Sri Dalada Maligawa

Sri Dalada Maligawa

The Sri Dalada Maligawa or The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic is a temple in the city of Kandy in Sri Lanka. It was built within the royal palace complex which houses the only surviving relic of Buddha, a tooth, which is venerated by Buddhists. The relic has played an important role in the local politics since ancient times, it's believed that whoever holds the relic holds the governance of the country, which caused the ancient kings to protect it with great effort. Kandy was the capital of the Sinhalese kings [Calling all Kandyan kings Singhalese is a manipulation of facts. Most of the kings were Tamil Hindus from Nayak Dynasty of Madurai Tamil Nadu, south India. The last king of Kandy, entitled Sri Vickrama Rajasingha(n)1815, whose name is Kannusamy, was one of the Tamil Hindu kings from Madurai] .

These Tamil kings made immense contributions to Buddhism and they were the pioneers of Dalada Maligava. Unfortunately, Sri Vicrama Rajasingha(n), for the reason of his non-buddhist Tamil origin, was betrayed to the British by Singhala Buddhist Adigar Ehelopola in 1815. Kings from 1592 to 1815, fortified the terrain of the mountains and made difficult to approach Kandy. The city is a world heritage site declared by UNESCO, in part due to the temple.

Monks of the two chapters of Malwatte and Asgiriya conduct daily ritual worship in the inner chamber of the temple, in annual rotation. They conduct these services three times a day: at dawn, at noon and in the evening.

On Wednesdays there is a symbolic bathing of the Sacred Relic with an herbal preparation made from scented water and flagrant flowers, called "Nanumura Mangallaya". This holy water is believed to contain healing powers and is distributed among those present.

The Temple has sustained damage from multiple bombings by terrorists in the past. The first deadly attack was carried out by JVP (Janatha Vimukthy Peramuna), a Singhalese Buddhists terrorist outfit which has now entered into parliamentary politics, split into JVP and NFF, in the late 1980s. On January 25, 1998, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) terrorists carried out a deadly suicide attack inside the temple, killing 8 civilians and leaving 25 others injured, as well as significant damage to the temple structure.But has been fully restored each time.


The worship of corporeal remains of the Buddha, as recorded in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta (the Record of the Demise of the Buddha), was sanctioned by the Buddha himself on the verge of his passing away. The Buddha declared that four noble persons are worthy of their bodily remains being enshrined and honored, the Buddha, the Personal Buddhas (Pacceka Buddhas), the Arahanths (Buddha's disciples) and the Universal Monarchs (Cakkavatti kings). The bodily remains of the Buddha, after their distribution among various states, were enshrined in the funerary mounds known as stupa. However, the four canine Teeth were said to have been separately enshrined and worshipped. The right canine was worshipped in the heavenly domain of the king of gods, Sakra, while another was worshipped by the king of Gandhara in modern Pakistan. The third was taken away by the Nāgas and worshipped in a golden shrine room. The fourth, the left canine was removed from the funerary ashes by a monk and was handed over to the king of Kalinga in Eastern India, as recorded in the Digha Nikaya.

Thenceforth, the Tooth relic of the Kalinga became an object of great veneration by generations of Kalinga kings until it earned the wrath of brahmanical followers, and consequently several attempts were made to destroy the relic by fanatical rulers. Yet the Tooth relic was miraculously saved from such atrocities, which caused the kings of other states attempted to possess the Tooth relic for personal veneration. Thus, from the beginning, the Tooth relic came to be considered as an important symbol of veneration. The last Indian ruler to possess the Tooth relic was Guhasiva of Kalinga (c.4th century AD).

Arrival of the Sacred Tooth Relic in Sri Lanka

The final attempt made by a neighboring state to make war with Guhasiva for the possession of the Tooth relic caused this venerated relic to leave the Indian shores. By this time, Buddhism was well rooted in Sri Lanka, and the island rulers maintained close relations with the Indian states that fostered Buddhism. For this reason the Kalinga ruler, in imminent danger of losing in battle, decided to send the Tooth relic to the Sri Lankan king whose ascendants were from Kalinga, the present Orissa.

After about eight centuries of its existence in India, the Tooth relic was secretly taken away by Danta and Hemamala, said to be the son-in-law and daughter of Guhasiva. The literary works like Dathavamsa, Daladasirita and the chronicle Mahavamsa, record many and varied vicissitudes that the couple went through en route to Sri Lanka in order to safeguard the relic. It is recorded that the prince and the princess donned the garb of ascetics and carried the Relic hidden within the coiffure of Hemamala not to be noticed by passersby. A twentieth century wall painting of the well known monastery of Kelaniya (about 5 miles east of Colombo), depicts this episode in a classic style executed by a local artist (Solius Mendis).

Danta and Hemamala were said to have embarked on a ship at the ancient port of Tamralipti, a busy port at the time, located at the mouth of the river Ganges, and reached the shores of Sri Lanka at the port of Lankapattana (modern Ilankeiturei) in the Trincomalee District. The Relic was reported to have performed several miracles en route on the ship itself, thus being venerated by human and superhuman beings. The Tooth Relic finally reached the Sri Lankan capital, Anuradhapura, and according to the Sinhala text, Dalada Sirita, the Relic was kept at the Megagiri vihara in the park Mahameghavana.

At the time of its arrival, the Indian ruler Guhasiva's friend, king Mahasena had died and his son, king Kirti Sri Meghavanna (4th century AC), who himself was a pious Buddhist, had succeeded him. The Tooth Relic was well received by the king and placed on the throne itself with much veneration. The chronicle Mahavamsa reports that the king with great faith had the Tooth Relic enshrined in the edifice called Dhammacakkageha originally built by king Devanampiyatissa in the 3rd century BC, within the royal enclosure (Rajavatthu). The king built a special shrine and enshrined the Tooth Relic therein. This shrine has now been identified as the ruined edifice lying almost next to the great refectory known as Mahapali.

There are special religious programs conducted in the Maligawa on every Full Moon Poya day where large numbers participate. Apart from these daily, weekly and monthly ceremonies, there are four major ceremonies held every year. They are Aluth Sahal Mangallaya, Avurudu Mangallaya, Esala Mangallaya, Karthika Mangallaya. Of these, the most important is the Esala Mangallaya.

The relic is also one of the 80 treasures featured on Around the World in 80 Treasures series presented by Dan Cruickshank.

acred Tooth Relic in Sri Lanka

From the time of its arrival in Sri Lanka in the 4th century until the end of the 10th century when the capital Anuradhapura was shifted to Polonnaruva, only a few instances are recorded in the chronicle Mahavamsa. Yet Fa-Hsien, the Chinese traveller monk, who lived in the Abhayagiri monastery in the 5th century has left behind many details about the worship and rituals connected with the Tooth Relic. According to him, the procession instituted by king Kirti Sri Meghavanna in the 4th century, was continued in a grandeur scale. The sacred Tooth Relic was taken in procession from the Tooth Relic shrine to the Abhayagiri Vihara where the Relic was exhibited for three months with elaborate ritual worship.

Based on the descriptions of literary texts dealing with the sacred Tooth Relic, and also the sporadic references of the chronicle, it is possible to conclude that the sacred Tooth Relic was well guarded by the kings and considered it to be the palladium of kingship. Some of the kings even went to the extent of prefixing the term `Datha' (Tooth) to their names, e.g. Dathopatissa, Dathappabhuti, Dalamugalan, etc., which indicates their close association with the sacred Tooth Relic.

The intrusion of South Indian Cholas and the internal disharmony in the ruling houses resulted in the Tooth Relic facing unsafe vicissitudes now and then. Yet, the historical records indicate that the Tooth Relic continued to be in the custody of the Anuradhapura rulers, until king Vijayabahu I shifted the capital to Polonnaruva in the 11th century.

The present ruins of the Atadage at the Sacred Quadrangle (Dalada Maluva) in the ancient city of Polonnaruva, is identical with the Tooth Relic temple built by Vijayabahu. The Velaikkara stone inscription standing at the side of this edifice provides many details on the history of the Tooth Relic. It appears that the Tooth Relic, together with the Bowl Relic, was brought down from the Uttaramula -ayatana monastery of the Abhayagiri Vihara and installed in the Atadage shrine. This shrine, according to the Velaikkara inscription, was placed under the protection of the Velaikkara mercenaries who were in the service of the king.

The Atadage was well known for the ritual known as the Netra-Mangallaya. The eye-balls of the Buddha image located in the ground floor shrine room were washed annually with unguents, as recorded in the inscription. The architectural plan of the Atadage too, is significant in that this two-storied plan seems to have been the prototype followed in the later periods down to the present Dalada shrine at Kandy.

According to the text Sasanavamsa, king Vijayabahu I maintained friendly relations with his contemporary , king Anuruddha of Burma even to the extent of the latter requesting the Sri Lankan ruler to send him the sacred Tooth Relic. The wise king appeased the Burmese king's desire by sending him a replica of the Relic, which is said to be greatly venerated by theBurmese.

The years following king Vijayabahu's death appear to have been quite calamitous in the political field. The country came to be ruled under separate rulers who were weaklings. Consequently, many Buddhist shrines were destroyed. In this state of affairs, fearing the destruction of the sacred Tooth and the Bowl Relics, the monks secretly removed them to safer locations in the southern country, Rohana. With the accession of king Parakramabahu I in the year 1153 AD, Sri Lankan political scene assumed a firm basis again. While rebuilding the country's economy especially through vast agrarian schemes, he lost no time in bringing about a renaissance in the religious activities. Most of the existing religious edifices in Polonnaruva remain mementos to his immeasurable service to the cause of Buddhism.

Parakramabahu I managed to secure the possession of the sacred Tooth Relic and the Bowl Relic and enshrined the sacred objects in a new edifice built in the center of the city. He was also said to have had the exposition of the Tooth Relic in a circular shrine built at the Jetavana monastery, which is possibly the ruined edifice in proximity to the Tivanka Patimaghara image house in the northern extremity of the ancient city.

The next great ruler to build a formidable Relic shrine for the accommodation of the sacred Tooth and Bowl Relics was Nissankamalla (1187-1196). As recorded in his inscriptions, he had the Relic Shrine Hatadage built and, having offered his son and daughter to the Relics, redeemed them with the completion of the shrine. This edifice lying almost adjoining the Atadage, represents a larger version of the Atadage.

By the beginning of the second quarter of the 13th century, the glory of Polonnaruva waned, and with the invasion of Kalinga Magha, the capital was shifted to the south-western part of the country in the wet zone. Thus, began the Damabadeniya period, which period saw the blossoming of an era of classical literary works.

By this time, the Tooth Relic and the Bowl Relic had again been taken away by the monks to a safer location in Kotmale in the central hills. Later, King Vijayabahu III was reported to have brought down the two Relics and enshrined them in a beautiful edifice built for the purpose on the hill top of Beligala. The king re-instituted the rituals connected with the Relics and handed over the custody of the Relics to his elder son, who succeeded to the throne under the name Parakramabahu II (1236-1270). Being an erudite scholar, he was well known for the compilation of classical literary texts, including the Kavusilumina.

Parakramabahu II brought down the Relics from Beligala in a procession with great veneration and placed them in a shrine built near the palace at the Damabadeniya rock According to the text Dalada Pujavaliya, Parakramabahu conducted the Relics to Srivardhanapura, the city of his birth, and held a great ritual worship. He was responsible for the building of the Tooth Relic shrine at the Vijayasundararama at Dambadeniya, where the Relic was deposited and festive rituals were conducted by the king.

The peaceful and prosperous time under Parakramabahu was disturbed by the invasion of Chandrabhanu of Java. However, the king was able to expel the enemy and bring back the country to a stable status again. It is recorded that during a severe drought, the sacred Tooth Relic was taken out of the shrine and a great procession held. He placed the Relic on the throne and having worshipped the Relic for seven days, offered the kingdom to the sacred Tooth Relic, which resulted in the termination of the drought. This incident indicates the esteem that the sacred Tooth Relic enjoyed as a symbol of kingship.

Even during the lifetime of Parakramabahu II, his son Vijayabahu as sub-king, renovated and enlarged the Relic shrine and conducted great ritual services. As the chronicle records, he restored the ruined religious edifices at Polonnaruva, including the Tooth Relic shrine and having placed the Tooth Relic therein, conducted an abhiseka (coronation) ceremony.

Yapahuva (ancient Subha-pabbata) comes into prominence around this time with the appointment of his brother Bhuvanekabahu as the sub-ruler of this province. This location, simulating the well known Sigiriya rock fortress, found itself to be a very secure place for the Relics. However, Chadrabhanu of Java invaded the country for the second time and after defeating the local sub-ruler at Yapahuva, demanded the Tooth Relic from Vijayabahu of Dambadeniya. Yet, the Sri Lankan ruler was able to defeat him and bring peace to the island again.

Bhuvanekabahu built a shrine for the sacred Tooth Relic at Yapahuva with a grandeur stairway the ruins of which still portray the aesthetic achievement of the 14th century. As the chronicle records, he continued the tradition of paying homage to the sacred Tooth Relic daily.

Almost after his reign, Sri Lanka again faced severe droughts and also an invasion from the Pandyan country in South India, under the great warrior Arya Cakravarti. He devastated the country and plundered much wealth and treasure, including the Tooth and Bowl Relics, which he handed over to the Pandyan king Kulasekera. The next king, Parakramabahu III visited the Pandyan capital and after friendly discussions, brought back the Relics and initiated the traditional rituals. It is interesting to note that even at this late age, Polonnaruva Tooth Relic shrine was in existence, for the king is said to have brought the sacred Relics from India to Polonnaruva and enshrined them at the old Tooth Relic shrine at the ancient capital, which was abandoned by this time. According to Marco Polo, the well known traveller, the Chinese Emperor, Kublai Khan, sent a messenger to obtain the Tooth, Hair and Bowl Relics from the king. However, the king was able to please the Chinese Emperor by dispatching two fake teeth, which were graciously received by the Emperor who established ritual worship for the objects.

Bhuvanekabahu II (1293-1312) is reported to have brought the Tooth Relic from Polonnaruva and placed it within a shrine built at his capital, Kurunagala.

Next ruler was Parakramabahu IV, during whose time, there was a religious revival. He reorganized the rituals connected with the sacred Tooth Relic in a systematic manner as recorded in the text Dalada Sirita. Yet another significant factor was the handing of the responsibility of the security and conduction of rituals in charge of the chief prelate of the Uttaramula monastery, which institution originated from the Abhayagiri Vihara of Anuradhapura.

The next ruler of note connected with the story of the Tooth Relic was Bhuvanekabahu IV, who selected a new capital, Gampola, in the central hills. Yet ,no mention is made of his bringing the Tooth Relic to this new city. It was possibly Vikramabahu III who had the Relic shifted to this hill capital and held a festival in honor of the sacred Tooth Relic. He is credited with the building of the shrine at Niyangampaya at Gampola, which comes closer to the 14th century Gadaladeniya temple in the decorative elements.

Thereafter, Bhuvanekabahu V (1372-1408) shifted the capital to Jayavardanapura Kotte closer to Colombo. Although he did not bring the Tooth Relic to the capital, he is reported to have conducted many ritual performances for the Relic. It was his successor, Virabahu, who brought down the Tooth Relic to Jayavardanapura Kotte from Gampola. China entered into Sri Lankan politics during his reign. The Chinese general, Chen Ho, invaded the island, captured the king and the family and took them before the Chinese emperor at the time, together with the Tooth Relic. However, conflicting and stronger reports conclude that the Chinese general did not take away the Relic and that he left the island after paying due homage and worship to the sacred Tooth Relic. This belief is corroborated by subsequent reports on the processions, festivals and rituals conducted by rulers like Parakramabahu VI, who was held in high esteem as the greatest ruler of the late medieval period. He is said to have built a three-storied shrine for the Tooth Relic, had four golden caskets enveloping the sacred Tooth Relic and promulgated several regulations in the service of the Tooth Relic.

The subsequent period, which saw the arrival of the first colonial power, the Portuguese, in 1505, brought about the deterioration of Buddhist activities. Further, the disturbances in the ruling power, missionary activities of the Colonial powers of the Portuguese and the Dutch and other calamitous situations resulted in the Tooth Relic being secretly carried away by the faithful monks to safer locations. Thus, the Relic was shifted to the next kingdom, Sitawaka ruled by Mayadunne. According to Dathadhatuvamsa, prior to the bringing of the Tooth Relic to Ratnapura, it was taken as far south as the Mulgirigala Vihara and then to the Ridivihara in the Kurunegala District. The Tooth Relic was finally hidden in a coirn located in the Delgamuva Vihara in Ratnapura, and it was from this temple that the Tooth Relic was brought to its final and present resting place in Kandy by Vimaladharmasuriya I (1592-1603).

ri Dalada Museum

The latest institution added to the Dalada Shrine is the `Sri Dalada Museum '. Ever since the Tooth Relic shrine was established in Kandy, different grades of visitors and devotees, ranging from the Roylty and Heads of States to the poorest of the general public, have been offering various gifts to the Sacred Tooth Relic, and these were preciously protected in specially built store-rooms by the successive line of Diyawadana Nilames.

On the initiative of the ex Diyawadana Nilame, Neranjan Wijeyeratne, it was decided that these valuable artifacts be made available for public display. On the invitation of the Diyawadana Nilame , the Museum has now been beautifully designed and organized by Prof.Leelananda Prematilleke, the Archaeological Director of the UNESCO-Sri Lanka Project of the Cultural Triangle, together with his team of officers.

The Dalada Museum is located on the first and the second floors of the new wing called the Alut Maligawa set up by one of the past Diyawadana Nilemes, T.B.Nugawela. The display on the first floor consists of historical records from the time when the Tooth Relic was brought to Sri Lanka to the time of the British rule, the 1765 Dutch Plan of the Palace Complex, Lists of the Chief Prelates of the two monastic establishments of Malwatta and Asgiriya, who were responsible for the protection of the Tooth Relic, Lists of Kandyan Kings and the portrait busts and lists of the long line of Diyawadana Nilames, the Royal garments of king Kirti Sri Rajasimha, the Pingo used by the king in the Buddha-puja service, and the most recent discoveries of mural remains that were exposed due to the bomb blast caused by Tamil Tigers in January 1998. The photographic display includes some of the important sites where the sacred Tooth Relic was enshrined through the centuries and a large array of pictures depicting the immeasurable damage caused to the Dalada maligava due to the bomb blast.

Among the items on view on the second floor are historical artifacts used in the daily ritual ceremonies of the Tooth Relic shrine, caskets, Buddha statues and typical Kandyan gold and silver jewellery studded with precious gem stones, all donated by the devotees. Also on view on this floor are some special exhibits of great historical and religious value. These include (a) the silver water pot offered by king Kirti Sri Rajasimha , (b) Silver hanging lamp offered by king Rajadhi Rajasimha, (c) the painted replica of Buddha's Foot Print sent by king Borom Kot of Thailand when he sent some monks to establish the Higher Ordination on Sinhala monks headed by Venerable Walivita Saranankara ( who became Sangharaja subsequently), (d) The unique Relic Casket containing bodily relics of the great Thera Moggliputta who headed The Third Dhamma Council held by Emperor Asoka in the 3rd century BC, etc. Other significant exhibits include ancient flags, coins, carved ivory tusks donated by Burma, commemorative carved plaques, etc. A visit to this grandest display would evidently provide an insight into the splendor that was Kandyan Heritage, her Culture and the Arts.

Since the capture of the last king of Kandy, Sri Vikrama Rajasimha, in the year 1814,and the appointment of a lay custodian along with the two Mahanayakes as guardians of the sacred Tooth Relic, a long line of Diyawadana Nilames have served in this position. They are:

Diyawadana Nilames since 1814

*Kapuvatte Adikaram (1814-1824)

*Dehigama Lokubanda (1824-1827)

*Kuda Molligoda (1827-1828 )

*Kuda Dehigama (1828-1835)

*Mullegama Adikaram (1835-1842)

*Dullewe Adikaram (1842-1848)

*Lokubanda Dehigama (1848-1862)

*Kudabanda Dunuvila (1862-1882)

*Kudamudiyanse Giragama (1882-1897)

*Seneviratna Ratvatte (1897-1901)

*Kudabandara Nugawela(1901-1916)

*Punchibanda Nugawela (1916-1937)

*Hon.Tikiribanda Nugawela (1937-1947)

*Kudabanda Nugawela (1947-1961)

*Harris Leuke Ratvatte (1961-1964)

*Heenbanda Udurawana (1964-1974)

*Dr. Nissanka Parakrama Wijeyeratne (1974-1985)

*Neranjan Priyadarshana Dullewe Wijeyeratne (1985- 2005)

*Pradeep Nilanga Dela Bandara (2005 - ).

ee also

*Esala Perahera
*Diyawadana Nilame

External links

* [ Sri Dalada Maligawa]
* [ Discover Sri Lanka - More information & images about Sri Dalada Maligawa]
* [ Sri Dalada Museum]
* [ An article on Sri Dalada Maligawa by Neranjan Wijeyeratne]
* [ English summary of MA theses about Sri Dalada Maligawa]

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