Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Temple of the Tooth Relic (Dālada Māligāwa)




A UNESCO World Heritage Site, The Temple of the Tooth Relic which houses the tooth relic of the Buddha is part of the Royal Palace Complex of the Kingdom of Kandy founded by King Vikramabahu III in the14th century on the advice of a Brahmin who selected the site as a lucky ground for a Capital.

The Tooth Relic
The sacred tooth relic of the Buddha is the most venerated object of worship in the Buddhist world, and its present house is the last royal residence of the Kingdom of Kandy which was also the last Kingdom of Sri Lanka.

The Casket on which the Tooth relic is kept.

The Royal Palace
The royal palace of kandy is the last royal residence of the Kingdom of Kandy and also in Sri Lanka. The last king to reside in it was Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe. Once part of a large palace complex that included the royal court, the Magul Maduwa and the Temple of the Tooth that held the Relic of the tooth of the Buddha. 

History of the Tooth Relic
After the “Parinirvana” (Final Nirvana, the final passing beyond suffering) of Gautama Buddha, the tooth relic was preserved in the state of Kalinga, in India. During the reign of King Guhasiva a war broke out, and the King instructed his daughter, Princess Hemamali, and son in law, Prince Dantha to take the tooth relic to Sri Lanka. 

The tooth relic was smuggled to Sri Lanka in 313 AD, hidden in the hair of Princess Hemamali who fled with her husband away from the Hindu armies besieging her fathere;s Kingdom in India.

They landed in the island during the reign of King Kirthi Sri Meghavarna (301-328) and handed over the tooth relic which was first enshrined at Isuruminiya, in Anuradhapura, the first Kingdom of Sri Lanka.

It soon became the responsibility of the monarch to safeguard the Relic, and the custodianship of the relic became a symbol of the right to rule the country. Therefore the Tooth relic changed its location from Kingdom to Kingdom to finally end up in Kandy, the last kingdom of the Island.

The tooth relic was enshrined at many locations including Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Dambadeniya, Yapahuwa ,Kurunegala, Kotte, and even hidden in a Grinding stone in Ratnapura before finally reaching the Kingdom of Kandy.

Kingdom of Kandy
The Kingdom of Kandy founded in the 14th century and endured until the early 19th century was an important independent monarchy of Sri Lanka, located in the central and eastern portion of the island.
From the 1590s, it was the sole independent native polity on the island of Sri Lanka, and through a combination of hit-and-run tactics and diplomacy kept European colonial forces at bay. The Battle of Gannoruwa on March 28th 1638 is a good example where a highly trained and an advanced Portuguese army was completely annihilated by the Kandyan Army.

Even today the people of Kandy are very proud to talk about its history and its many military achievements that won countless battles against colonial forces till the kingdom was absorbed into the British Empire as a protectorate following the Kandyan Convention of 1815.

Today the custody of the sacred tooth is handled by three custodians, the Venerable Mahanayaka Thero of Asgiriya and Malwatta chapters and the Diyawadana Nilame (Chief lay custodian).
16th Diyawadana Nilame (lay custodian of the Sacred Tooth Relic) in 1964


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