There is controversy over the fast unto death staged by Ven. Athureliye Rathna Thera which took place at the Sacred Maha Maluwa. This piece of land has a history and it has been thrice offered to the Temple of the Tooth (Maligawa) in recent times.
When the Thera was fasting there were onlookers who were devoted to this monk. During this period Members of Parliament and politicians visited him. In connection with some politicians, a section of the crowd jeered at them without relialising that this was a sacred place; the location being in front of the maligawa. Therefore it’s in the best interest of everyone, that this writer pens an article giving the background to this piece of land. This is a sacred land and due respect should be given to this place.
In 1828 Sir Edward Barnes informed that he would like to witness the miraculous powers of the Sacred Tooth Relic and to bring it out of the Shrine Room to the Maha Maluwa or forecourt of the maligawa. The Mahanayake’s at first refused, but said later on that they would bring the relic out and added that Barnes would have to bear the consequences. The Governor agreed and the relic was brought out on a day in May, 1828.
- The Governor was so agitated that he requested the Mahanayke’s to take it back
- So the Maha Maluwa is Sacred as the Sacred Tooth Relic
- This Thera was denied justice and Malwatta Maha Temple denied that Kudhapola Thera was a monk
- At one time this land was in a sorry state and it was then entrusted to the Kandy Municipality
The consequence was floods. The Governor was so agitated that he requested the Mahanayke’s to take it back. But, they said that it would only be taken back to the shrine room at an auspicious time. For seven days it is said the floods devastated Kandy. It’s reported that no sooner the relic was taken back the floods reseeded.
So the Maha Maluwa is Sacred as the Sacred Tooth Relic when it comes to the maligawa.
It’s on this piece of land that the blood of young Kudhapola Thera streamed when he was shot by the British. The priest was in robes and shot at on charges of being a traitor. But, he hadn’t been listed on the British Gazette and was tried by a adhoc ‘ Kangaroo Court ‘ held at the Historic “Magul Maduwa” or the Audience Hall. This Thera was denied justice and Malwatta Maha Temple denied that Kudhapola Thera was a monk who was ordanied by the Chapter. However, in fact, he was a member of the Chapter. Had anyone accepted the fact that he was ordained in this chapter, he would perhaps not have suffered this fate of being shot at by a British firing squad at the Maha Maluwa.
A ‘Kangroo Court’ convicted Kudhapola Thera. The Thera was presented with an opportunity to seek a defence Lawyer. But it is recorded that the lawyers demanded fees. So the Thera had said that he had no money. Then the trial had began.
Governor Bownrigg was so adamant in gunning down Kudhapola Thera that even the Crown Lawyer Selby tried to intervene in the decision taken by the Governor. This was to seek justice for Kudhapola Thera. He who was rebuffed by the Governor had said, ‘ even if all the lawyers in the world speak for his release, he would be shot the following morning at Maha Maluwa.
The British Army officer, who accompanied the Thera, had asked him whether he had anything to say. He had replied by saying ‘ I am a poor man’. Nevertheless he had faced a firing squad at the Maha Maluwa, with blood streaming at the place where the killing took place. Hence this is one place that should be kept clean with due respect.
Former President J.R. Jayewardene offered this sacred land to house the Sacred Tooth Relic. Again Prime Minster Dudley Senanayake offered it to cater to the interests of the Sacred Relic. Lastly Sirimavo Bandaranaike offered the land to retain the Sacred Relic. This was after the country was declared a republic. During all three instances a condition had been embodied into the Sanas (official written document) that this land shouldn’t be used for political purposes. Another condition was that no structures- temporary or otherwise- should be erected. This one condition has helped maintain the Sacred piece of land in this manner.
At one time this land was in a sorry state. It was then entrusted to the Kandy Municipality by the Government Agents for maintenance. But it wasn’t maintained. It was left to Col. EJ.Divithotawela to clean up the land and built a fence around it to preserve it. This happened at a time when he was commanding the area during an insurrection.
Then, the land was taken over by the then Minister of Agriculture and lands Hector Kobbekaduwa. This happened when a Pirith Mandapaya ‘ was being erected one evening on the orders of the late Deputy Justice Minister Shelton Ranaraja on the eve of elections.
Following this the Minister took over the land, when the Assistant Government Agent was R.B.Navratne. He handed it over to him. Then the Minister ordered to construct a parapet wall and also two ponds to beautify the grounds
Following this the Minister took over the land, when the Assistant Government Agent was R.B.Navaratne. He handed it over to him. Then the Minister ordered to construct a parapet wall and also two ponds to beautify the grounds. He also made it clear that this land was to be kept free for people to witness the Perahera. If this wasn’t done seats would have had to be constructed to view the Perahera. No sooner after, a change of Government, ‘hooligans’ broke down the ponds and the plaques.
Then, After the land was taken over by Minister Kobbekaduwa, this piece of land that was offered to house the Sacred Tooth Relic by Madame Sirimavo Bandaranaike. She made sure that after Sri Lanka was a declared a republic all unwanted constructions inside this piece were destroyed. The British camped out on this piece of land with dire consequences. They did so before returning to Trincomalee. But a single Kandyan soldier massacred the troops except for Capt. Davy who escaped the massacre at Parangantota, Lewelle by hiding inside a cavity within a bo-tree.
Then some years ago a relic supposed to be that of Gautama Buddha was brought to Sri Lanka from China with the blessings of the Government at that time. The exposition of this relic was done on this very Maha Maluwa The Late Diyawadana Nilame C.B.Nugawela refused to take inside the Maligawa premises. He requested the Government to expose the relic at the Maha Maluwa, which was done.
No one was allowed to protest in any way within the Maha Maluwa. Every time the police, that guard the area, saw to it that no one would protest within this Sacred grounds.
Ven. Rathana Thera was too quick for the Police and sat at the point of the Flag Post. The Police would not dare to move the Thera and there was no permission from the Diyawadna Nilame nor the Mahanayake’s for this protest within the Sacred Grounds. But the Thera had his way.