Polonnaruwa, Kandy, Anuradhapura cities are main cultural cities of Sri Lanka
Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka’s splendid medieval capital was established as the first city of the land in the 11th Century, A.D. It replaced Anuradhapura, which was plundered, made desolate and laid hopelessly bare to the invading armies from South India. Three Kings dominate the chronicles of the city and the period. The city reached a dazzling but pitifully brief zenith in the 12th century and though ravaged by invasion in the centuries that followed, much evidence remains of the old grandeur and glory.The ruins of the ancient city stand on the east shore of a large artificial lake, the Topa Wewa Lake, or Parakrama Samudraya (the Sea of Parakrama), built by King Parakramabahu I (1153-86), whose reign was Polonnaruwa‘s golden age. Within a rectangle of city walls stand palace buildings and clusters of dozens of dagobas, temples and various other religious buildings.A scattering of other historic buildings can be found to the north of the main complex, outside the city walls and close to the main road to Habarana and Dambulla. To see many of the relics excavated from the site such as the stone lion which once guarded the palace of King Nissanka Malla, or the fine Hindu bronzes unearthed from the ruins of the Siva Devale Temple – you may have to visit the National Museum in Colombo, where they are kept. However, with the opening of the new Polonnaruwa Visitor Information Centre and its museum in 1998/9 some of the key exhibits were scheduled to return to the place where they were discovered.
Polonnaruwa has been in the limelight recently with the release of the Disney documentary movie “Monkey Kingdom” in over 12,000 US Cinemas in April 2015. The film documents the life of a troop of wild toque-macaque monkeys locally known as “Rilaw” while the entire set was based around the ancient kingdom of Polonnaruwa.
According to our current minister of Tourism, the documentary movie portrays the island as an exotic destination that is filled with natural beauty and highlighted by heritage sites such as Polonnaruwa. The film also gives proper attention to these types of monkeys and it shows their association with Polonnaruwa and their behavioural patterns which is a perfect way to educate locals and tourists alike about conserving these animals.
The kingdom’s grandeur and structural masterpieces are a true treasure to the country while the amalgamation of nature and animals adds the fine touch to the boosting tourism industry that the country has always hoped for.
Filmed around Polonnaruwa the movie “Monkey Kingdom” was directed by Mark Linfield and Alastair Fothergill who were also well known for their blockbusters such as “Earth” which grossed more than 100 million dollars at the box office and their wildlife documentary “Chimpanzee” which grossed almost 35 million. The documentary portrays these monkeys as a fascinating species that also requires conservation. Most locals however, don’t pay much attention since they are seen quite commonly roaming around. The main aim of the film is to create awareness among locals and promote these monkeys as animals that we should safeguard It was said that a part of box office receipts will be donated to Conservation International which is an American non-profit environmental organization dedicated to protect nature. Dr. Wolfgang Dittus who is a scientific consultant has been studying these macaque monkeys of Sri Lanka for nearly half a century. His studies are considered as one of the longest running studies which is connected to wild primates. When creating the documentary, Dr. Dittus had assisted in selecting the monkey characters and interpreting their behavioural patterns. The film is narrated by the Emmy award winning actress Tina Fey while it was released internationally to coincide with Earth Day. With the popularity of the documentary, we believe that Sri Lanka, especially Polonnaruwa will be a well known tourist destination that will attract many tourists from around the world, especially from the US.
Parakrama Samudraya in Polonnaruwa
Parakrama Samudraya (Sinhala: Sea of Parakrama) built by King Parakramabahu the great, is the largest ancient man-made rainwater reservoir in Sri Lanka while it dominates the western flank of the Polonnaruwa district. The great reservoir spreading over an area of 2500 hectares and having a capacity of 134 million cubic meters of water is the lifeline to the agricultural district of Polonnaruwa and its surroundings. The ancient city of Polonnaruwa, 122 hectares in extent, spreading out to a distance of 5km from north to south and 3km from east to west, is also the beneficiary of cooling breezes of the Parakrama Samudraya. Within proximity of the Parakrama Samudraya are the ruins of the Kings (King Nissanka Malla) Council Chamber on whose pillars are inscribed the status and titles of various officials of the kingdom.
Statue of King Parakramabahu in Polonnaruwa
On the Southern side of the Parakrama Samudraya and South of picturesque lakeside Rest house is another well known Polonnaruwa monument: a striking rock carved statue of a man of noble disposition holding a stack of manuscripts.The statue has generated speculations and arguments concerning its identification. The archaeologists haven’t arrived at a concrete conclusion.The sculpture that rises at a height of 3.5m is believed to be that of King Parakramabahu the great.It could also very well be a representation of the sage Pulasti, after whom the city was named Pulastinagara. Pulastinagara (Sinhala: City of Pulasti) is the pali version of the Sinhala name Polonnaruwa.
Palace of King Parakramabahu in Polonnaruwa
Enclosed by ramparts that are four leagues long and seven leagues wide, the Royal Citadel has many interesting monuments. Palace of King Parakramabahu must have been an imposing edifice once, richly decorated and seven storeys high. The remaining walls of the palace are of extra-ordinary thickness and the drainage system is intriguing. A little further on, is the handsome royal bath, the Kumara Pokuna. Across the way is the beautiful Royal Audience Hall – embellished with lion portals, graceful pillars and a moonstone. (a delicately carved stepping stone). The structural techniques of this period were the same as those of the Anuradhapura period, but there was a greater use of lime mortar, which enabled the building of brick structures of dimensions that were never before attempted.
Potgul Vehera in Polonnaruwa
At the southern end of the city, i.e. 100m south of the statue of King Parakramabahu, outside the Royal Garden of Nandana Uyana is the Potgul Vehera, or the Library Monastery’. A central square terrace houses the principal monument, a circular shrine or library where the sacred books were deposited. It is surrounded four small dagobas. The superior acoustics of Potgul Vehera leads to the conclusion that the library had doubled up as an auditorium on occasions to read the books, read the tenets of Buddhism and chant the blessings called “Pirith” The buildings called Potgul Vihara or library that was utilized for the same purposes as the shrine at Polonnaruwa, can be seen in some of the Buddhist monuments too.
Shiva Devale in Polonnaruwa
Shiva Devale 1 A Hindu Temple of chaste and restrained line dedicated to God Shiva of 12th century vintage. Shiva Devale 2 Past the north gate of the citadel is the 11th century Hindu temple built entirely of stone. Within in the sanctum is a stone carved lingam or phallus, a symbol of Hindu god Diva. In front of the temple is the Nandi bull, God Shiva’s vehicle.
Thuparama in Polonnaruwa
Thuparama, a brick-built gedige (Sinhala: vaulted shrine) is in a fine state of preservation. Thuparama, the oldest image house at Polonnaruwa goes back to the reign of King Vijayabahu the first (1055-1110 A.D.). A brick base is about one meter high with three projections that once carried an image of Buddha, which is now simply a pile of bricks. The stone images in the Thuparama date back to the Anuradhapura period.
Vatadage in Polonnaruwa
Vatadage, a circular relic house possesses an elegance and beauty that is rare even in ancient Sri Lanka. In line with the outer circle of stone pillars is a tastefully ornamented screen wall patterned with four petalled flowers.The access stairs at the cardinal points are beautifully carved. At the head of each flight is a Buddha statue in stone. Vatadage is lavished with moonstones and guard stones.
Nissanka Lata Mandapaya in Polonnaruwa
Nissanka Lata Mandapaya, built by King Nissankamalla, is an innovative work of art depicting the splendour of classical architecture. The pavilion was believed to be used for chanting Buddha’s teaching while the inscription at the pavilion reveals that the king used to listen to the chanting of pirith, which were Buddhist blessings.
The Nissanka Lata Mandapaya pavilion which is surrounded by Buddhist railings, houses a bubble shaped small dagaba, without its upper part, while it is carved out of stone in the centre. It is possible, the stone carved stupa used to hold the relic casket during pirith chanting.
The Sathmahal Prasada in Polonnaruwa
The Sathmahal Prasada or the seven storeyed edifice is constructed in a stepped pyramidal form that contains seven square levels. According to the archaeologists, the layout of the edifice resembles Vat Kukut at Lamphun, Thailand built in the eight century.The identity and the purpose of the Sathmahal Prasada haven’t yet been proven. According to the historical chronicles of Sri Lanka, King Parakramabahu the Great had built a stupa in the area and some scholars have assumed the building was in fact a stupa. A similar building discovered in Anuradhapura is known by the name of Nakha Vehera.
Hatadage and Atadage in Polonnaruwa
Hatadage and Atadage are Sacred Tooth relic temples in Polonnaruwa built by king Wijayabahu and king Nissankamalla. The 11th century Atadage and the 12th century Hatadage both housed the Sacred Tooth Relic of Buddha. Both are handsome structures embellished with fine carvings. Having liberated Sri Lanka from the Dravidian invaders, King Vijayabahu setup his capital at Polonnaruwa and built the Atadage so that the sacred tooth relic of Buddha and the Bowl relic could be deposited. The ground floor was the image house. The Atadage, an enlarged version of Hatadage, was built by King Nissankamalla to house the Sacred Tooth Relic and Bowl Relic. The impressive building with the ground floor serving as an image house is accessed by a masterfully carved doorway. Inscriptions by King Nissankamalla inscribed on the walls are now discoloured.
Gal Potha (Stone Book) in Polonnaruwa
Gal Potha is a massive 26 ft slab of stone that lies by the side of the Hetadage in which King Nissankamalla had his own deeds recorded in stone. The inscriptions also contain particulars of King Nissankamalla’s genealogy and his wars with Dravidian invaders from South India. The inscription itself says that the slab of stone was brought to the location from Mihintale.The inscription has been of great assistance to the scholars since it also reveals evolution of the Sinhala script. On the side of Gal Potha are two stone carved Elephants sprinkling water on goddess Lakshmi, the Hindu Goddess of Prosperity.
Pabalu Vehera in Polonnaruwa
Pabalu Vehera is believed to be built during the late Anuradhapura period and enlarged during the Polonnaruwa period. The stupa is surrounded by four image houses located in the cardinal points. The limestone statues of Buddha are sculpted in different postures. In the image house on the south is a Samadhi Buddha statue, which is a fine work of art. In front of Pabalu Vehera to the north is the main street of the ancient city of Polonnaruwa. Now reduced to a mere footpath with encroaching weeds and bushes, it is a fine walk to enjoy the landscape populated with birdlife.Pabalu Vehera in Polonnaruwa
Rankoth Vehera in Polonnaruwa
Rankoth Vehera built by King Nissankamalla, is the largest dagoba in Polonnaruwa. Rankoth Vehera had followed the traditions of early stupas built in Anuradhapura. The enormous dagoba that measures 550 ft. in girth belongs to the Alahana Pirivena monastery complex. Around the enormous dagoba are image houses and flower alters set in the wide sand terrace surrounding the stupa. At the four central points are Vahalkadasa or front entrance enclosures built of brick, with four flights of steps providing admission to devotees. The inscription on the stone-seat in front of the dagoba says that King Nissankamalla used to supervise the construction of the Rankoth Vehera. Another inscription on the platform to the south narrates that King Nissankamalla used to worship the dagoba from the pavilion.
Historical records suggest that Kandy was first established by the King Wickramabahu (1357-1374 CE) near the Watapuluwa area, north of the present city, and it was named Senkadagalapura at the time, although some scholars suggest the name ‘Katubulu Nuwara’ may also have been used. The origin of the more popular name for the city, Senkadagala, could have been from a number of sources. These include naming it after a brahmin named Senkanda who lived in a cave near the city, after a queen of King Wickramabahu named Senkanda or after a coloured stone named Senkadagala.
In 1592 Kandy became the capital city of the last remaining independent kingdom in Sri Lanka after the coastal regions had been conquered by the Portuguese. Invasions by the Portuguese and the Dutch (16th, 17th and 18th century) and also by the British (most notably in 1803) were repelled. The last ruling dynasty of Kandy was the ‘Nayaks’ of Kandy while the Kingdom preserved its independence until it finally fell to the British in 1815. The British deposed the king, Sri Wikrama Rajasingha, and all claimants to the throne, thus ending the last traditional monarchy of Sri Lanka, and replacing it with their monarchy. As the capital, Kandy had become home to the relic of the tooth of the Buddha which symbolises a 4th-century tradition that used to be linked to royalty since the protector of the relic was seen fit to rule the land.
Thus, the Royal Palace and the Temple of the Tooth were associated with the administrative and religious functions of the capital city.
Even after its conquest by the British, Kandy has preserved its function as the religious capital of the Sinhalese and a place of pilgrimage for Buddhists, namely those belonging to the Theravada school.
Portuguese invasions in the 16th century and 17th century were entirely unsuccessful. The kingdom tolerated a Dutch presence on the coast until 1761, when King Kirti Sri attacked and overran most of the coast, leaving only the heavily fortified Negombo intact. When a Dutch retaliatory force returned to the island in 1763, Sri abandoned the coastline and withdrew into the interior of the island. When the Dutch continued to the jungles the next year, they were constantly harassed by disease, heat, lack of provisions, while the Kandyan sharpshooters, who hid in the jungle, inflicted heavy losses on the Dutch. The Dutch launched a better adapted force in January of 1765, replacing their troops’ bayonets with machetes and using more practical uniforms and tactics suited to speedy movement. They were initially successful, capturing the capital, but they took a deserted city, and the Kandyans withdrew to the jungles once more, refusing to engage in open battle. The Dutch, worn down by constant attrition, came to terms in 1766.
Sri Dalada Maligawa
The Sri Dalada Maligawa or the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic is a temple in the city of Kandy in Sri Lanka. It was built within the royal palace complex which houses the only surviving relic of Buddha, a tooth, which is venerated by Buddhists. The relic has played an important role in the local politics since ancient times and it’s believed that whoever holds the relic holds the governance of the country, which caused the ancient kings to protect it with great effort. Kandy was the capital of the Sinhalese Kings from 1592 to 1815, fortified by the terrain of the mountains which was difficult to approach. The city is a world heritage site declared by UNESCO, partly due to the temple.
Monks of the two chapters of Malwatte and Asgiriya conduct daily ritual worship in the inner chamber of the temple, in annual rotation. They conduct these services three times a day: at dawn, at noon and in the evening.
On Wednesdays there is a symbolic bathing (Nanumura Mangallaya) of the Sacred Relic with a herbal preparation made from scented water and fragrant flowers.
Temple of the Tooth Relic, Kandy
This holy water is believed to contain healing powers and is distributed among devotees who are present.
The Esala Perahera in Kandy is one of the oldest and grandest of all Buddhist festivals, featuring dancers, jugglers, musicians, fire-breathers, throngs of devotees and lavishly decorated elephants This is in Esala (July or August), which is a month that is believed to commemorate the first teaching by Buddha after he attained enlightenment. The Kandy Esala Perahera lasts for ten days while the Sinhalese term ‘perahera’ means a parade of musicians, dancers, singers, acrobats and various other performers accompanied by a large number of caparisoned Tuskers and other elephants parading the streets in celebration of a religious event.
The worship of corporeal remains of the Buddha, as recorded in the ‘Mahaparinibbana-sutta’ (the Record of the Demise of the Buddha), was sanctioned by Buddha himself on the verge of his passing away. The Buddha declared that four noble persons are worthy of their bodily remains being enshrined and honoured, the Buddha, the Personal Buddhas (Pacceka Buddhas,) the Arahanths (Buddha’s disciples) and the Universal Monarchs ( Cakkavatti kings). The bodily remains of the Buddha, after their distribution among various states that claimed the relics, were enshrined in the funerary mounds known as ‘stupa’. However, the four canine Teeth were saitohavebeen separately enshrined and worshipped.
The right canine was worshipped in the heavenly domain of the king of gods, Sakra, while another was worshipped by the king of Gandhara in modern Pakistan. The third was taken away by the Nagas and worshipped placing it in a golden shrine room.
The fourth, the left canine was removed from the funerary ashes by a monk and was handed over to the king of Kalinga in Eastern India, as recorded in the Digha Nikaya. Thenceforth, the Tooth relic of the Kalinga became an object of great veneration by generations of Kalinga kings until it earned the wrath of ‘brahmanical followers’, and consequently several attempts were made to destroy the Relic by the fanatical rulers. Yet, the Tooth relic was miraculously saved from such atrocities. For this reason, the kings of other states attempted to possess the Tooth relic for personal veneration. Thus, from the beginning itself, the Tooth relic came to be considered as an important symbol of veneration. The last Indian ruler to possess the Tooth relic was Guhasiva of Kalinga (c.4th century AD).
Arrival of the Sacred Tooth Relic in Sri Lanka
The final attempt made by a neighbouring state to make war with Guhasiva for the possession of the Tooth relic caused this venerated relic to leave the Indian shores. By this time, Buddhism was well rooted in Sri Lanka, and the island rulers maintained close relations with the Indian states that fostered Buddhism. Apparently, it was for this reason that the Kalinga ruler, in imminent danger of losing in battle, decided to send the Tooth relic to his friend, the Sri Lankan king.
After about eight centuries of its Existence in India, the Tooth relic was secretly taken away by Danta and Hemamala, said to be the son-in-law and daughter of Guhasiva. The literary works like Dathavamsa, Daladasirita and the chronicle Mahavamsa, record many and varied vicissitudes that the couple went through en route to Sri Lanka in order to safeguard the relic. It is recorded that the prince and the princess donned the garb of ascetics and carried the Relic hidden within the coiffure of Hemamala not to be noticed by passersby. A twentieth century wall painting of the well known monastery of Kelaniya (about 5 miles east of Colombo), depicts this episode in a classic style executed by a local artist (Solius Mendis).
Danta and Hemamala were said to have embarked on a ship at the ancient port of Tamralipti, a busy port at the time, located at the mouth of the river Ganges, and reached the shores of Sri Lanka at the port of Lankapattana (modern Ilankeiturei) in the Trincomalee District. The Relic was reported to have performed several miracles en route on the ship itself, thus being venerated by human and superhuman beings. The Tooth Relic finally reached the Sri Lankan capital at that time, Anuradhapura, and according to the Sinhala text, Dalada Sirita, the Relic was kept at the Megagiri Vihara in the park Mahameghavana.
Arrival of the Sacred Tooth Relic in Sri Lanka
At the time of its arrival, the Indian ruler Guhasiva’s friend, king Mahasena had died and his son, king Kirti Sri Meghavanna (4th century AC), who himself was a pious Buddhist, had succeeded him. The Tooth Relic was well received by the king and placed on the throne itself with much veneration. The chronicle Mahavamsa reports that the king with great faith had the Tooth Relic enshrined in the edifice called Dhammacakkageha originally built by king Devanampiyatissa in the 3rd century BC, within the royal enclosure (Rajavatthu). The king built a special shrine and enshrined the Tooth Relic therein. This shrine has now been identified as the ruined edifice lying almost next to the great refectory known as Mahapali.
There are special religious programmes conducted in the Maligawa on every Full Moon Poya day where large numbers of devotees participate. Apart from these daily, weekly and monthly ceremonies, there are four major ceremonies held every year. They are Aluth Sahal Mangallaya, Avurudu Mangallaya, Esala Mangallaya, Karthika Mangallaya. Of these, the most important is the Esala Mangallaya.
The relic is also one of the 80 treasures featured on Around the World in 80 Treasures series presented by Dan Cruickshank.
Sacred Tooth Relic in Sri Lanka
From the time of its arrival in Sri Lanka in the 4th century until the end of the 10th century when the capital Anuradhapura was shifted to Polonnaruwa, only a few instances are recorded in the chronicle Mahavamsa . Yet, Fa-Hsien, the Chinese traveller monk,who lived in the Abhayagiri monastery in the 5th century has left behind many details about the worship and rituals connected with the Tooth Relic. According to him, the procession instituted by King Kirti Sri Meghavanna in the 4th century, was continued in a grand scale. The sacred Tooth Relic was taken in procession from the Tooth Relic shrine to the Abhayagiri Vihara where the Relic was exhibited for three months with elaborate ritual worship./ Going by the descriptions of literary texts dealing with the sacred Tooth Relic, and also the sporadic references of the chronicle, it is possible to conclude that the sacred Tooth Relic was well guarded by the kings and considered it to be the palladium of kingship. Some of the kings even went to the extent of prefixing the term `Datha’ ( Tooth) to their names, e.g. Dathopatissa, Dathappabhuti, Dalamugalan, etc., which clearly indicates their close association with the sacred Tooth RelicThe intrusion of South Indian Cholas and the internal disharmony in the ruling houses resulted in the Tooth Relic facing unsafe vicissitudes now and then. Yet, the historical records indicate that the Tooth Relic continued to be in the custody of the Anuradhapura rulers, until king Vijayabahu I shifted the capital to Polonnaruwa in the 11th century.
The present ruins of the Atadage at the Sacred Quadrangle (Dalada Maluva) in the ancient city of Polonnaruwa, is identical with the Tooth Relic temple built by king Vijayabahu. The Velaikkara stone inscription standing at the side of this edifice provides many details on the history of the Tooth Relic. It appears that the Tooth Relic, together with the Bowl Relic, was brought down from the Uttaramula -ayatana monastery of the Abhayagiri Vihara and installed in the Atadage shrine. This shrine, according to the Velaikkara inscription, was placed under the protection of the Velaikkara mercenaries who were in the service of the king
Sacred Tooth Relic in Sri Lanka
The Atadage was well known for the ritual known as the Netra-Mangallaya. The eye-balls of the Buddha image located in the ground floor shrine room were washed annually with unguents, as recorded in the inscription. The architectural plan of the Atadage, is significant mainly since the two-storied plan seems to have been the prototype followed in the later periods down to the present Dalada shrine at Kandy.
According to the text Sasanavamsa, king Vijayabahu I maintained friendly relations with his contemporary, king Anuruddha of Burma even to the extent of the latter requesting the Sri Lankan ruler to send him the sacred Tooth Relic. The wise king appeased the Burmese king’s desire by sending him a replica of the Relic, which is said to be greatly venerated by the Burmese.
The years following king Vijayabahu’s death appear to have been quite calamitous in the political field. The country came to be ruled under separate rulers who were weaklings. Consequently, many Buddhist shrines were destroyed. In this state of affairs, fearing the destruction of the sacred Tooth and the Bowl Relics, the monks secretly removed them to safer locations in the southern country, Rohana. With the accession of king Parakramabahu I in the year 1153 AD, the Sri Lankan political scene assumed a firm basis again. While rebuilding the country’s economy especially through vast agrarian schemes, he lost no time in bringing about a renaissance in the religious activities. Most of the existing religious edifices in Polonnaruwa remain mementos to his immeasurable service to the cause of Buddhism.
Parakramabahu I managed to secure the possession of the sacred Tooth Relic and the Bowl Relic and enshrined the sacred objects in a new edifice built in the centre of the city. He was also said to have the exposition of the Tooth Relic in a circular shrine built at the Jetavana monastery, which is possibly the ruined edifice in proximity to the Tivanka Patimaghara image house in the northern extremity of the ancient city.
The next great ruler to build a formidable Relic shrine for the accommodation of the sacred Tooth and Bowl Relics was Nissankamalla (1187-1196). As recorded in his inscriptions, he had the Relic Shrine Hatadage built and, having offered his son and daughter to the Relics, redeemed them with the completion of the shrine. This edifice lying almost adjoining the Atadage, represents a larger version of the Atadage.
By the beginning of the second quarter of the 13th century, the glory of Polonnaruwa waned, and with the invasion of Kalinga Magha, the capital was shifted to the south-western part of the country in the wet zone. Thus, began the Damabadeniya period, which saw the blossoming of an era of classical literary works.
By this time, the Tooth Relic and the Bowl Relic had again been taken away by the monks to a safer location in Kotmale in the central hills. Later, King Vijayabahu III was reported to have brought down the two Relics and enshrined them in a beautiful edifice built for the purpose on the hill top of Beligala. The king re-instituted the rituals connected with the Relics and handed over the custody of the Relics to his elder son, who succeeded to the throne under the name Parakramabahu II (1236-1270). Being an erudite scholar, he was well known for the compilation of classical literary texts, including the Kavusilumina.
Parakramabahu II brought down the Relics from Beligala in a procession with great veneration and placed them in a shrine built near the palace at the Damabadeniya rock According to the text Dalada Pujavaliya, Parakramabahu conducted the Relics to Srivardhanapura, the city of his birth, and held a great ritual worship. He was responsible for the building of the Tooth Relic shrine at the Vijayasundararama at Dambadeniya, where the Relic was deposited and festive rituals were conducted by the king.
The peaceful and prosperous time under Parakramabahu was disturbed by the invasion of Chandrabhanu of Java. However, the king was able to expel the enemy and bring back the country to a stable status again. It is recorded that during a severe drought, the sacred Tooth Relic was taken out of the shrine and a great procession held. He placed the Relic on the throne and having worshipped the Relic for seven days, offered the kingdom to the sacred Tooth Relic, which resulted in the termination of the drought. This incident indicates the esteem that the sacred Tooth Relic enjoyed as a symbol of kingship.
Even during the lifetime of Parakramabahu II, his son Vijayabahu as sub-king, renovated and enlarged the Relic shrine and conducted great ritual services. As the chronicle records, he restored the ruined religious edifices at Polonnaruwa, including the Tooth Relic shrine and having placed the Tooth Relic therein, conducted an abhiseka (coronation) ceremony.
Yapahuva (ancient Subha-pabbata) comes into prominence around this time with the appointment of his brother Bhuvanekabahu as the sub-ruler of this province. This location, simulating the well known Sigiriya rock fortress, found itself to be a very secure place for the Relics. However, Chadrabhanu of Java invaded the country for the second time and after defeating the local sub-ruler at Yapahuva, demanded the Tooth Relic from Vijayabahu of Dambadeniya. Yet, the Sri Lankan ruler was able to defeat him and bring peace to the island again.
Bhuvanekabahu built a shrine for the sacred Tooth Relic at Yapahuva with a grand stairway the ruins of which still portray the aesthetic achievement of the 14th century. As the chronicle records, he continued the tradition of paying homage to the sacred Tooth Relic daily.
Almost after his reign, Sri Lanka again faced severe droughts and also an invasion from the Pandyan country in South India, under the great warrior Arya Cakravarti. He devastated the country and plundered much wealth and treasure, including the Tooth and Bowl Relics, which he handed over to the Pandyan king Kulasekera. The next king, ‘Parakramabahu III’ visited the Pandyan capital and after friendly discussions, brought back the Relics and initiated the traditional rituals. It is interesting to note that even at this late age, the Polonnaruwa Tooth Relic shrine was in existence, for the king is said to have brought the sacred Relics from India to Polonnaruwa and enshrined them at the old Tooth Relic shrine at the ancient capital, which was abandoned by this time. According to Marco Polo, the well known traveller, the Chinese Emperor, Kublai Khan, sent a messenger to obtain the Tooth, Hair and Bowl Relics from the king. However, the king was able to please the Chinese Emperor by dispatching two fake teeth, which were graciously received by the Emperor who established ritual worship for the objects.
Bhuvanekabahu II (1293-1312) is reported to have brought the Tooth Relic from Polonnaruwa and placed it within a shrine built at his capital, Kurunegala.
Next ruler was Parakramabahu IV, during whose time, there was a religious revival. He reorganized the rituals connected with the sacred Tooth Relic in a systematic manner as recorded in the text Dalada Sirita. Yet another significant factor was the handing of the responsibility of the security and conduction of rituals in charge of the chief prelate of the Uttaramula monastery, an institution which originated from the Abhayagiri Vihara of Anuradhapura.
The next ruler of note connected with the story of the Tooth Relic was Bhuvanekabahu IV, who selected a new capital, Gampola, in the central hills. Yet, no mention is made of his bringing the Tooth Relic to this new city. It was possibly Vikramabahu III who had the Relic shifted to this hill capital and held a festival in honour of the sacred Tooth Relic. He is credited with the building of the shrine at Niyangampaya at Gampola, which comes closer to the 14th century Gadaladeniya temple in the decorative elements.
Thereafter, Bhuvanekabahu V (1372-1408) shifted the capital to Jayavwardanapura Kotte closer to Colombo. Although he did not bring the Tooth Relic to the capital, he is reported to have conducted many ritual performances for the Relic. It was his successor, Virabahu, who brought down the Tooth Relic to Jayavwardanapura Kotte from Gampola. China entered into Sri Lankan politics during his reign. The Chinese general, Chen Ho, invaded the island, captured the king and the family and took them before the Chinese emperor at the time, together with the Tooth Relic. However, conflicting and stronger reports conclude that the Chinese general did not take away the Relic and that he left the island after paying due homage and worship to the sacred Tooth Relic. This belief is corroborated by subsequent reports on the processions, festivals and rituals conducted by rulers like Parakramabahu VI, who was held in high esteem as the greatest ruler of the late medieval period. He is said to have built a three-storied shrine for the Tooth Relic, had four golden caskets enveloping the sacred Tooth Relic and promulgated several regulations in the service of the Tooth Relic.
The subsequent period, which saw the arrival of the first colonial power, the Portuguese, in 1505, brought about the deterioration of Buddhist activities. Further, the disturbances in the ruling power, missionary activities of the Colonial powers of the Portuguese and the Dutch and other calamitous situations resulted in the Tooth Relic being secretly carried away by the faithful monks to safer locations. Thus, the Relic was shifted to the next kingdom, Sitawaka ruled by Mayadunne. According to Dathadhatuvamsa, prior to the bringing of the Tooth Relic to Ratnapura, it was taken as far south as the Mulgirigala Vihara and then to the Ridivihara in the Kurunegala District. The Tooth Relic was finally hidden in a cairn located in the Delgamuva Vihara in Ratnapura, and it was from this temple that the Tooth Relic was brought to its final and present resting place in Kandy by Vimaladharmasuriya I (1592-1603).
Anuradhapura was first settled by Anuradha, a follower of Prince Vijaya the founder of the Sinhala race. Later, it was made the Capital by King Pandukabhaya at about 380 B.C.According to the Mahavamsa, the epic of Sinhala History, King Pandukabhaya’s city was a model of planning. Precincts were set aside for huntsmen, for scavengers and for heretics as well as for foreigners. There were hostels and hospitals, at least one Jain chapel, and cemeteries for high and low castes. A water supply was assured by the construction of tanks, artificial reservoirs, of which the one named after the king itself exists to this day under the altered name of Baswakkulam.
It was during the reign of King Devanampiya Tissa (250 – 210 B.C.) that the Arahat Mahinda, son of the great Buddhist Emperor Asoka, led a group of missionaries from North India to Sri Lanka. With his followers he settled in a hermitage of caves on the hill of Mihintale – the name which derives from Mahinda’s own.The new religion swept over the land in a wave. The King himself donated land for a great monastery in the very heart of the city which was also his own Royal Park – the beautiful Mahamegha Gardens.The Buddhist principality had had but a century to flourish when it was temporarily overthrown by an invader from the Chola Kingdom of South India. The religion, however, received no set-back
At this time far away on the southeast coast, was growing up the prince who was to become the paladin of Sinhala nationalism: Dutugamunu (161 – 137 B.C)
For his entire martial prowess, King Dushta Gamini must have been a man of singular sensibility. He built the MIRISAVETI DAGOBA and the mighty Brazen Palace, which was nine stories high and presented to the Mahasanga (order of monks). But, the RUWANVELI DAGOBA, his most magnificent creation, he did not live to see its completion.
Two more, at least, of the Anuradhapura Kings must be mentioned – if only because some of the greater monuments are indisputably attributable to them.
The earlier of these was Vattagamani Abhaya (Valagamba) (103 & 89-77 B.C.) in the first year of whose reign Chola invaders again appeared and drove him temporarily into hiding. For fourteen years, while five Tamil Kings occupied his throne, he wandered often sheltering in jungle caves. It is recorded that as in his plight as he passed an ancient Jain hermitage, an ascetic, Gin called and taunted him. “The great black lion is fleeing!” Throughout his exile the gibe rankled. Winning the Kingdom back at last, he razed Giri’s hermitage to the ground, and built the ABHAYAGIRI Monastery. The name is a wry cant on his own name and the tactless hermit’s as well as (meaning mountain of fearlessness) a disclaimer of his cowardice!
Next came the heretic king Mahasena (274 – 301 A.D) who built Sri Lanka’s largest Dagoba JETAWANARAMA (World Heritage Site), a much complicated irrigation system and 16 vast reservoirs (tank) like MINNERIYA, even today which irrigate thousands of acres of paddy land.
Anuradhapura was to continue for six hundred years longer as the national capital. But as the protecting wilderness round it diminished with prosperity and internecine struggles for the royal succession grew, it became more and more vulnerable to the pressures of South Indian expansion; and the city was finally abandoned and the Capital withdrawn to more secluded fastnesses.
But the monuments of its heyday survive, surrounded by such beauties as they become the past: the solemn umbrage of trees, the silence of cold stone, and the serenity of the sheltering sky.
Mon – Sat 8.00 – 18.00 Sunday CLOSED