The Built Environment of the Temple of Tooth Relic

Temple of Tooth Relic

The Relic Shrine is approached by a large draw-bridge over the moat and through a beautifully decorated frontispiece. A tunnel ambarawa, leads to the main shrine complex, having a central courtyard surrounded by storied structures. The two-storied open pillared hall in front constitutes the area where visitors and devotees gather. The lower hall has its central part set apart for the beating of drums and other forms of traditional music performed during ritual service hours. On either side are the Pallemale Vihara constructed by king Kirti Sri Rajasimha and the Octagon (Pattirippuva) built by the last king, Sri Vikrama Rajasimha on one side and the small stupa supposed to contain the Bowl Relic of the Buddha on the other. The storied structures to the right and left of the shrine, constitute the residence quarters of the monks engaged during daily service (Tevava), the conference hall, the Library and the Office of the Diyawadana Nilame.
The three-storied structure (Alut Maligava) at the back of the courtyard consists of the new shrine assuming the design of a Thai shrine on the groud floor. It is noteworthy that it was the Thai monks under the leadership of venerable Upali Thera who re-established the Higher Ordination during the period of king Kirti Sri Rajasimha.

The two upper stories of this building have recently been organized into a museum (Sri Dalada Museum), exhibiting some of the valuable donations made to the Tooth Relic by the devotees and visitors including State guests.

The Tooth Relic shrine popularly known as the Vadahitina-Maligava occupies the center of the paved courtyard approached by flights of steps decorated with moonstones beautifully carved with floral designs. It consists of two stories and as the Chronicle Mahavamsa records, was rebuilt by Vimaladharmasuriya II and subsequently renovated by Narendrasimha in the early 18th century. King Kirti Sri Rajasimha was responsible for replenishing the shrine into a magnificent structure and possibly he was responsible for the provision of ivory carvings decorating the doorways of the shrine facing the inner chamber containing the sacred Tooth Relic casket and other worshipful objects. The shrine is built on a high podium with a columned corridor decorated with diverse decorative paintings, running round the walled-in chambers. The entrance consists of a beautifully carved stone doorway which faces the west. The ground floor consists of an inner chamber and a vestibule (Aramudala) in front. The inner chamber corresponds to the image shrine in ancient Tooth Relic shrines such as the Atadage and Hatadade at Polonnaruva. Both the Aramudala and the inner chamber are recently transformed into repositories of gold ornaments, caskets and other offering made to the sacred Tooth Relic. The Aramudala also contains the stairway, by which the daily Buddha Puja are taken up to the upper floor, where the sacred Tooth Relic casket of gold is enshrined in the chamber known as Gandha-Kuti (Fragrance Chamber).

 The shrine chamber of the upper floor is preceded by a passage called Handunkudama where devotees gather to offer flowers, while the other three sides of the shrine consist of services rooms, viz., the Alatthibarande for the use of the women serving in the weekly Nanumura Mangalle, the Gepalumbrands (Strokeeper's room), Halubarande (Changing room for the king before entering the shrine to make offerings) and Kattiyana barande (Room for placing the pingo carrying the Buddha-puja). The Singer's Corner (Kavikaranmaduva) is located just outside the Kattiyanabaranda and served the shrine during the Nanumura Mangalle in the olden days.

 The bomb blast of 1998 exposed part of the wall which revealed at least three layers of paintings, the original layer depicting the Dalada procession and jataka stories executed in the early 18th century. (For details of these murals, see Prematilleke and Colombage, Dalada Maligava - New Discoveries - Ancient Paintings, 2001).

This elaborately decorated shrine known as Vadahitina Maligawa is enveloped by a Kandyan style hipped roof covered with tiles. The golden roof provided with plated lotus flowers adds to the glamour of the Dalada shine.

In between the upper floor shrine and the hall in front is an open mandapa or pavilion, which serves as the enclosure for religious chanting (pirith) and the exposition of the Tooth Relic on special occasions.

The whole Royal Complex consists of the Palace, a central courtyard separating the Dalada shrine at its southern extremity, the Audience Hall, Queen's Quarters, Queen's Bath, the Harem (the present National Museum), the Jalatilaka Mandapa (The traditional Island Pavilion) and other British period buildings.

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