Delgamu Sri Dalada Raja Maha Viharaya | Sunday Observer

Delgamu Sri Dalada Raja Maha Viharaya

Delgamu Sri Dalada Raja Maha Viharaya is a historic temple in Kuruvita, in the district of Ratnapura in the province of Sabaragamuwa. This temple was the home of the Dantha Dathuwa or the Sacred Tooth Relic for 43 years during the time of the Portuguese rule of the coastal areas of Sri Lanka. The Sacred Tooth Relic was hidden to protect it from the enemy, the Portuguese. The Delgamu Sri Dalada Raja Maha Viharaya has now been declared an archaeological site.

With the arrival of the Portuguese in 1505 and their gaining control of the seaboard of Sri Lanka things started changing. At this time the King of the Kotte Kingdom was King Bhuwanakabahu VII. When he died his daughter princess Samudradevi’s son became King of Kotte as King Dharmapala. However, he was heavily influenced by the Portuguese and became their puppet King. He became a Catholic and took the name Don Juan Dharmapala. The people were unhappy with these events.

At this time, the Dantha Dathuwa or the Sacred Tooth Relic was kept at the Dalada Maligawa in the Kingdom of Kotte and its lay custodian was Keerawella Hiripitiya Diyawadana Nilame or Hiripitiya Diwana Rala. He was a descendant of Prince Dantha (This Prince Dantha was the husband of Princess Hemamala who brought the Sacred Tooth Relic to Sri Lanka from India. She hid the Relic in her hair. Prince Dantha came with her.)

The Portuguese were destroying Buddhist Temples and it was also said that they were plotting to rob the Kotte Dalada Maligawa and steal the Dantha Dathuwa.

Legend has it that during this period Keerawella Hiripitiya Diyawadana Nilame had a dream in which an old man dressed in white and wearing a turban told him spoke to him and said, Kotte kalale kisille - Datha medagan Rale. What these words mean is ‘now there is no use in doing anything at Kotte, remove the Sacred Tooth Relic to the centre of the country.

After this dream, the Diyawadana Nilame decided to take the Dantha Dathuwa to safety. It is said that he swam the Diyawanna Oya and reached the Kingdom of Sitawaka ruled by King Mayadunne. Then,Kirawella Hiripitiya Diyawadana Nilame handed over the Sacred Tooth Relic to King Mayadunne.

He was very pleased to have the Sacred Tooth Relic as the belief was that whoever had this Sacred Relic was the rightful heir to the throne. However, as Sitawaka was also in danger from the enemy, King Mayadunne decided to send it to the Thun Bo Rendi Delgamu Viharaya which was also known as the Sabaragamuwa Viharaya.The Chief Incumbent or Head Priest, Shatbasha Parameshwara Mahindalankara was King Mayadunne’s good friend.

The Sacred Relic was kept safe hidden in a Kurahan gala (grinding stone) at the Delgamu Raja Maha Viharaya. It was kept behind the daha ata riyan seated statue of the Buddha. The Sacred relic was placed in the kurahan gala when the Chief Incumbent found that the Portuguese had found that the Sacred Tooth Relic was at the temple and were planning to rob it. He also got two fake relics made and kept one where the original relic was kept and gave the other to Vidiye Bandara. Both of these were found by the Portuguese and destroyed.

Another legend says that the Chief Incumbent hid the Sacred Tooth Relic in his waist and fled to Palabathgala and lived there to protect the Sacred Tooth Relic.

In 1592, Konappu Bandara, son of Weerasundera Bandara won the throne of Kandy and had himself crowned as King Wimaladharmasuriya. He brought the Dantha Dathuwa from Delgamu Raja Maha Viharay to Kandy and built a two storied building in the Palace Complex and placed the Sacred Tooth Relic there.

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