The last Sinhalese kingdom to hold out was based at Kandy, where no major archeological sites are located, but where Sri Lanka’s most important religious site is: the Temple of the Tooth Relic. Buddhism came to Sri Lanka in the 3rd Century BC, when Indian Emperor Ashoka sent his son and daughter to spread the word to Sri Lanka. In AD 371, the tooth relic (of the Buddha) is said to have been smuggled into Sri Lanka, hidden in the hair of a princess. The tooth is said to have been whisked away from the Buddha’s funeral pyre. In any case, the tooth relic pretty much went to wherever the most powerful Sinhalese (=Buddhist) kingdom on the island was, and thus it ended up at Kandy. It would be hard to overstate the importance of the tooth relic, or of Buddhism in the creation and maintenance of Sinhalese identity.

An interesting aspect of Sigiriya is that the very top of the rock doesn’t actually have anything all that amazing: it’s got a lot of brick walls and moats that now host lilies but may once have been for bathing or just reservoirs for water. (Who’d wanna lug water all the way up there, after all?) Anyway, this image above is taken at the top; the two above and the one below are all from the garden and the moat, which forms the border around the rock compound.

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