By D. T. DevendRa

(From Contemporary Writers)

[This article was first published in 1938]

THE Island's chiefest attraction to Buddhists overseas lies in the Sacred Relic of the Master. In the days of our independence this relic had apolitical significance as well, for who possessed it was the rightful heir to the throne. of Lanka. In times of danger, therefore, the Dalada was the first object which a king secured for himself, if he wished to establish his sovereignty after the danger had blown over.

For one year and a half during the long reign of Kirti Sr Rajasingha (1741-1781), the gravest concern was felt for the safety of the relic, for the Hollander of the sea-board was in the Kandyan Kingdom, spreading dismay on all sides. Immediately, the relic was withdrawn into the unknown, hardly accessible, mountainous wilderness, and for one and a half years unwearying vigil was kept over it by a deeply loyal band of Buddhist devotees. The secret of its hiding places was guarded 'so closely that the exact location is nowhere mentioned in the very Mahavamsa written by the contemporary monk, Tibbotuwawe, Chief Priest of the Malwatta monastery.


Fortunately, however, some records of its wanderings had been kept by those who guarded the palladium—it was usual to render an account of their stewardship to the King—and it is possible to follow the itinerary to an appreciable degree.

Two documents provide the basis of this article. One of them, vastly the more important, is a paper copy of an ola manuscript presumably indited by Navinne Dhammadassi, the Anunayaka of Hayagiri (Asgiri) Vihara, to whom the King entrusted the Relic. Unfortunately, the original had been removed about 40 or more years ago from Bambaragala Vihara at Teldeniya where it had been, and several attempts to ' trace it proved unsuccessful.

The other document is the tudapota of the Kivulgama Vihara, four miles in the valley below Nugetenna. This is a compilation of one of the same band of devotees, Rambukwelle Ratanajoti, who, by virtue of his saintliness and proficiency in meditation attained to a spiritual state known as Vidarsana, which is a preliminary stage of Arhatship. The tudapota was composed 25 years later, and though dealing principally with the temple, enumerates the main halting-places, with certain periods of delay at each of them. There are certain variations found in this, but the general references help to verify the main events.

Historical Introduction

To appreciate fully the trend of events it is necessary to have some historical perspective of the period. Relations between the Indian Nayakkar kings of Kandy and the Dutch were never cordial, because the former desired nationalist sympathy against the European in order to consolidate their own position the more firmly. They seized every opportunity, overt and covert, to stir the lowlanders to revolt, and about this time Kirti Sri incited the cinnamon-peelers, who were Dutch subjects, to rebellion. The Kandyans invaded the low country and captured Hanwella and Matara. The Dutch attacked his territory, but soon retired. Later, a new Governor, Baron Van Eck, acted more vigorously and made incursions into the interior.

On the 19th of February, 1765, Kandy was reached and the palace was sacked. The King had fled with the Dalada. But the enemy triumphantly seized the silver casket and the golden, howdah.

Well it was that the precious relic disappeared, for the enemy would have made short work of it. "But every day at this time, a commander was sent forth to roam and to burn and murder everything if only it was Sinhalese; and if only damage could be done in anything, orders were given for that work and they were executed..."

To capture the king was impossible, although the enemy penetrated to Hanguranketa. Accordingly, Van Eck made a disastrous retreat to Colombo, reminiscent of Napoleon's after the Moscow campaign. His young successor, Falck, was, diplomat enough to retrieve the position, and got the king to sign the disadvantageous Treaty of Hanguranketa, 14th February, 1766. Peace reigned again, for a time.

The Itinerary

This then was the time of stress which necessitated the removal of the Dalada. The tevava, or service ritual, fell to the turn of the Asgiri Vihara, and the five priests who took turns at guarding the relic, belonged to this monastery.

The Relic was removed by the King when he fled the capital on Monday, the 11 th of February, 1765. In the R. A. S. Journal cited above the following statement appears. "On Sunday, the 10th, towards mid-day, there appeared at our camp a runaway young slave of the late Predikant Potken, who had concealed himself for the past four years in Sandie. He reported that the King had fled from his palace..." But the King was only making preparations for his flight. This is evident from the diary of February 19th of the document, on which date, according to both accounts, the Dutch reached Kandy. The document is definite that the King fled on Monday, at midnight. Further, both versions agree that the enemy came to Meda Maha Nuwara on the 25th. "Our men were compelled to pass the night half way ... on the road to Hanguranketa.

The rest of the diary of the -document is a reconstruction, substantially, of the information it contains.

Monday, Feb. 11th, 1765. Apprehending danger from the enemy, the King personally removed the Tooth at midnight from Senkadagala to Dumbara Nuwara which was reached on Tuesday morning. The Relic was lodged in the Royal Retiring House (Sethapenage).

Tuesday, Feb. 12th. In the evening the King's Rest House (Daman Maligawa) at Teldeniya was reached.

Thursday, Feb. 14th. On the third day from the above date, proceeded to Meda Maha Nuwara which was reached in the afternoon. Among the laymen were Amarasingha Rajapaksha Dasanayaka Vasala Mudaliya and his nephew the Vidane of Kottalbadda. The Dalada was housed in a religious edifice where it had previously lain. One day was spent here.

Tuesday, Feb. 19th. The day of the' New Moon. At 8.40 a.m. intelligence was brought that the enemy had reached Kandy. The King gave the Relic in charge of the Maha Thera, Navinne Dhammadarsi Gananayaka of Hayagiri Vihara and presumably sought his personal safety.

Wednesday, Feb. 20th. With the utmost secrecy the Relic was brought on the sixth day after to the Rock Cave Temple at Kevulgama in the Pansy Pattuwa. It remained five days in this place.

Monday, Feb. 25th. News came that the enemy had reached Meda Maha Nuwara.

Tuesday, Feb. 26th. At midnight of this, the seventh day, the Relic was taken to a cave concealed in the forest of Kivulgama village, known as Udakumbure Kinikandura. To inform the King of the removal, a letter was sent by Jayatu Rala of Ganegalagedera to Hanguranketa.

Tuesday, March 5th. It being too risky to delay even here, the Relic was removed to a hastily improvised and small temple on a rock in an inaccessible spot known as Medapatana, close to Navanagala. This fact, too, was notified to the King, in the same manner as before, the messengers being Dingiri Rala of Devahandiyegedera. It remained here for three days.

Saturday, March 9th. On this day the Maha Thera, Potuhera Ratanapala, Rambukwelle, Kanumale and Vadawala, and the lay officials connected with the Relic, Alade-n1ye and Yatawatte, Vattoru Naides, conveyed the Dalada to a- place in the dense impenetrable forest, bounded by Navanagala, Mimure, Udasiya Pattuwa and Gampaha. It was lodged in a two-storeyed wooden buildings.. There was a mountain ridge close by, and a torrent of deliciously cool water.

Here the party remained till the month of Vesak (April - May), enduring much hardship from heavy rains, intense cold, mosquitoes, and so forth. Aided by the Mohottala of Polgahakumbara and Rajapaksha Mudaliya of Palapitiya, they performed the necessary rituals.

The Maha Thera despatched Potuhera Ratanapala, Kanumale Dhammarangsi, and Aladeniye Vattoru Naide to Walapane Alutnuwara to apprise the King of these proceedings. They spoke to him at an auspicious occasion and delivered their message. He was greatly pleased, and his appreciation was visible to the messengers.

His decree of Saturday the fifth day of the waxing moon of May of the next year was read at the Gorman Maligawa in the mid forest of Navanagala. The two priests were requested to learn the manner of conducting the ritual which had been performed by the Maha Thera and the ministers, after which they were to take their turns.

The Return

According to the royal instructions the Relic was now brought back to Kevulgama some time before the end of July. Offerings were received from a royal demesne, gabadagama, and all services were continued without a break.

For three years the Relic was thus jealously guarded, and due ritual performed unbroken, by royal command. When all danger from the enemy had passed, the Maha Thera Dhammadarsi, delivered the Relic to the King's hands on Tuesday, the 2nd of May, 1766.

Bearing it aloft in his own hands the King set out for Meda Maha Nuwara, which was reached the same evening.

It was housed in the newly constructed two-storeyed temple. Potuhera Ratanapala performed his first religious service, in the name of the King.

Four days were spent here. On the fifth day therefrom, Saturday, May 6th, the return journey to Kandy was resumed with all the paraphernalia of a magnificent religious procession, along decorated roads and amidst unrivalled rejoicing. A mighty throng accompanied it to Kundasale. Here two days were spent.

On Monday, the 8th of May, the final stage of the journey was begun, and the capital was reached amidst the joyful acclamations of a happy people. Surrounded by the highest ecclesiastical dignitaries, the King put the Relic inside the gold casket, adorned with the nine gems.

Royal thanks were publicly expressed to the Maha Thera. Donations were made to all who participated in the invaluable work. The two priests, the two Vattoru Ralas, Aladeniye and Yatawatte, Amarasingha Mudaliya of Teldeniya, and the two faithful servants of Polgahakumbure and Palapitlye were ordered to be given titles and lands.

Our gracious King. who belonged to the pure Solar race, solemnly undertook to pursue, without any deviation therefrom, the traditions of the Kings of old who ruled at Polonnaruwa and Dambadeniya.

The Tudapota

The following is a summary of the relevant passages in the Kivulgama document. It was written on Sunday, the second day after the full moon of the month of Unduvap, Saka year 1711 (A.C. 1789). The writer, Rambukwelle Ratanajoti, has adopted an intensely personal style.

On account of the impending invasion of Kandy, I, Rambukwelle Ratanajoti, with the Chief Priest of Nadine, Kanumale, and several other priests, and from the laity, Aladeniye, Yatawatte, and several others, removed the Sacred Tooth to Medamahanuwara' at the desire of the King. From here we took it to Navanagala where we constructed a two-storeyed building in which we kept the Relic. I then removed it to the cave at Kivulugama Ganegala Rock Temple. I performed meet ritual in connexion with it, with the co-operation of my relatives who also ministered to the company at my request. From the Ganegala temple the Relic was taken to Hanguranketa and from here back again to Kivulugama. When my. relatives had obtained merit resulting from their worship of the Holy Tooth, the Relic was taken to Medamahanuwara on the second day from this. From Medamahanuwara it was conveyed in procession to Kundasale, and from Kundasale to Buwelikada. From Buwelikada it was conveyed to the New Maligawa, and from the New Maligawa it was deposited on the Vajrasana [diamond throne] of the shrine where it had originally been placed.

The cursory nature of the references indicates a hazy recollection of events which had taken place a quarter of a century before. A serious variation and several omissions will be noticed, but it would require unwarranted space to deal with them.

The Rev. W. B. Chandajoti of Bambaragala Vihara, Teldeniya, was kind enough to allow the free use of his valuable copy. To him and to the Ven. Pundit Mabopitiye Medhankara of Srivardhanaramaya, Kandy, who gave ungrudging help in the translation of the text, are due grateful thanks.

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