Historic Dambadeniya

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By 2017-09-10

By Risidra Mendis

Ceylon Today Features
Going in search of the oldest Dalada Maligawa in the country can be quite an experience especially when it is situated miles away from Colombo. With little information of the Dalada Maligawa we set off to Dambadeniya to trace the history of a place that was once ruled by Kings.

A Dalada Maligawa is considered a sacred place because it houses the tooth relics of Lord Buddha. It is also a known fact that hundreds of years ago the sacred tooth relics were kept in a temple close to the King's palace so that it was given the maximum protection against invaders that tried to get a hold of it. Whenever a King settled in an area and built his palace the Sacred Tooth Relic was taken and kept there. Thus custody of the Tooth Relic assured a king of being monarch.

Situated in the Kurunegala District and listed as one of the archaeologically protected monuments in Sri Lanka lies the historical Sri Wijayasundararama Raja Maha Viharaya. Presently known as the oldest surviving Dalada Maligawa in the country the Raja Maha Viharaya consisting of 15 acres has stood the test of time.

Even though the old historical Dalada Maligawas in Polonnaruwa were destroyed in days gone by, the Wijayasundararama Raja Maha Viharaya has survived the odds to become the oldest Dalada Maligawa in the country today. Two lions and two elephants carved out of stone stand guard at the entrance to the Wijayasundararama Raja Maha Viharaya. History states that elephants carved out of stone are related to the Dambadeniya era and when erected in a temple or any other place are a clear indication of the importance given to that place.

It is also interesting to note that the Wijayasundararama Raja Maha Viharaya when built hundreds of years ago consisted of 800 acres in extent. But as time went by the land of the temple was reduced to 35 acres due to illegal encroachment and today has come down to 15 acres. The temple presently has 20 monks including the Chief Incumbent Narangoda Sirinivasa Thera. But despite the historical importance of the Raja Maha Viharaya the lack of funds has hampered the maintenance of the temple.
Incomplete buildings in some parts of the temple are a clear indication that development activities are taking place and gradually destroying the ancient historical look of the temple and its surroundings.
As you climb the steps to the temple the first thing you notice on your left is the Bo tree that in itself has its own story and on your right is the historical Dalada Maligawa that attracts locals and foreigners to the temple.

"The Dalada Maligawa where the Tooth Relic was kept in was a three storey building. But in the 16th century the three storey building became a two storey building because the third storey was destroyed before that time. The first paintings at the Dalada Maligawa where the Sacred Tooth Relic was kept were from the Dambadeniya era. However most of the Dambadeniya paintings were plastered and paintings from the Kandy era were drawn over them at a later date. The plaster of the paintings done in the Kandy era is now peeling off and some of the paintings from the Dambadeniya era are now gradually becoming visible. Some of the paintings at the Dalada Maligawa are also being attacked by termites. We have informed the Department of Archaeology and asked them to take precautionary measures to prevent the valuable and rare paintings from getting destroyed. Officials from the Department of Archaeology came and had a look at the paintings but never came back with a solution to the problem," Dayaka Sabha Secretary, Wijayasundararama Raja Maha Viharaya, R.A.Wilson Samaranayake told Ceylon Today.

Commenting on the story behind the Sacred Bo Sapling brought from the Jaya Sri Maha Bodi in Aunradhapura, Samaranayake said a Bo Sapling was brought from the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi more than 800 years ago to be planted in the temple premises. "While looking for a suitable place to plant the Bo Sapling the temple monks suddenly noticed the sprouting of a Bo Sapling from the ground.

Situated in the Kurunegala District and listed as one of the archaeologically protected monuments in Sri Lanka lies the historical Sri Wijayasundararama Raja Maha Viharaya. Presently known as the oldest surviving Dalada Maligawa in the country the Raja Maha Viharaya consisting of 15 acres has stood the test of time.
Even though the old historical Dalada Maligawas in Polonnaruwa were destroyed in days gone by, the Wijayasundararama Raja Maha Viharaya has survived the odds to become the oldest Dalada Maligawa in the country today. Two lions and two elephants carved out of stone stand guard at the entrance to the Wijayasundararama Raja Maha Viharaya. History states that elephants carved out of stone are related to the Dambadeniya era and when erected in a temple or any other place are a clear indication of the importance given to that place.

It is also interesting to note that the Wijayasundararama Raja Maha Viharaya when built hundreds of years ago consisted of 800 acres in extent. But as time went by the land of the temple was reduced to 35 acres due to illegal encroachment and today has come down to 15 acres. The temple presently has 20 monks including the Chief Incumbent Narangoda Sirinivasa Thera. But despite the historical importance of the Raja Maha Viharaya the lack of funds has hampered the maintenance of the temple.
Incomplete buildings in some parts of the temple are a clear indication that development activities are taking place and gradually destroying the ancient historical look of the temple and its surroundings.

As you climb the steps to the temple the first thing you notice on your left is the Bo tree that in itself has its own story and on your right is the historical Dalada Maligawa that attracts locals and foreigners to the temple.

"The Dalada Maligawa where the Tooth Relic was kept in was a three storey building. But in the 16th century the three storey building became a two storey building because the third storey was destroyed before that time. The first paintings at the Dalada Maligawa where the Sacred Tooth Relic was kept were from the Dambadeniya era. However most of the Dambadeniya paintings were plastered and paintings from the Kandy era were drawn over them at a later date. The plaster of the paintings done in the Kandy era is now peeling off and some of the paintings from the Dambadeniya era are now gradually becoming visible. Some of the paintings at the Dalada Maligawa are also being attacked by termites. We have informed the Department of Archaeology and asked them to take precautionary measures to prevent the valuable and rare paintings from getting destroyed. Officials from the Department of Archaeology came and had a look at the paintings but never came back with a solution to the problem," Dayaka Sabha Secretary, Wijayasundararama Raja Maha Viharaya, R.A.Wilson Samaranayake told Ceylon Today.

Commenting on the story behind the Sacred Bo Sapling brought from the Jaya Sri Maha Bodi in Aunradhapura, Samaranayake said a Bo Sapling was brought from the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi more than 800 years ago to be planted in the temple premises. "While looking for a suitable place to plant the Bo Sapling the temple monks suddenly noticed the sprouting of a Bo Sapling from the ground.

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