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The Buddha's Tooth: Western Tales of a Sri Lankan Relic
by John S. Strong
University of Chicago Press, 2021
Cloth: 978-0-226-78911-8 | eISBN: 978-0-226-80187-2 | Paper: 978-0-226-80173-5
Library of Congress Classification BQ924.S767 2021
Dewey Decimal Classification 294.3377095493

ABOUT THIS BOOK | AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY | TOC
ABOUT THIS BOOK
John S. Strong unravels the storm of influences shaping the received narratives of two iconic sacred objects.

Bodily relics such as hairs, teeth, fingernails, pieces of bone—supposedly from the Buddha himself—have long served as objects of veneration for many Buddhists. Unsurprisingly, when Western colonial powers subjugated populations in South Asia, they used, manipulated, redefined, and even destroyed these objects in an effort to exert control.

In The Buddha's Tooth, John S. Strong examines Western stories, from the sixteenth to the twentieth century, surrounding two significant Sri Lankan sacred objects, in order to illuminate and concretize colonial attitude towards Asian religions. First, he analyzes a tale about the Portuguese capture of a tooth identified as a relic of the Buddha in the mid-sixteenth century and its subsequent public destruction in Goa. Second, he switches gears to look at the nineteenth century saga of British dealings with another tooth relic of the Buddha—the famous Daḷadā enshrined in a temple in Kandy—from 1815 when it was taken over by English forces to 1954 when it was visited by Queen Elizabeth II. As Strong reveals, the stories of both the Portuguese Tooth and the Kandyan Tooth reflect nascent and developing Western understandings of Buddhism, realizations of the cosmopolitan nature of the tooth, and tensions between secular and religious interests.

See other books on: Buddhism | Buddhism and state | Gautama Buddha | Relics | Sri Lanka
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