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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Dalada; revered national treasure

Dalada; revered national treasure

Daily Mirror
By S.B. Karalliyadda

Esala Perahera the cultural pageant of Sinhale which has been held continuously for thousands of years will be held in Senkadagala this year too. From the reign of Devananpiyatissa the Bowl Relic of Lord Buddha and from the reign of Kithsirimevan (AD 303-335) the Tooth Relic of the Buddha has been venerated and considered as national treasures by the Sinhalese. Whoever who rules the country was considered as the custodian of these treasures and the ruler was compelled to protect these treasures. A ruler who did not possess the relics was not accepted as their king as it was the king who had to safeguard the relics. It was for this reason that the relics were removed from place to place when the king moved them for his safety and the relics were temporarily kept in several temples other than the Temple of the Tooth.

Maha Parakrama Bahu (1153-1186) who became the king in Polonnaruwa had to wage a war to recover the Tooth Relic from the ruler of Rohana. When Queen Sugala removed the relics, the king had to go to war with her and finally the relics were recovered from Etimale, a village in the present Moneragala District near the now Dombagahawela town. The king had a second coronation ceremony in Polonnaruwa after he took over the possession of the Tooth Relic. During the Anuradhapura period it was the tradition for the Dalada Perahera to commence from the Anuradhapura town and parade the streets and reach Abhayagiri Vihara, where there was as exposition of relics. After the establishment of the Uttarapola monastery in Anuradhapura the king entrusted the custody of the relics to Rev. Uttaramoola the head of the Uttarapola monastery.

The first ever enemy invasion to acquire the relics was recorded during the period of Mahinda V (982-1029) when the Cholas removed even the eyes of the king and murdered him and took away the relics to Ruhuna. When the kingdoms changed from Anuradhapura to Polonnaruwa, Dambadeniya, Yapahuwa and Kurunegala the relics were deposited in these capitals in Dalada temples built for the purpose. When the Kalinga prince Nissankamalla (1187-1196) succeeded to the throne in Polonnaruwa it is recorded hat he built a temple for the Tooth Relic within a period of sixty hours. This was to establish his rights to the throne. Buvanekabahu V (1372-1408) removed the relics from Kurunegala to Kotte. There is no reliable evidence to know where the relics were kept in the Dedigama and Gampola periods.

Dalada was brought to Senkadagala from its hiding place in the Denagamu Vihara in Sabaragamuwa. During the Senkadagala period the relics were shifted for safety to Medamahanuwara, Keulgama, Kitu Hanguranketha etc. Parakramabahu V1 (1412-1467) has built a three storeyed temple for the relic in Kotte according to Selalihini Sandesaya–‘Vadu Daladahimi themahal pahaya redi.’

Foreign invasions and security

During the third regime of Queen Leelawathie (1211-1212) Rev. Kotmale Vachissara removed the relics to Pussuipitiya during Maga invasions for twenty one years from 1215-1236. It was Bodiraja from Galahitiyawa in the present Uda Dumbara who defeated Maga and inaugurated the Dambadeniya Kingdom from 1236 to 1305. He built the Temple of the Tooth in Dambadeniya and ruled as Vijayabahu III. His son, Pandit Parakramabahu 11(1236-1270) also known as Kalikala Sahitya Sarwatgna Pandita improved the temple built by his father to a three storeyed temple.

His son Vijayabahu IV (1270-1272) removed the Dalada for protection and deposited in the Atadage at Polonnaruwa. It was Buwanekabahu I (1272-84) who once again brought back the Dalada from Polonnaruwa and deposited in the Sundaragiri Vihara in Dambadeniya.

At this time a Chola king Ariyachakravarti took the Dalada to India. Parakramabahu 111 (1287-1293) made acquaintances with king Kulasekara and brought back the relics without any confrontation. It was taken back to Polonnaruwa and later brought to Yapahuwa temple.

Buwanekabahu 11(1294-1302) was the king who took the relics to the Dalada Maligawa in Kurunegala. Parakramabahu IV (1302-1326) built the Kurunegala Dalada Maligawa into a three storeyed palace.

He wrote a book containing thirty eight treaties in the worship of Dalada. The nephew of Parakramabahu 11, Prince Weerabahu was another who defended the relics. When Jawak troops attempted to take the Relics by force he chased these troops upto Jawakkotte in Jaffna which is known as Chavakacheri today. It was Wickramabahu 111 (1351-1371) alias Pandit Wickramabahu who built the first Dalada Maligawa in Senkadagala.

The Dalada hidden under a grinding stone during the Kotte regime was brought to Senkadagala during the reign of Wimaladarmasuriya I, who built a three storeyed temple for the Tooth in 1587. During a Portugese invasion, King Senarath removed the relics to Medamahanuwara and the king hid in Mahiyangana.

Rajasinghe 11(1634-84), son of Senarath brought back the relics to Senkadagala. In the rebellion of 1818, Wariyapola Sumangala Thera removed the Relics to a place in Maturata but on November 25, a British soldier identified the relics and Col. Kelly was responsible for escorting the Relics ceremonially back to Kandy. Since then, the relics were placed under the care of the Government Agent.

On the May 29, 1817 the first public exposition of the relics under the British was held. On July 29 and August 11, 1847 the Governor Torrington held two discussions with the priests of Asgiriya and Malwatta and the Kandyan chiefs and finally on the October 1, and October 2, two more discussions were held and finally the relics were handed over to the High Priests of Malwatta and Asgiriya with Dullewa considered as the lay custodian.

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