The inner sanctum (Handun kunama) where the tooth relic resides
According to Sri Lankan legends, when the Buddha died in 543 BCE, his body was cremated in a sandalwood pyre at Kushinagar and his left canine tooth was retrieved from the funeral pyre by his disciple, Khema. Khema then gave it to King Brahmadatte for veneration. It became a royal possession in Brahmadatte's country and was kept in the city of Dantapuri (modern Puri, Odisha).
A belief grew that whoever possessed the tooth relic had a divine right to rule that land. The Dāṭhāvaṃsa recounts the tale of a war fought over the relic 800 years later between Guhasiva of the republic of Kalinga and a king named Pandu.
Legend states the Abhayagiri vihāra was first appointed custodianship of the relic when it was brought to the island after the conflict in Kalinga. As time went on, the land was threatened with foreign invasions; at one time, the king of Bago, Burma offered the Portuguese £50,000 as a ransom of the tooth;and the seat of the kingdom was moved from Anuradhapura to Polonnaruwa, then to Dambadeniya and other cities. Upon each change of capital, a new palace was built to enshrine the relic. Finally, it was brought to Kandy where it is at present, in the Temple of the Tooth.
The relic came to be regarded as a symbolic representation of the living Buddha and it is on this basis that there grew up a series of offerings, rituals, and ceremonies. These are conducted under the supervision of the two Mahanayakas of Malwatte, Asgiriya chapters, and Diyawadana Nilame of the Maligawa. These have a hierarchy of officials and temple functionaries to perform the services and rituals.
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