Rituals and Ceremonies on Sacred Tooth Relic

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The sacred tooth relic of Gauthama Buddha preserved in Kalinga, India and was brought to Sri Lanka in the 4th century A.D. It was received by the then King Kirthi Sri Meghavanna who was ruling the country at that time in Anuradhapura. Since then tooth relic became the most venerated object and a symbol of status denoting the right to ascend the throne. With the tooth relic came to be regarded as a symbolic representation of the living Buddha, there grew up a series of offerings, rituals, and ceremonies under the patronage of kings. The aim of present study is to look into the offerings, rituals, and ceremonies conducted for the sake of sacred tooth relic. This examination is based on the primary and secondary literary sources. In addition to daily rites and rituals, the Tooth Relic is revered by way of various ritualistic ceremonies throughout the year. According to the sources tooth relic demonstrations were one of the main rituals conducted since the ancient times.

Among many festivals, the Esala Perahera is one of the important festival held in July to commemorate Lord Buddha’s Conception, Renunciation, and First Sermon. This celebration is part of the social tradition of Sri Lanka. In the ancient times these festivals were patronage by kings. At present it is the responsibility of the government. At present these rites and rituals have become national ceremonies of the country. Keywords: Buddhism, rites and rituals, Tooth relic, Sri Lanka


Vast majority of Sri Lankans are Buddhist. The Buddhism came to be established in the island of Sri Lanka in the 3rd century B. C. As a result of the 3rd Buddhist Council the Great King Asoka in India sent missionaries to nine states to propagate the Buddhism. Sri Lanka was one among these nine states and the mission was headed by Mahinda thero, the son of King Asoka. Since then Buddhism became the foremost religion of Sri Lankans. The sacred tooth Relic of Gautama Buddha preserved in Kalinga, India and was brought to Sri Lanka in the 4th century A.D. by Prince Danta and Princess Hemamala, son and daughter of the Kalinga King Guhasiva in order to prevent its possession by his enemies who made war. It was received by the then King Sirimeghavanna who was ruling the country at that time in Anuradhapura. Since then Tooth Relic became the most venerated object and a symbol of status denoting the right to ascend the throne. Later kings in the kingdoms of Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Dambadeniya, Yapahuwa, Kurunegala and Kotte etc. built temples for the sacred Tooth Relic close to the royal residences. Currently it has been placed in Temple of the Tooth Relic (Dalada Maligawa) which was built by King Veera Parakrama Narendra Singha (1707-1739) in the early 1700s in sacred city of Kandy (Mahanuwara). At present not only Buddhist but also non-Buddhist as well as foreigners are coming to see and worship the Tooth Relic.

With the tooth relic came to be regarded as a symbolic representation of the living Buddha, there grew up a series of offerings, rituals, and ceremonies under the patronage of kings of the country. The aim of present study is to look into the offerings, rituals, and ceremonies conducted for the sake of sacred tooth relic. This examination is based on the primary and secondary literary sources.

Royal patronage to the Sacred Tooth Relic

The left eye-tooth of the Buddha which was brought to Sri Lanka in the ninth years of Siri megavanna was the most important and precious of all Buddhist relics ever brought to Sri Lanka ( Rahula Thero,1956: 280). The king received Sacred Tooth Relic with reverence, paid it the highest honours and brought it to the building called Dhammachakka built by Devananpiyatissa on the royal territory. Henceforth this building was the Temple of the Tooth Relic (Culavamsa,XXXVII: 94-96). The king arranged a great festival for the Sacred Tooth Relic and he decreed that it should be brought every year to the Abbayauttara Vihara and that the same sacrificial ceremonial should be observed (Culavamsa,XXXVII: 97-98). King Datusena (455-473) had renovated the Tooth Relic Temple (Culavamsa,XXXVIII: 70-72).

King Aggabodi I(571-604) decorated the Temple of the Tooth Relic with gold and offered it a casket made of pure gold(Culavamsa., XLI:33,34). Many other kings such as Sena II (835-887), Sena IV (954-956) and Mahinda IV (956-972) had paid homage to Sacred Tooth Relic (Culavamsa, LI:22,23 ; LIV: 5, 56,57).

With the defeat of the Anuradhapura kingdom, Polonnaruwa became the next kingdom, which reined the country. King Vijiyabahu I brought the Sacred Tooth Relic to Polonnaruwa and erected a Dalada Maligawa to place it and paid homage to it by performing many religious rites ((Culavamsa, LX:16,17). It is this building which is known today popularity as ‘Atadage’.This king in order to protect the Sacred Tooth Relic , developed the best fighting unit that lived in Sri Lanka known as “weelaikkara’ fighting squad( EZ., vol:,II 242-255).

After the demise of king Vijayabahu I there was a state of political confusion in the country. This was brought under control by the next king Parakkarmabahu I, who, according to Culavamsa, build three Dalada Mandira (Culavamsa, LXXIII: 129,130; LXXIV:199;LXXVIII:42). One of these Mandiras was built in the heart of the town. It was in this particular Mandira the Sacred Tooth Relic was kept (Culavamsa, LXXIV:199). And the Culavamsa records, how he paid great homage to it, by way of many ceremonial rituals (Culavamsa, LXXIV: 200-228).

King Nissankamalla of Polonnaruwa who took reigns as the nest ruler, conducted a Mandira in just 60 hours and shifted the Tooth Relic to that building. This mandira became famous as ‘Hata-dage’.The king had made a sacrificial offerings of his son, prince Weerabahu and his daughter princess Sarwangasundri in homage to the Temple of the Tooth Relic( EZ., vol. II, 87, 170).During the Polonnaruwa Era, the Shrine of the Tooth Relic became the emblem of the ruling king. And many rulers have paid homage to the Tooth Relic with much veneration during the same period.

In 1215 A.D. Magha of kalinga state of India invaded Sri Lanka. This invasion caused a very fearful backdrop to the people of our country. Magha destroyed all places of Buddhist worship (Culavamsa, LXXX: 54-79). In order to safeguard the Tooth Relic from him, venerable monks of the Vachissara order, voluntarily came forward and removed it to an undisclosed location in Kotmale (Culavamsa, LXXXI: 17-20).King Vijayabahu who started reigning from Dambadeniya in 1232 A.D. removed the Tooth Relic from Kotmale to Dambadeniya (Culavamsa, LXXXI: 24-30). But the king did not keep the Sacred Tooth Relic in Dambadeniya and put it in Beligala.

Culavamsa describes the erection of a temple to place the Tooth Relic, also as a place of refuge for the Monks, who order the performing religious rituals on top of the Beligala Mountains ( Culavamsa, LXXXI:31-39). After the demise of king Vijayabahu III, king Parakkamabahu II became the king of Dambadeniya. He brought the Tooth Relic in a procession to Dambadeniya (Culavamsa, LXXXII: 1-8). After that he built a temple for the Tooth Relic near to the palace (Culavamsa, LXXXII: 8-9). A casket made of jewels was made to place the Sacred Tooth Relic, which was then lowered into another casket made of gold, the value of five thousand gold Nikkhas and this was kept in another casket made of Silver of twenty five thousand nikkhas( Culavamsa, LXXXII; 13-15). The king starting with the relic temple, had adorned the town, and had devoutly celebrated a great sacrificial ceremony for the Tooth Relic, he took the Tooth in the lotus of his hand and spake in the midst of the Great community the solemn declaration(Culavamsa, LXXXI: 16-49).

The responsibility and the task of the king is to defeat the enemy and gain victory over them and protect the country and Buddhism (Culavamsa, LXXXII: 40). The Culavamsa records of a great phenomenon that took place in the meantime. Soon after this incident the king paid homage to the Tooth Relic, adorning it with very precious jewels and seven days long he celebrated with the offering of the seven kinds of precious articles (Culavamsa, LXXXII: 50- 53). It is recorded that the king had opened the doors for the public to worship the sacred Tooth Relic in the Sirivaddanapura, his birth place. In order to take the Tooth Relic in procession, the king ordered the road between the City of Dambadeniya and Sirivaddanapura, re-constructed and both sides of road decorated. And the procession was escorted with performances of dancing and music. During the seven days the sacred Tooth Relic was exhibited in Sirivaddanapura, many religious observances had been held (Culavamsa, LXXXV: 1-56).

When the ceremonial activities were over, Sacred Tooth Relic was taken back and placed in the newly built three storied building in Dambadeniya. There also it was kept to be exhibited by the public and special religious observances were performed, in the sacred area (Culavamsa, LXXXV: 90-93).

Thereafter king Parakramabahu II who was still ruling, took the Sacred Tooth Relic to Polonnaruwa, where it was displayed for a period of the three months. Culavamsa beautifully explains the many religious rituals had been conducted whilst enroute to Polonnaruwa from that Dambadeniya in a sacred procession, (Culavamsa, LXXXIX: 12-46). The description brings to live the actual experiences, through it took place centuries ago.

After the Damdeniya, Yapahuwa become the Capital and the Sacred Tooth Relic was taken in procession there, by the king Bhuvanekabahu I, ruling during that time. The present archaeological ruins belonging to the era, shows the building in which the Tooth Relic was kept had been a magnificent building. The king celebrated daily a great sacrifice for Tooth Relic, where it remained for eleven long years. With the demise of king Bhuvanekabahu I the country faced a very critical period. During this period there landed, sent with an army by the five brothers, the kings who held sway in the Pandu realm, a Damial general known by the name of Ariyacakkavatti who invaded Sri Lanka removed the Tooth Relic by force and kept it in the custody of the king of Pandya,Kulasekhara(Culavamsa, LXXXIX: 43-47).

King Parakkamabahu III, who took it back from king Kulasekhara and brought the Tooth Relic back to Sri Lanka and bring to Polonnaruwa, to be placed in the same Tooth Relic Temple where it was once kept(Culavamsa, LXXXIX: 51-56). The king performed a daily ritual in the form a sacred festival in memory of the Sacred Tooth Relic, placed there in and accumulated a great abundance of meritorious works, through his untiring efforts on it’s behalf(Culavamsa, LXXXIX: 57).

After king Parakkamabahu III, king Bhuvanekabahu II (1293-1302) ruled the country, he chose Kurunegala as the kingdom (Culavamsa, LXXXIX: 59, 60). He had also brought the Tooth Relic to the Kurunegala (Vajira Thero, 2008: 370). After him king Parakkamabahu IV (1302-1326) came into power. He erected a beautiful Temple within the royal courtyard itself to keep the Sacred Tooth Relic. It was built with specific instructions. It was a three storied building and its walls and pillars were painted in white, under his instructions. Paintings were done on the walls with bright hued pictures. Provided with golden spires, with gate posts of gold, splendid, three stories high (Culavamsa, LXXXIX: 64-68). The king composed in Sinhala language a work expounding this, with the title “Ceremonial of the Tooth Relic” and in keeping with it he performed daily a daily ceremony for the Relic(Culavamsa, LXXXIX: 77-79). The work that was inaugurated in memory of Kurunegala’s palace of the Tooth Relic, not only brought out in vivid detail the structural workings of it, but also made it possible to recognize the customs and rules connected with the Tooth Relic (Dalada Sirita,2008 ).

From Kurunegala when the Kingdom shifted to Gampola, the Sacred Tooth Relic was also moved there. There were many kinds of sacrifices and rituals that had been performed on it, during the period (Vajira Thero, 2008; 316,317). From Gampola, when the kingdom was shifted to Kotte, again the Tooth Relic had to be carried there, The king of Kotte, king Parakkaramabahu VI (1412-1467) had built a three storied building to keep the Tooth Relic (Hansa Sandesaya, 46; Paravi Sandesaya,42, 43; Kokila Sandesaya,135; gira Sandesaya, 50; Salalihini Sandesaya,17).The Tooth Relic remained in the Kotte Temple premises until 1551 A.D.. In the year 1505 A.D. the Portugese invaded Ceylon and captured Kotte and became very vital that the Tooth Relic had to be somehow or other protected. The Diyawadana Nilame of the Kotte, Temple of the Tooth Relic, secretly smuggled the Tooth Relic and taking it to the Delgamuwa Temple, hit inside the grinding stone.

In the year 1590 A.D. the Portugeses were defeated and chased out of the Kandyan kingdom(Hill country) by king Wimaladharmasuriya I and removed the Tooth Relic which had hitherto been deposited at the Delgamuva temple and house it in an attractive two storied building which had been erected very close to his palace (Culavamsa, XCIV:12-14; Vajira Thero, 2008:474). During the latter part of the reign of his reign this two storied Temple had been converted to a three storied Temple (Daladavamsa, 1957:78; Vajira Thero, 2008:382).

With the dearth of kind Wimaladharmasuriya I and with the invasion of Portuguese, the Sacred Tooth Relic had to be concealed in a safe place. So, the Sinhalese Buddhists had to move one place to another protecting it from the Europeans invasions (Kusumsiri, 2012:20). Until Kandyan kingdom came under the British power, kings who ruled the country performed many religious ceremonies, while at the same time guarding and safely keeping Tooth Relic in the assigned place for it. During the reign of king Rajasingha II (1635-1687) a new two storied building for the Tooth Relic had been erected at the location where the previous building stood (Daladavamsa, 1959: 80). Again during the reign of king Wimaladharmasuriya II (1687-1707) some renovations had been effected and a new three storied building had also been erected (Daladavamsa, 1959: 81). King Sri Viraparakkrama Narenasingha (1707-1739) renovated this building and made it two storied (Culavamsa, XCVII:38). Kumburugamuwe Vajira has pointed out that the present Temple was erected by this king (Vajira Thero, 2008:384). King Sri Vijayarajasingha (1739-1747) renovated the Temple beautifully and performed religious ceremonies to honour it. King Kirti Sri Rajasingha (1747-1779) made arrangements for the Perehara carrying the Tooth Relic to join the Masala perahara of the four Devales. King Rajadi Rajasingha (1779-1797)also paid homage to the Tooth Relic, as the former kings. The last Sihala king, king Sri Wikrama Rajasingha (1779-1814) added a new feature to the Temple of the Tooth Relic known as the pavilion ((Vajira Thero, 2008: 383, 384).

The British conquered Sri Lanka by conquering the Kandiyan Kingdom on the 2nd of March 1815. At the same time the owner ship of the Tooth Relic to the Sinhala-Buddhists lost its grip.

Rituals and Ceremonies

Continuing the age old traditions, the Tooth Relic is revered by way of various ritualistic ceremonies throughout the year. In addition to daily rites and rituals, there could be seen ceremonies conducted to venerate tooth relic. According to the sources tooth relic demonstrations were one of the main rituals conducted since the ancient times.

Fa-Hien, the Chinese Buddhist traveller has mentioned about such demonstrations held in Anuradhapura period (Beal, 1957: 46-49). In these demonstrations, the general mass were able to see and worship the tooth relic. Sometimes these exhibitions were functioned expecting rain in the severe drought seasons.

Among many festivals, the Esala Perahera is one of the important festivals held in July to commemorate Lord Buddha’s Conception, Renunciation, and First Sermon. This celebration is part of the social tradition of Sri Lanka. It is a colorful procession which includes number of elements such as elephants, Kandyan dancers, fire eaters, stilt walkers, etc.

In the ancient times these festivals were patronage by kings. At present it is the responsibility of the government and these are conducted under the supervision of the two Mahanayaka thero of Malwatte, Asgiriya chapters, and Diyawadana Nilame of the Maligawa. At present all these rites and rituals etc. have become national ceremonies of the country.

Daily Rituals

From ancient times offerings and rituals had been held daily, to the Sacred Tooth Relic (Dalada Sirita, 2008; Datuvamsa, 1957; Culavamsa, 1992; EZ., vol. III: 225). The daily rituals are held thrice a day. During the period of King Parakkaramabahu II, in order to carry out these rituals, a sacred shrine was built close to the palace. The Culavamsa recorded it, ‘I have the desire at every moment when I think of it to worship the Tooth Relic with devotion at the three periods of the day’ (Culavamsa, LXXXII: 8, 9).

Even today these three rituals are performed on a daily basis. They are separated as, Early Morning Service, Mid-Day Service and Evening Service. The Temple officials in charge of the rituals carry the sacred items necessary as the normal custom practiced and do it punctually. For the Early morning services which begin at 5.15 a.m., drums are beaten. The Buddha Pooja begins at 6.00 a.m.To carry out this Pooja, 32 bushels of rice cooked, 32 different kinds of vegetables and curries and sweet meats are prepared.

For the mid-day Service, the doors of the Palace are opened at 9.30 a.m. The Pooja begins at 10 a.m. The meals are offered at 10.30 a.m. By 11.00 a.m. all the rituals come to an end and the doors are closed. The evening Pooja begins with playing of drums at 6.15 p.m. The first alms giving Pooja starts at 7 p.m. and the Second at 7.30 p.m. After that the devotees can worship the Tooth Relic. The doors are closed, according to a practiced custom.

Weekly Rituals

There are two rituals which performed once a week namely Nanumura Mangalla (bathing or anointing ceremony) and Hatara Poya (four ceremonies connected with the phase of the moon).

Nanumura Mangalla

Nanumura Mangalla is a traditional ceremony which performs to venerate the Seared Tooth Relic. The aim of this ritual is to be to maintain the hollyness of the Seared Tooth Relic. This ritual performs in Wednesdays with almost purity with the participation of monks in service and the officials.

The mixture known as Nanu, a preparation made out of Nelli, lime and Embul leaf etc. which, placed in vessel containing Sandal wood is carried to the upper chamber in a pingo (kada) with a procession with drummers, conch blowers etc. This mixture used to anointing the Seared Tooth Relic. The anointing of the Seared Tooth Relic Ceremony is not done directly but through the image reflected by a mirror placed in front of the casket contains the Seared Tooth Relic. This anointing is done by the chief monk with almost purity.

Hatara Poya

Poya days are the sacred days for the Buddhists of Sri Lanka. The 1st, 8th, 15th and 23rd days of the lunar months are recognized as poya days. According to the traditional, Poya hewisi is held by the chief of drummers of the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic.

Annual Festivals

Apart from these daily, weekly and monthly ceremonies, there are four major ceremonies held every year. They are Aluth Sahal Mangailaya (The Ceremony of the first offering of New Rice after harvest), Avurudu Mangallaya (New Year Festival), Esala Mangalla (pageant in the month of Masala) and Karthika Mangallaya (Feast of Light in November).

Aluth Sahal Mangailaya

King Sri Veraparakkama Narendrasingha prepared the crop, when the harvest from the paddy field in his resident area Gurudeniya, was ready and initiated a new festival known as the New Harvest Festival. The day before this festival is to be celebrated, the official of the Dalada Maligawa and the other Devales, proceed with elephants and tuskers, in procession to the barn in the Gurudeniya Devale, where the rice is kept prepared as the custom. There the milk rice prepared from new crop of rice and other refreshment are to those officials representing the Maligawa Shrine and other Devales. And the newly harvested rice is put into gunny bags and brought in the procession with elephant to the Natha Devale in Kandy.The surrounding Temples and Devales send pingos (kada) to the Natha Devale, where later, paddy and rice is distributed as per a given list. With the rice offered to the Kiribada Rice Bowl, milk rice is prepared and the bowl is filled with it. This is supposed to be an offering made by the king in honor of Lord Buddha and the other venerable monks. The New Harvest Festival is commemorated by the king, as a mark of respect for the sacrifices made to all the other places in Sri Lanka. The New Harvest Festival is treated as an annual offering of alms by the king’s place, according to the findings of its history.

New Year Festival

The official who forecasts the auspicious times of the king’s palace is appointed to carry out his duties in the Dalada Maligawa also. His duty is to find the auspicious times to hold the annual festivals of the four devales and attend to all other matters in connection with those, according to other auspicious times. In other words he is known as the ‘Auspicious Time Keeper’of the Dalada Maligawa. The auspicious time to start the Buddha Pooja on the New Year Day is a task delegated to this Mohottala. Even on the Sinhala New Year Day the Buddha Pooja are conducted, according to the time selected by him. The Dalada Maligawa is decorated on behalf of the Sinhala New Year according to the traditional custom.

Karthika Festival

Karthika Festival is dedicated to the lighting of oil lamps. On this festival representatives from ancient temples gather at the Natha Devale. According to a list prepared by the Natha Devale, those officials gathered are given a ‘pint’ of oil each. This oil is supplied to the Natha Devale by Dalada Maligawa. Those who received this oil, are to hold take it in a Perehare procession to their respective Devales, and light oil lamp as an offering to the king. On the day of the festival the Dalada Maligawa, New Vihara in Asgirya and the other Viharas participating in the Karthika Festival have to decorate their respective Temples. On that particular day a Perahara procession, carrying the casket of the Sacred Tooth Relic proceed through the streets. The main feature of this festival, compared to other festival is holding of the Perahara.

Asala Perahera

Asala perahera is one of the greatest pageants with great socio-cultural value, held annually in July and August in honor of the Sacred Tooth Relic. It is most popular not only among Buddhist but also non-Buddhist and among the foreign tourists.

There are different views over the origination and aim of Masala festival. As Senevirathna (2004:131) pointed out, the Asala perahera originated in India and continued throughout in Sri Lanka in the month of Asala. Another view is that it commemorate the victory of the Suras (Gods) over the Asuras Demons (Senevirathna, 2004:131). According to Aluwihare it commemorates the victory of King Vankanasika Tissa over the King of Chola (in India) invaded Ceylon. While the Perahera referred to in the Mahawamsa was a purely religious one, at present, it is performing to commemorate various events. Among these one of the main purposes is that to assure timely rain. As seneviratna (2004: 130) mentioned the Asala festival is held annually to propitiate the Gods in order to assure timely rains for cultivation and this suggests that it is an integral part of the complex fertility cult prevent among the peasants. As sources revealed the Tooth Relic were honored organizing colorful pageants annually by Sri Lankans since the Anuradhapura period. The king Kirthisiri Meghawanna, the ruler of the country at time the Sacred Tooth Relic was brought has decreed that the Relic should be taken round the city of Anuradhapura once a year in spring. The kings followed him also have continued this decree. Fa Hien, the famous Chinese traveler in his book describing his travels in India and Ceylon in the 5th century A.D. has described about these festivals (Aluwihare, www.lankalibrary.com/heritage/esala.htm). Robert Knox, the most famous foreign prisoner in Sri Lanka has portrayed his experience over this festival which was held in the reign of king Rajasinha II (1629-1687 A.D.) in his book on ‘A Historical Relation of Ceylon’ (1948: 138-140). According to the narration of Knox in the earlier times the king himself participated in the procession. However, the festivals on Sacred Tooth Relic were amalgamated with Asala perahera only in the time of Mahanuwara kingdom. The Dalada perahera (Procession of the Temple of the Scared Tooth Relic) commenced in 1753 A. D., under the reign of Keerthi Sri Rajasingha was a main element of the Asala perahera (Vajira 436; Mv., XCVII: 42-65). This perahera was confined initially to four Devala perahera dedicated to four Gods namely Natha, Vishnu, Skanda and Pattini. However, with the amalgamated Dalada perahera with four Devela perahers, the whole pagent became more Buddhistic (Seneviratna, 2004: 141). As sources reveal, since the reign of Keerthisri Rajasinha, Asala perahera has continued for the honor of Sacred Tooth Relic. This festival has continued after fell the Kandyan kingdom into the hands of the British in the year 1815. According to the writings of John Davy (1969: 128-130), high official in the temples (would be mahanayakas) and the government have participated the perahera. It was held twice a day in the afternoon and night. For the first time Dalada perahera amalgamated into Devala peraheras, thereby giving the whole pageant a Buddhist appearance. Moreover the king has participated in the procession actively during the five days which held the procession.

From 1818 to 1828, the perahera has not held due to the rebellion of Sinhalese against the British administration which is known as Uvaowellasa uprising. It was interrupted again by the Sinhala-Muslim riot in 1915 and started again only in 1919. Since then the festival and perahera continued throughout. Under the British rule since 1815 the custody of Tooth Relic was handed over to Buddhist Clergies in Malwatta and Asgiri chapters of Siyam Maha Nikaya. In order to handle administrative matters a lay custodian known as Diyawadana Nilame was appointed.

At present, the Asala perahera festival is celebrated the Buddha and to Gods namely Natha, Vishnu, Kataragama and Goddesses Pattini who with their divine to beseech blessings of the gods to obtain rain for the cultivation of crops and to enrich the lands of the kingdom. The festival started off by the ritual known as ‘Kap situweema’. In this ritual the sanctified young jackfruit tree is cut into four pieces and planted in the premises of the four Devales dedicated to above Gods. This ritual begins in the auspicious time given by the Astrologer of the temple known as the Nekat Mohottala. Within the next five nights the Devala Preraheras take place within the premises of the four Devales with a large procession including Nilames of four Devales and dances, drummers etc. On the sixth night, the Kumbal Perahera begins.

Firstly, Devala Peraheras congregate in front of the Dalada Maligawa (the Temple of Tooth Relic) accompanied by the Basnayake Nilames (the lay custodians of the Devales). Next, Dalada perahera accompanied by the Maligawa Elephant with Ransivigeya which affixed on it with the Relic casket join the awaiting Devala perahera and leads the procession. Whip-crackers and fireball acrobats clear the path, followed by the Buddhist flag bearers. This is followed by the official in the Dalada Maligawa known as Peramune Rala and Kandyan Drummers and Dancers, elephants, groups of musicians, dancers and flag bearers. A group of singers dressed in white heralds the arrival of the Maligawa Tusker carrying the Secred Tooth Relic. The Diyawadana Nilame walks in traditional Kandyan-clothed splendor after the tusker. Other four processions begin from Natha Devala, Vishnu Devala, Kataragama Devala and Pttini Devala respectively. Pattini Devala procession is the only procession that has women dances.

After the five nights of the Kumabal Perahera, Randoli Perahera begins. This Perahera held with the participation of thousands of peoples. After the Randoli perehara which take place over five nights, the pageant concludes with the Diya Kepeema, which is the water cutting ceremony at the place known as Gatambe at the Mahaweli River.

Rituals associated with Drought

Since the begging of the civilization of the Sinhala people, their main occupation has been agriculture. Therefore the water became a necessity. The nation expected rains, especially during the period of cultivation. Since 3rd century B.C. during which period Buddhism was introduced to the Island, the majority of the Sinhala people embraced Buddhism. There after the cultural background of Sri Lanka became under the banner of Buddhism. When the tooth Relic came into the possession of the people of Sri Lanka, they also became accustomed to invoke it’s blessings to get rain. Now it became a belief, that in order to get rains during a particular season, the blessings of the Sacred Tooth Relic, plays a major role. Therefore the objective of holding the annual Sacred Tooth Relic turned out, to get rain. A very good example of this took place during the time king Parakkaramabahu I ruled the country. No sooner the Dalada Perahara was held and immediately after it, there came down rains (Culavamsa, LXXIV: 232-248).

And whenever there was a severe drought in the Island, the king and the people both made it a habit to invoke blessings by holding of poojas, in the Dalada Maligawa, where the Sacred Tooth Relic also was displayed at the same time to the public.

Whenever the country faced a critical period due to the lack of rains and faced drought, in order to get down rain, the Dalada Perahara procession and the displaying of the Tooth Relic should be repeated as conducted annually. This is conducted in accordance with the “Enactment” embodied in the Dalada Pirith Statutory. The “Enactment” is as follows;

‘The invoking of blessings should be carried out every year and whenever there are no rains, the Dalada pooja should be carried out’ (Dalada Sirita, 2008:79). According to the Culavamsa, a great calamity took place during the reign of Parakkamabahu II

“Through the influence of evil planets a great heat arose in lanka by which everything was burnt up, when the corn withered and a famine was inevitable and the host of the people was filled with great anxiety, the king ordered a splendid festival in Dambadeniya. He gathered the monks and having caused them to chant pirith and bear the sacred Tooth Relic around the town in fitting manner with the firm resolve “the heaven shall rain”. Thereupon great clouds gathered on every side flashing with lightning and again and again thundering so that it was a bliss for the ears of the people and it began to rain, destroying the glowing heat, driving away famine, beautifying the country and reviving the corn”(Culavamsa, LXXXVII:1-9). In this manner, by the invoking of blessings of the Sacred Tooth Relic, the people of Sri Lanka were able to get relief from their distress.

Temple of the Tooth Relic in Kandy

Presently the Tooth Relic is placed in the Kandy Temple of the Tooth Relic. It is placed in a special shrine known as the ‘seat of the shrine of the Tooth Relic’. Only the Bukkus who are detailed to attend to the Shrine and other officials performing various duties have permission of access to the enclosure.

The Tooth Relic is placed inside seven caskets. The outer casket had been presented by Burma. It has no lock for it. The second casket has a padlock, the key of which is kept under the custody of the Diyawadana Nilame of the Dalada Maligawa. The key for the third casket is kept under the custody of the Malwathu Maha Nayake Thero. The fourth is kept under the custody of the chief Incumbent of the Asgiri Viharaya. Inside the seventh casket is kept the Sacred Tooth Relic, in the similar manner the Sacred Chaitya is embedded.

When the public is allowed to pay homage to it, the Tooth Relic is transferred from the casket to a transparent casket made of Glass. The Sacred object is placed on a golden lotus with covered on golden thread and keeps in the centre of the glass casket.


The Sacred Tooth Relic is one of the most important sacred objects among Sri Lankan Buddhists. From 4th century A.D. various rites have been performed to protect and venerate the Sacred Tooth Relic under royal patronage. Almost every Buddhists community have been worship Sacred Tooth Relic fulfill their various aims. Through the participation of thousands of Sri Lankan Buddhists in daily and annual rites and festivals, their faith in the Sacred Tooth Relic is very much evident. Sacred Tooth Relic become a symbol not only religious but political and economics also.



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