Sri Dalada Perahera of Sri
by A.M. Gunawardhana
Today, the Tooth Relic is invariably associated with the Esala Perahera. Traditionally, however, the "perahera" was done wherever the seat of royal power happened to be. And so it was that almost six centuries ago a "Dalada Perahera" was held in Kotte, the capital during the reign of Parakrama Bahu the Sixth. During his reign, from 1415 to 1467, it is said, the Tooth Relic was placed in a three storied palace, the location of which is yet unknown.
Then, as now, the perahera was held to bestow the blessings of the Sacred Tooth Relic on the country and the people, and also to invoke the blessings of the deities so that the rains will fall on time and in appropriate quantity to ensure a bountiful harvest and therefore prosperity and peace.
Folklore has it that just before the Portuguese destroyed Kotte, the then custodian of the Tooth Relic, Hiripitiye Rala, had a dream where an old person wearing a pure white dress had mentioned the following words, "Kotte kalale kisille datha meda gan Ralay". He interpreted this as follows: "Give up the love for Kotte and remove the Tooth Relic to the central hills." This he did.
The Tooth Relic was moved to the Delgamuwa Raja Maha Viharaya, Kuruwita by King Mayadunne. After 43 years, it was moved once again, this time to Maha Nuwara, where it has found a permanent abode and where it receives the veneration of millions of Buddhists, in Sri Lanka and from all parts of the world.
The Kotte Perahera, conducted by the Kotte Raja Maha Viharaya, is thus a re-enactment of a splendid tradition that dates back to the early years of the 15th Century.
The Kotte Raja Maha Viharaya itself is steeped in tradition. It was founded by the Ven. Pilanea Dharmakeerthi Sri Buddharakkhita Nayaka Thero in 1813.
The Dalada Perahera was revived in 1901 by Ven. Embulgama Dharmakeerthi Sri Wimalatissa Thero. Today, the Kotte Raja Maha Viharaya is the headquarters of the Kotte Sri Kalyana Samagri Dharma Maha Sangha Sabhawa also known as the Kotte sect of the Siyam Nikaya, controlling over 500 temples.
This year the perahera commences on September 15 with the chanting of all-night pirith and the pageant will reach its zenith with the "Maha Perahera" on September 27. The perahera concludes on September 28 with the diya kapana mangalyaya (water-cutting ceremony) at the Diyawanna Oya. After this ceremony, the Dayaka Sabhawa of the Perakumba Pirivena, Etulkotte, will offer alms to the people (Deva Danaya) to invoke the blessings of the gods. The water collected from the Diyawanna will be carried in procession to the Kotte Raja Maha Viharaya, where another Deva Danaya will be offered. The entire ceremony comes to a close with the anushasana delivered by the chief incumbent of the Kotte Raja Maha Viharaya, Ven. Aluthnuwara Anuruddha Nayaka Thero.
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