Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, Kandy, Sri Lanka

Sri Dalada Maligawa

The Sacred Tooth Relic - the Palladium of the rulers

 Nilame bearing the Dalada
Pradeep Nilanga Dela, the Diyavadana Nilame bearing the Dalada

The Sacred Tooth Relic of the Sakyamuni Gotama Buddha was the palladium of the kings and queens who ruled not only the island of Lanka but those who ruled the kingdoms of the Jambudipa - the great subcontinent of India.

Referring to the distribution of Sacred Relics of the Buddha by Brahmana Drona, after the cremation. Professor P. V. Bapat states: "In addition to these Relics, there are others, the Tooth Relics, one of which is worshipped in heaven, another in Gandhara, and one each in Kalinga and the land of the Nagas respectively. The Daladavamsa composed about 310 AD speaks of the history of the Eye-tooth (damstra) Relic which was taken to Dantapura or Kalinga-Nagara the capital of Kalinga.

"The paribhoga-dhatu which served the Buddha and the saints are such objects as garments, bowls, sticks and trees. These were worshipped ally with the bone Relics and like the latter possessed miraculous powers. It is difficult to determine the period in which these holy remains began to be venerated but there is no doubt that the worshipping of relics was already fully established, both in the North and in the South, long before the beginning of medieval times." (2500 Years of Buddhism p. 279).

The story of the Sacred Tooth Relic of Dantapura in Kalinga stands as an eloquent testimony to the fact that the Sacred Tooth Relic has been the palladium of the rulers of both India and Sri Lanka.

"Except the left canine-tooth and small quantity of ashes, the remaining corporeal remains were distributed by Brahmin Drona among eight kings. The left canine tooth was sent to Brahmadatta the ruling king of Kalinga through Khema Thera. The king prepared a relic box with a view to enshrine it in a stupa for worship at Dantapuram. Guhasiva propably the successor who basically was an ardent Jaina, knowing the importance of the relic, converted himself to Buddhism and began to worship the relic. After sometime, the king of Jambudveepadhipati Pandu sent his subordinate Chittayana to Kalinga, with a specific instruction to bring Guhasiva along with the relic to Pataliputta.

Accordingly, Guhasiva carried the relic of Lord Buddha. Jambudveepadhipati Pandu requested Guhasiva to keep the relic for some more time in his kingdom. Meanwhile the importance of the relic spread to all corners of the territory. Knowing the fact, KheeradharaNarendra invaded Pataliputra with a view to acquire the Relic. The battle was won by Jambudveepadhipati. He thought that he had won the battle only with the blessings of Lord Buddha. Hence as a token of gratitude, Jambudveepadhipati Pandu allowed Guhasiva to take the Relic of the Master to Kalinga for regular worship.

When the news of the Sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha is in the possession of King Guhasiva, Dantakumara, the King of Ujjair visited Kalinga to pay homage to the Sacred Tooth Relic. King Guhasiva found Dantakumara to be a devout Buddhist and a disciplined ruler as well. He gave him his daughter Hemamala in marriage." (Buddhist Relic Caskets in Andhra Pradesh - B. Subramaniam pg. 26 and 27).

Sometime later there was an invasion of Kalinga by the sons and relatives of Kheeradhara Narendra. King Guhasiva in order to protect the Sacred Tooth Relic asked his daughter Hemamala and son-in-law Dantakumara to carry the sacred object and hand over to King Mahasen of Lanka for safety.

King Guhasiva lost the battle and ultimately lost his life too.Hemamala and Dantakumara had to face quite a number of problems including shipwreck. When they arrived in Lanka, thethe reigning monarch was King Kit-Siri Mevan (Kirti Sri Meghavarna) (303-331 A.C.E. (after the common era).

The royal delegates were welcomed in the Court by King Kit Siri Mevan in a dignified manner. King Kitsiri Mevan accepted the Sacred Tooth Relic with full honours and offerings. A special building was put up adjoining the King's Palace for the Sacred Tooth Relic and was called the Danta Dhatu Mandiraya.

Ever since, every succeeding ruler-King or Queen bestowed all honours and offered the island nation to the Buddha once again so that entire countrymen would pay homage and respect to the Sacred Tooth Relic.

The Sacred Tooth Relic had to be taken by pious rulers, the Maha Sangha, the custodians of the Sasana and devout laity from place to place to protect the Sacred Tooth Relic from invaders, and foreign enemies.

So much so, everytime, the capital of the country had to be shifted from Anuradhapura to Polonnaruwa, Dambadeniya, Yapahuwa,Kotte and finally Mahanuvara the last capital of the Sinhala kings.

In every capital, the King constructed a special building to house the Sacred Tooth Relic. The royalty daily performed puja and had tevava held daily in the morning and in the evening. In Mahanuvara, King Vimala Dharma Suriya I built the Dalada Mandiraya. The other rulers who ruled the country from Mahanuvara continued to pay homage to the Sacred Tooth Relic.

Processions conducted every year accompanied with all pomp and pageantry. With the prevailing rajakariya system, cultural activity began to grow with increasing rapidity. The traditional "Kandyan dancer and drummer" emerged and they performed tevava, drumming and dancing as an offering - a puja - to the Sacred Tooth Relic.

In turn, the king gave those who engaged in the performance of those duties, villages so that they would be self-sufficient and need to seek no other occupation for their sustenance. Their malechildren learnt the arts and crafts from their fathers and continued the puja to the Danta Dhatu as their family tradition.

The last King of Mahanuvara - a Vadiga from Vellore in Tamil Nadu in South India - being a non-Sinhala and non-Buddhist - in order to be part and parcel of the Buddhist Lanka continued the tradition of his predecessors - the rulers of the country.

He caused the construction of the Pattirippuva which stands today as a symbol of the Dalada Mandiraya along with many other monuments to the Dalada Mandiraya building complex.

The foreigner from Vellore whose name was Kannasamy, changed his name to Sri Vikrama Rajasingha and followed the noble example of devout Jain follower Guhasiva who embraced Buddhism and took charge of the custody of the Sacred Tooth Relic and ruled as the King of Kelaniya.

King Sri Vikrama Rajasinghe goes into history as one of the Tamil-Hindu of South India to rule Sri Lanka following traditional Buddhist rites and rituals and providing the Buddhists facilities to worship the Sacred Tooth Relicwith ease.

Among the great centres of Buddhism like Buddha Gaya, Saranath, Lumbini, Kusinara, the Jaya Siri Maha Bodhi in Anuradhapura, the Shwedagin Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar, the Sacred Tooth Relic Temple - the Dalada Mandiraya in Mahanuvara continue to attract the highest number of worshippers from within Sri Lanka and from the world outside. No sane person in the world has ever thought of doing any harm to the Sacred Tooth Relic Temple.

The magnanimity of the Buddhist people was witnessed even when insane elements attempted to harm the most sacred object of the Buddhist world on that black January 31.

To the eternal glory of the Buddhists, during the last 2600 years of Buddhism, the Buddhists have never fought any war in the name of the Buddha dhamma nor to the place of Nativity of the Buddha, for the sublime message of the Buddha - the Great Teacher of peace and harmony. His message - which passed through the Sacred Tooth which people worship in Mahanuvara - is wholesome in the beginning, wholesome in the middle and wholesome in the end.

Daily News - 23 July 2002