The story of the Sacred Tooth Relic

Published : 9:18 am  July 31, 2017 | No comments so far |  | 


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By L.B. Senaratne

The world’s greatest pageant where animals and humans mingle without any untoward incidents is the Kandy Esala Perahera which paraded the streets this year on July 29, 2017 (Saturday) at the auspicious time of 6.58 pm with the rituals enacted within the inner shrine room or “ Wadiahiristanaye “   

The first night was more eventful especially for the infants, pregnant mothers and children below five years. They come to witness this wonderful pageant, on the very first night, which is the “Kumbal” Perahera.   

According to the Diyawadana Nilame Pradeep Nilanga Dela, around ninety elephants, including Tuskers are lined up for the event.
The Temple is associated with formal rites and rituals throughout the year and the climax, the Annual Perahera, which is combined with the beliefs and the mystique of the Sacred Tooth Relic. 

The story of the Sacred Relic enshrined within the Sri Dalada Maligawa is deeply entrenched in the system. The lives of the people are dominated by this singular Relic, which has made its way over the waves by the miraculous powers that it possess. There is a spiritual adventure behind this Sacred Relic. Why should such a mass of people come to witness this Perahera and also seek the blessings of the ritual enacted with the Perahera or procession of men and animals.   


The lives of the people are dominated by this singular Relic, which has made its way over the waves by the miraculous powers that it possess.

If one has to say the adventure of the Sacred Relic, then it has to be said. The story begins from ancient India, where the Buddha was born, to be exact in the Botanical Gardens of Lumbini, present Nepal .   

The Buddha, after his demise was cremated at Kusinara in the ‘sal’ flower garden of the Kings of Mallawa. There would have been a mass scale war if the distribution of the relics which fell out of the cremation pyre was not solved equitably, Budda’s four Sacred teeth, Sacred Jaw and the Sacred forehead remained in the ashes.   

The clan of Dambadiva Mallawa Kings arrived in Kusinara with their armed forces and demanded the relics. They were even ready to wage a war against any King who resisted of obtaining the Relics they needed.   

A Bramin known as Drona mediated among the Kings and brought about a settlement when the Kings who were present with their armed forces agreed in the settlement suggested by Bramin Drona. The Bramin Drona used a measurement that was prevalent at that time known as “Neeliya”. The kings agreed on this measurement and commenced the division.

During the process Bramin Drona took one of the Sacred Teeth and hid it in his turban as it is said that the mightiest of the mighty – God Sakara – from his heavenly seat of divine powers saw the greed of Bramin Drona and he in turn took away the Tooth Relic and enshrined the Sacred object in his heavenly paradise.   

An Arahat by the name “Bem” obtained a Sacred Relic also from the cremation pyre. He placed the Sacred Relic in the custody of King of Kalinga One to the cult of snakes and one to the city of Ghandara. To make matters short, King Gunaseeva from Kalinga (present day Orissa) eventually inherited the Sacred Tooth Relic which is now deposited in Kandy, which is acknowledged to be the Sacred Tooth Relic obtained by Arahat Bem.   

King Gunaseeva was under the suzerainity of King Pandu and having observed that King Gunaseeva was engaged in a heathen worship, tried to destroy the Sacred Relics by various means. Having been unsuccessful King Pandu gave away the relic to King Gunaseeva to worship the way he wishes.   

The Minister in charge of the daily devotions to the Sacred Tooth Relic was Prince Danta. King Gunaseeva gave his daughter Hemmali in marriage to Prince Danta. As time went on, he found that there was to be a war with other Princes and he knew that he would resist his aggression as many were involved. All this was to gain control of the Sacred Relic.  The first thing he did was to safeguard the Sacred Tooth Relic, he called his daughter and Son-in-law Danta and bade them to take away the relic to Sri Lanka, which he considered the only place safe for the Relic.  

King Gunaseeva first made a receptacle of pure Gold for the Sacred Tooth Relic which was in the shape of a “Corn- Cob”. The gold receptacle was studded with red rubies. The top of this receptacle was round in shape and when stuck on the hair knot of Princess Hemmali, it looks like another piece of jewellery.   

So disguised in this manner, Prince Danta and Princess Hemmali travelled to Sri Lanka during the reign of ninth year of King Megavanna. This was in 371 AD. The early history of the Relic is depicted in a classic “ Dalada Sirita “ by Devaraj – the Miniser of Religious Affairs during the reign of King Parakamabahu IV ( 1302-1346).   

In the chequered history of the relic, it had travelled right through the country, the one ambition by all who held it was that it should not fall into the hands of an enemy.   

The original Corn-Cob receptacle is still in the Sacred Temple of the Tooth in Kandy in the last casket of the seven caskets, where key of the casket is held by the Mahanayake of Asgiri, whoever comes to office. There is no change and the red rubies like the corn seeds are still intack seen by the writer during the custodianship of the former Diyawadana Nilame Neeranjan Wijeyratne.   



Ehelepola Nilame tried to imitate in one Perahera as the King, but the British made short rift of this adventure, fearing that people would be with him


The Sacred Tooth Relic was once taken out of the Sri Dalda Maligawa in 1828, with the assistance of the British Governor and after the famous rebellion the Sacred Relic never left the Sri Dalada Maligawa.   

The British cared for it and even placed an Army Guard over the Sri Dalda Malgiawa and the keys of the Maligawa were in the hands of the Government Agent, Sir John D’Olyly.   

In ancient days it was the Maha Sangha who paraded behind the Tusker when the Sacred Tooth Relic was taken in procession. There was no Diyawadana Nilame to go behind, while the King rode a white steed behind the Maha Sangha.   

Presently, the Kandy Esala Perahera carries the Golden Perahera Karanduwa on the Tusker – last Satruday night Indiraja carried the Golden Karanduwa (Gift of the Prime Minister of India at that time) Now the Sacred Relic is NOT taken in the 
Perahera any more.

Ehelepola Nilame tried to imitate in one Perahera as the King, but the British made short rift of this adventure, fearing that people would be with him.  

So this is a shortest story of the Sacred Tooth Relic and which is NOT being carried in the Kandy Esala Perahera any more.