometers for a cost ranging from $10 to $150 on the same train in different classes. You can have a decent meal for less than $0.50 to a meal fit for a king for $50.

A "poor man’s Mercedes" is available for anything and everything in India. Like anyone in India, you need to find your correct financial class and just fit into that. "When in Rome, do as the Romans do" is a very practical piece of advice in this context.

A foreign tourist definitely sticks out in a social scene. People take it for granted that a foreign tourist is well traveled and courageous, and it’s up to you to put this perception to your advantage. This perception has probably evolved from the fact that Indians see a countless number of lone foreign travelers roaming every nook and cranny of the country.

An average Indian thinks that all western culture is the same. For him US culture and UK culture are the same, leave alone the difference between Scotland and Wales! This has nothing to do with geographic understanding or the lack thereof, and the reason for this is simple - both the guest and the host are unaware of each others culture.

The family factor

Don’t get surprised if your Indian friend introduces you to her dad’s eldest brother’s son-in-law’s younger sister to you. It is a highly networked family structure that is probably alien to the westerner. People are not as independent as they are in the west. Parents play highly influential role in their children’s lives.

A simple example is an average Indian marriage. Selection of one’s life partner is rarely an individual’s decision. People prefer a wider acceptance in the family circle on matters related to marriage. It’s perceived as a creation of a new network of relations, and not as a one-to-one agreement.

This is what the social security net in India is like. The same holds for many aspects that would normally be individualistic, ranging from academics to career decisions. A family is more of a collective consulting body where everyones opinion matters.

This explains why a large number of people travel as a family, which is why the trains and buses are crowded. "Family only" sections are available in most restaurants.

The family is the elementary building block of the Indian society.


Any layman on the road wants to say something to you. Indian love to talk, and do so even with a total stranger on the street. Such communication hardly starts with introductions by name. The starting topic is generally a subject of popular interest. They talk for hours as if they are long time friends, and may depart without knowing each other’s names.

When directed at a foreigner, the first question is invariably about his country. Everyone is licensed to ask anyone on the street the latest cricket score. Probably this explains the high sound levels in public places.

It’s a patient but emotionally sensitive race. Personal attachments and intimacies are valued. Indians are notorious for asking personal questions, and is usually asked with no malicious intent. They socialize and bond by sharing personal information. It typically ranges from where they live, where are they going, what business they do, etc. The list is endless.

Never get embarrassed if a total stranger standing next to you in a queue ask such blunt questions. The interesting thing is that if you do not ask such questions back you’ll be regarded as impolite, aloof, or rude. In Indian customs, this is a bit of insult to the initiator.

Not looking at your face when answering questions is not a sign of impoliteness. Eye contact in face-to-face communication is much less than in western practices. The funniest fact is that you will attract a lot of stares when you are not talking to them. This is more so in a rural or a small town setup.

English is the de facto communication standard for government and business communications. A business traveler faces very little trouble at all in speaking English as compared to the tourist. India has the second largest English speaking population after the US. But majority of English speakers are in the professional, academic, or business community. As a regular tourist you may not encounter this population in any direct sense.

Your concern is the English knowledge of a taxi driver, a counter clerk, or a layman at the bus stop. But you’ll be able to manage in public with English. Almost every Indian language uses a good amount of English vocabulary. What this means is people may not understand the sentence but they can pickup the keywords.

Even the English spoken in India has its own style. The accent is distinctively different. Each and every letter in the word is pronounced distinctively. You’ll be addressed ‘Yes Madam’ (d not silent!). They don’t bother much about it .

The worst is the structure of the sentences. They try to translate and speak verbatim as spoken in the local language. The infamous “You are from which place madam?” is a perplexing question for a novice listener. Almost everyone on the street (read as taxi drivers and vendors) knows how to count in English. Speak to them in English without grammar. That’s the best way to communicate.

Culturally there is no “NO” in India. An evading answer is equivalent to NO. Never use the word NO if you don’t want to harshly deny something.

  • “I just had a tea” is the polished way of saying NO to a tea offer than a polite “No. Thank you”.
  • Never deny an invitation by saying that “I Won’t be able to join”.
  • “I’ll try to come” almost means, “don’t wait for me,” told in a polite way.

In written communication also the word NO is not usually mentioned unless it is a very formal situation. A long silence from the other end can be treated as a negative answer.


The most valuable currency you need to enjoy India in total is patience. She never allows you to run faster than her nor she is bothered about your hurry. The India elephant moves at her own pace, stopping here and there at it’s own wish, enjoying every bit of it’s journey. Follow it’s procession in style... it is the best way to enjoy India.

Your patience will be put to the ultimate test. If you are on the way to another country and want a quick 2-day India tour, you are in for serious trouble. If you are used to a clockwork life style, leave your watch at your arrival terminal and pick it up on your return. Don’t get frustrated if someone tells you that you have to sit on a bench and wait for four hours for the next bus to town.

India teaches you systematically the new limits of your patience!

The India nostalgia

It’s more of an infection you get after visiting India.

If you haven’t fallen in the "runaway from India" category, in all probability you are in the addicted to India league. There is nothing like a neutral feel about India. You either love it or hate it, and those who are infected spread it to others.

As a novice traveler you’ll be satisfied with the most popular tourist spots you visit, but the first experience has already induced the courage to go further. On your second trip you are less skeptical. But this time you have an advanced set of questions for India. You want to go to the regions you couldn’t visit last time. You come back from your second tour with the knowledge that you have seen very little of India.

The itch makes you want to go there again. Every time you do, you have a better control over the scheme of things and are more adventurous. The advanced India traveler ego drives you to explore the off the beaten path and remote places. For you this doesn’t feel like a movie seen over and over again.

If you’ve reached this stage, well, you can assume that your India addiction has reached a point beyond cure!

August 30, 2008

Transform Unhealthy Desires

Every once in a while we all are faced with nagging temptations that take over our thoughts and plague us with an uncontrollable urge to do something we know isn't healthy for us. When those times come—whether it's an impulse to eat an entire bag of potato chips or a desire to say something nasty to a coworker—yogic philosophy tells us to acknowledge our desires, focusing on the emotions that fuel them.

Once you've identified your emotions and how they make you feel, ask yourself what it means in the context of your life. Examine how following the desire will affect you and those around you. Ask yourself: Is the desire beneficial to other people as well as to myself? Could it be hurtful? What will I have to give up to follow this desire? Does it take me closer to my higher Self, or will it create more barriers between my soul and myself? What will I have to give up if I don't follow it? What do I really want by getting what I want? When you've discovered what you really want, voice it, make it an intention, and strive for it in your everyday.


I Want It So Bad

Gotta Have It?

Dalai Lama admitted to hospital

Dalai Lama arrives at Indian hospital, 28 Aug 2008
The Dalai Lama arrives at hospital and will undergo tests on Friday

The Dalai Lama has been taken to hospital in the Indian city of Mumbai (Bombay) complaining of stomach pains.

The 73-year-old exiled Tibetan spiritual leader had cancelled all his international trips on Wednesday saying he was suffering from exhaustion.

A spokesman said the ailment had not yet been diagnosed but it appeared there was no cause for concern.

The Dalai Lama has lived in Dharamsala, northern India, since fleeing Tibet after an abortive uprising in 1959.

Trips cancelled

His spokesman, Tenzin Taklha, told the AFP news agency: "There is nothing major to feel concerned about. But he has been admitted to the Lilivati Hospital in Mumbai because he was feeling some discomfort in his abdomen.

"The Dalai Lama will be examined by doctors tomorrow (Friday)."

A spokesman for the hospital said the Dalai Lama had had his six-monthly check-up about a month ago and was "in perfect health".

Mr Taklha said the Dalai Lama would stay in Mumbai for a few days before returning to Dharamsala.

The Dalai Lama earlier cancelled two forthcoming trips to Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

He has just returned from an 11-day trip to France, one of a number of foreign trips he has made this year to highlight the Tibetan issue.

China has stepped up its verbal attacks on the Nobel peace prize winner since violence broke out against Chinese rule in Tibet in March.

Beijing has accused the Dalai Lama of stirring up unrest, a charge he denies.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Sweet Slumber

Kick your insomnia for good by creating a simple and restful nighttime routine.

By Nora Isaacs


Leslie Bradley remembers lying awake as a child, unable to sleep. "I've been something of an insomniac my entire life," says the 56-year-old owner of Blue Spruce Yoga in Lakewood, Colorado. But after she contracted West Nile virus in 2004, her sleepless nights became intolerable. "I was in really bad shape," Bradley says. "I couldn't sleep at all without taking drugs like Ambien."

After the prescription sleeping pills became less effective, Bradley decided to explore an alternative route, making an appointment to see Ayurvedic doctor John Douillard, director of the LifeSpa School of Ayurveda in Boulder, Colorado. He put Bradley on a regimen of herbs, tea, self-massage, and breathwork. He also helped her understand the best bedtimes for her body type and encouraged her to make changes to her lifestyle, such as eating a bigger lunch, and not teaching evening yoga classes.

Drawing on her yoga background, she began doing Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand), Halasana (Plow Pose), and restorative poses before going to bed. Within three months, Bradley was off the drugs. "All those things combined have basically cured my insomnia," she says. "I feel much stronger and more solid, more vibrant."

Insomnia—the inability to get to sleep or to sleep soundly—can be either temporary or chronic, lasting a few days to weeks. It affects a whopping 54 percent of adults in the United States at one time or another, and insomnia that lasts more than six weeks may affect from 10 to 15 percent of adults at some point during their lives. To get a decent night's sleep, many Americans are turning to pills. Last year in the United States, about 42 million sleeping pill prescriptions were filled, an increase of 60 percent since the year 2000. But as Bradley discovered, drugs aren't always effective, some have negative side effects, and worst of all, as soon as you stop taking them, the insomnia often returns.

"Sleeping pills are not always a cure; they treat the symptom but not the underlying problem," explains Sat Bir Khalsa, a Kundalini Yoga teacher who's also an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and a neuroscientist at the Division of Sleep Medicine of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. Beneath the symptoms of insomnia are the anxiety, fatigue, and stress that our increasingly fast-paced world seems to be creating. These days, who hasn't worked long hours without taking a break, binged on too much caffeine, or left the cell phone on 24-7?

You may feel that you've adapted to the intense rhythm that modern life requires, but if you're experiencing sleepless nights, your nervous system is probably rebelling. It may be stuck in a state known as arousal, where your sympathetic nervous system is triggered. In this state your mind will race or your palms might sweat. Your body will secrete more stress hormones, and your temperature and metabolic rates will rise, as will your heart rate. "There is very good evidence that people with chronic insomnia have elevated levels of arousal in general," Khalsa says. "And some insomniacs have higher levels right before they go to sleep." But Khalsa, who is studying how a form of Kundalini Yoga breathing called Shabad Kriya helps people with insomnia, offers good news: "Treating the arousal should treat the insomnia." By creating a routine of soothing rituals, you can bring your nervous system back into balance and transform your sleep patterns for good.

Rituals for Relaxing

Whether it's yoga to reduce muscle tension, breathing to slow the heart rate, or an herbal massage to calm a racing mind, a simple routine can be the most effective and safest road to a better night's sleep. There is growing evidence that small behavioral changes can make a big difference in getting some good shuteye. A 2006 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that participants who made modifications like reducing stimuli in the bedroom and learning relaxation techniques improved their sleep more than those who took drugs.

To find out which rituals will work best for you, it helps to understand insomnia from an Ayurvedic perspective. Yoga's sister science and India's oldest known system of medicine, Ayurveda is based on the idea that the life force that exists in all of us manifests as three different energies, or doshas, known as vata, pitta, and kapha. Though everyone has some of each dosha, most people tend to have an abundance of one or two.

Vata, ruled by air and ether, governs movement in the body. Pitta, ruled by fire, governs digestion and the metabolism. And kapha, ruled by earth and water, governs your physical structure and fluid balance. Ayurveda categorizes insomnia as a vata imbalance, because vata is controlled by air—and air controls the nervous system. Calming yoga and Ayurvedic rituals reduce vata in the body.

Know Your Timing

The first step to feeling well rested is to institute a regular bedtime. Maintaining consistency will help keep your circadian rhythms—the biological changes that happen every 24 hours—steady. Eventually, your body will naturally understand and crave sleep during these hours.

How do you find that magic time? Ayurveda offers helpful guidelines. Douillard says that each dosha corresponds to a time of day: Vata time is between 2 and 6, both in the early hours of the morning and in the afternoon; pitta time is between 10 and 2, both midday and late at night; and kapha time is between 6 and 10 in the morning and evening. Ideally, you should start your bedtime rituals during the slow kapha hours of 6 to 10 in the evening and head for bed before 10 p.m., which is when the fiery pitta time begins.

Tuck in Early

Although eight hours has long been considered the ideal length for a night's sleep, Douillard says that it's not just the number of hours you sleep that matters, but the time of day you go to sleep as well. He insists that our bodies naturally want to arise around 5 a.m., since humans started their day around daybreak before the advent of modern technology. So, if you go to bed at midnight and wake up at 8 a.m. (a lazy kapha hour) you'll probably feel groggy even though you've had the recommended eight hours of sleep. But if you hit the pillow before 10 p.m. and arise before 6 a.m. (during lively vata time), you'll likely feel refreshed and ready to go.

Create a Wind-Down Period

The next step is to create some space between your busy day and sleep time. "You can't just work until 9 at night, and then stick your head on the pillow and fall asleep," Khalsa says. So turn off the television, computer, and radio. Cut down on or eliminate evening classes and exercise that leaves you feeling amped up. When you come home, honor this transition by playing relaxing music, lighting candles, or putting on your favorite pajamas. Think of the yoga precept of pratyahara: Withdraw your senses in order to turn inward.

If your schedule allows you to practice yoga only in the evening and you enjoy a vigorous practice, be sure to end your session with a sequence of slow, passive poses. (Go to and type "Yin Yoga" or "restorative yoga" in the search box for sequence ideas.)

Nosh and Nibble

The diet mantra "Don't eat before bed" isn't always the best advice. Some folks benefit from nighttime noshing. "When you sleep, you are repairing your tissues," says Aadil Palkhivala, a certified Ayurvedic practitioner and the founder-director of Yoga Centers in Bellevue, Washington. "The body needs nutrition when it's going into a state of healing." Depending on your constitution, bedtime snacks might include spelt toast and butter, organic milk, or lentil dahl. And of course, during the day, it's important to eat healthful fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and grains to promote rest at night. "Sleep is a yin process, but when food has chemicals in it, it becomes yang and the mind goes into a vata state," Palkhivala says. Douillard recommends eating a vata-balancing diet no matter what your type. This includes foods such as cooked apples, Brussels sprouts, tofu, millet, oats, walnuts, and squash. Also, use common sense: If you want to sleep well, don't drink alcohol or caffeine after 5 p.m.

Strike a Pose

After you wind down from your day, notice how you feel before doing an evening yoga routine. Are you wired or tired? "These need to be treated differently," Palkhivala says. If you are amped up, he recommends 10 minutes of poses like twists, standing poses, and active forward bends to burn off excess energy. If you are tired, do some restorative poses or breathing until you feel more refreshed and relaxed—and then hit the sack. Though it seems contradictory, it's common to be too tired to sleep. "Everyone thinks that when you can't sleep, you have too much energy, but usually people have too little energy: They are too exhausted to get to sleep," Douillard explains. Restorative poses can help.

Massage Away Tension

A soothing massage releases muscular tension and helps the transition to bed. Try rubbing your head, neck, face, and arms with warm, unfiltered organic sesame oil. "This puts a shield around the body and also makes you feel nurtured," says Palkhivala. You can also include someone in your ritual by asking them for a yawn-inducing rubdown: The spine from the neck downward should be stroked for about five minutes with a gentle touch.

Breathe for Ease

Breathwork is another excellent addition to your nightly sleep routine. "Every time you exhale, it slows your heartbeat and that helps calm you down," says Roger Cole, an Iyengar Yoga teacher and a research scientist specializing in the physiology of sleep. Try two parts exhalation to one part inhalation. For example, start by exhaling through your nose to the count of 6 and then inhale through your nose to the count of 3. Do this for 5 to 30 minutes before bed.

Keep a Journal

When it's time to go to sleep, do you start replaying the day's events or think of what you need to do in the morning? A great evening ritual is putting your thoughts on paper: Write down the contents of your mind to get all of your worries out before your head hits the pillow.

Get Warm

"When you go to bed, you want your skin to be warm," says Cole. If you're feeling a bit cool, drink a warm cup of herbal tea or take a bath based on your body type. And remember to stay toasty when practicing passive yoga poses: Have a blanket, socks, and a sweater nearby.

Guide Your Relaxation

After getting into bed, try a body scan as you lie in Savasana (Corpse Pose): Progressively tense and then relax each part of your body. If you have trouble doing this on your own, get an audio CD of meditations, guided imagery, or Yoga Nidra (yogic sleep), to help. "This is good for people who have mental chatter," says Cole. "It takes their mind in a different direction."

Once you've chosen your specific nighttime ritual, repeat it every night to cue your body that it's time for sleep. Khalsa says that after a few weeks of practice, your sleep will improve. "These things don't work instantly, but over time you normalize arousal and sleep starts to get better." And as opposed to suffering from side effects such as headaches, dizziness, daytime drowsiness, and long-term dependence on drugs, you'll feel better overall, instead of worse, with your nighttime routine. "It improves individuals on a holistic level, and other problems that they might have had also might start to dissipate," says Khalsa. Now that sounds like a side effect we can all live with.

Nora Isaacs is a freelance writer and the author of Women in Overdrive: Find Balance and Overcome Burnout at Any Age. She tries to get eight hours of sleep at her home in California.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Sri Lanka Flips Out Over Fossilized Buddha’s Tooth

Cannons explode and dancers backflip, while stilt walkers and fire swallowers march alongside a dazzling procession of jewel-cloaked elephants. Sri Lanka’s greatest event has has begun!

fire-dance Sri Lanka Flips Out Over Fossilized Buddhas Tooth picture

The Esla Perhahera, arguably Asia’s most spectacular festival, happened this month in Sri lanka during the late summer full moon (August 7th through 17th, 2008). The centuries-old celebration of Sri Lankan Buddhism brings a large chunk of the country’s population up to the lakeside capital city of Kandy. It also attracts over 10,000 foreign tourists.

The 10 day parade has the fire and flair of events like Carnival or Mardi Gras, minus all the alcohol and sexual energy. It is, in fact, deeply rooted in Buddhist traditions.

The holiest part of the festival is an elephant-mounted display of the Sacred Tooth Relic.

neon-elephants Sri Lanka Flips Out Over Fossilized Buddhas Tooth picture

The Tooth Relic is said to be the left canine tooth of the Buddha, snatched from his funeral Prye over 2,500 years ago, and smuggled from India to Sri Lanka in the 4th century AD. While Sri Lankan Buddhists and historians believe in the authenticity of this sacred relic, some outsiders are more skeptical. The late English occultist Aleister Crowley writes in his autobiography that while studying meditation in Sri Lanka he was:

“permitted to be present at the annual inspection by the trustees. I believe the tooth to be that of a dog or crocodile, but though I got an excellent view at close quarters, I am not anatomist enough to be positive. I am, however, quite certain that it is not a human tooth.”

For centuries the actual tooth was paraded on the back of an elephant, but nowadays, a symbolic casket is paraded. Security is too tight to bring the national treasure into public crowds. Over 8,000 policemen patrol the area during the festival. Why? In 1998 the Temple of the Tooth was bombed by Tamil terrorists who want more power as a minority ethnic group in the country.

This year’s Perahera went over well with few incidents, except for an elephant that went bezerk and tried to rip out traffic signs until it was restrained, according to Sri Lanka’s Daily News.

Check out this video of the Perahera festival:

Image credits: Chinthaka and kintransit.

Article by Brett Borders, a traveler who works as an online reputation management consultant in Boulder, Colorado. He visited Sri Lanka in 2002 and found it to be one of the most friendly and delightful countries in Asia.