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Seven wonders of the Buddhist world

Updated: May 28, 2020

The Temple of the Tooth and the Kandy Lake, Kandy, Sri Lanka.
Sri Dalada Maligawa. The Temple of the Tooth, Kandy

Buddhism is one of the most ancient belief systems and is practiced today by nearly 350 million people around the world. In this fascinating documentary, British historian Bettany Hughes travels to the seven wonders of the Buddhist world, which includes Bodh Gaya in India, the Bodanath Stupa in Nepal, the Temple of The Tooth in Sri Lanka, Wat Pho Temple in Thailand, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, the Giant Buddha in Hong Kong and the Hsi Lai Temple in the United States. At each location, Bettany meets with Buddhist scholars who explain the different concepts that form the core of Buddhist philosophy, giving insight into the long and rich history of Buddhism.

This Documentary was in Sri Lanka to film one of the holiest shrines in all of Buddhism: The Temple of the Tooth in Kandy. Known to locals as The Sri Dalada Maligawa or the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, it has long been one of the holiest sites of the Buddhist faith. The sprawling temple complex is situated in the former royal palace of the Kandyan Kingdom. It houses what is believed to be the left upper canine tooth of the Lord Buddha, from which the temple takes its name. The tooth relic is kept in a two-story inner shrine fronted by large elephant tusks and rests in a golden casket on a solid gold lotus flower.

According to legend, the sacred tooth was taken from the Buddha's funeral pyre and smuggled to Sri Lanka in the hair of an Indian princess in 313AD. Over the centuries, it came to symbolise the legitimacy of the kings of Sri Lanka: whoever possessed the tooth relic had a divine right to rule the land. To this day, the relic is regarded as a symbolic representation of the living Buddha and is the focal point of many offerings, rituals, and ceremonies including the annual Kandy Esala perahera.

This documentary was produced by Crescent Films UK for BBC2 and PBS International. The Dreamforge (Pvt) Ltd were the fixers and location producers for this shoot in Sri Lanka. It was filmed with the support of the offices of the chief lay custodian of the Temple of the Tooth and the chief prelate of the Asgiri Maha Viharaya.

BBC Seven Wonders of the Buddhist World with Bettany Hughes

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