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Sunday, August 26, 2007

HINDAGALA:Brief shelter of the Tooth Relic - the Nation

HINDAGALA:Brief shelter of the Tooth Relic

The Kandy Perahera unfolds again this year, amidst tight security and road blockades. For centuries, this has been a pageant at which we parade the Sacred Tooth Relic through the streets of a holy city, evoking blessings for rain and prosperity. So this week, The Nation looks back on a time as uncertain as this when we visited the secluded rock temple of Hindagala in Peradeniya. The temple is steeped in history and legend surrounding the arrival of the Sacred Tooth Relic in the city of Kandy, when a young prince and princess braved so much danger to bring the relic safely to the place that has been its resting place since. Legend says Hindagala was where Danta and Hemamala took shelter for one night en route to Kandy and so the little temple will always hold a special place in the hearts of Sri Lankan Buddhists.......

By Rathindra Kuruwita and Indika Sakalasooriya

It is that time of the year again; the time that the streets of Kandy come alive to the sound of drums, the cracking of whips and the rhythmic movements of the Kandyan dancers. There are only a few days left of this grandiose procession, the Esela Perahera.
As a nation we are very engrossed in the beauty of the Esela Perahera, the number of the elephants in the procession and the majestic nature of the elephant that carries the sacred tooth relic.

During the colonial era, Buddhist monks and patriots faced hardships to protect the sacred tooth relic, similar to the adversities that Dantha and Hemamala faced during their epic journey of escorting it to Sri Lanka.
Sometimes during colonial rule it was unsafe to keep the sacred tooth relic in Dalada Maligawa and it was hidden in different places. The Hindagala Raja Maha Vihara was one of these places.

Hindagala Temple and the Tooth Relic
The Sacred Tooth Relic was brought to Kandy Pusulpitiya Raja Maha Vihara, Kotmale hidden by the Maha Sangha of Malwatu Maha Vihara, when the British were marching to Kandy.

It was brought to Kandy on the assurance of John O’Dyoly, who assured its safety and the performance of all rites and rituals without any lapse. On the way to Kandy the Sacred Tooth Relic was kept at Hindagala Rajamaha Vihara.

The location

Prof. Senarath Paranavithana is of the opinion that the name ‘Hindagala’ is a derivative of Indasala or Hindasala. Hindagala temple is picturesquely situated on a rock close to the Peradeniya University along the Galaha Road.
Its rock inscriptions date back to the sixth century – testament to the history of this temple. Amidst the ancient temple paintings, there are paintings that belong to recent periods of history as well.

This large cave has a drip-ledge (katarama) to drain off rain-water. A residence of monks, it had been later transformed into a patimagara (image house). The origins of the temple probably date back to the third century, B.C. The ancient paintings above the present rock shrine could be dated back to the seventh century.

The murals

The temple is famous for its wall paintings. All the walls are covered with murals belonging to different eras. The outer fa├žade of the cave is plastered and ornamented with paintings from the early 20th century.
They mainly portray the life events of the Buddha and scenes of evil-doers born in hell being tortured on the katu imbula and lohakumba, with melted metal being poured into their mouths.

The names of the artists are on the upper part of the wall over the main doorway. One of these names also appears on lion-headed stone lamp in the courtyard, with the date, Buddhist Era 2461 (1917). The inscriptions on the oldest paintings below the drip-ledge are non-readable.

The present shrine has an outer verandah with timber, upright beams and a tiled roof, with paintings dating from the last 100 years. The older paintings are inside the cave; facing the east is the reclining statue of the Buddha, enclosed by thick walls.

Scenes from the Vessantara Jathakaya
The inner eastern wall depicts scenes from the Vessantara Jathakaya: King Vessantara conversing with his princess and two children, King Vessantara giving away his white elephant, a woman collecting plantains from a bunch provided by King Vessantara, the elephant being led away, the royal family riding in a chariot with the king controlling it and the princess and two children seated in the rear.

We can also see scenes from the Dhammasonda Jathakaya: the King pondering on life seated crossed-legged in a closed chamber, two ladies trying to dissuade the king from meditating, and God Sakra in the form of a yaksha trying to convince the King that he should leap from a cliff into the mouth of the yaksha.

Repetitive figures of the Buddha
Murals on the inner north wall contain a painting of a stupa at Nagadipa, the second site Buddha visited, and 24 repetitive figures of the Buddha. This also portrays the sanctions to become Buddha, vivarana.

Farewell to worldly pleasures
The paintings on the outer east wall are the most attractive, where the painter portrays the last moments of Prince Siddhartha’s life as a prince.

The scenes that show the prince leaving the palace on Kantaka horse with Channa, the heartbroken horse and Channa having a last look at Prince Siddhartha, Prince Siddhartha bidding farewell to his horse and charioteer Channa, and the Prince donning robes and taking a begging bowl are very moving.

The seventh week of Buddha after enlightenment adorns the outer rock face above the shrine. Tapassu and Bhalluka, the merchant brothers, meeting with the Buddha are also pictured on the same wall.


1 comment:

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