The Ven. Mahanayakes have opposed the opening of a road that is running parallel to the Sri Dalada Maligawa, so is Minister Lakshman Kiriella who has said so at a recent meeting that while this government is in power, the road across the Sri Dalada Maligawa would not be opened. President Maithripala Sirisena at a “Development” meeting held at the Janadipathi Mandiraya in 2016 also spoke in favour of the subject.
The present coterie of people who have been stirring up for the opening of the road comes with the pledges given by politicians during the last general elections; they would have thought it would be easy to open a road that was closed by the two Mahnayakes some years ago, namely Mahanayake of Asgiri Ven. Panditha Sirimalwatte Ananda Thera and the firebrand Mahanayaka Ven. Palipanne Chandananda Thera and societies and traders of Kandy.
This road is a property of the Sri Dalada Maligawa was constructed by the British when they unveiled the Sir Henry Ward Statue. Not only this road, but the road leading to the present Janadipahti Mandiriaya, when it was “King’s Palace”. The fact remains that the first survey was done under the command of the British, K.L.Keppetipola did not demarcate a road on the land Maha Maluwa after March 2, 1815.
A drawing shows Maha Maluwa without a road
Soon after the British annexed the Kandyan Kingdom in the name of Prince Regent at that time. Kandy belonged to the King, not to the people. If they had taken living within the territory, it was at the mercy of the King. That was why most of the deeds were marked as ‘Crown land’ when the imperialists sold them to the inhabitants.
The city had been divided into two segments; inner city and outer city. No one was permitted to live within the inner city without the King’s consent, moreover for the inhabitants of the 18 residences of the nobility. With the Kandyan Kingdom ceding to the British, all property and lands had been automatically vested in the British administration. But the British considered that the Sri Dalada Maligawa did not belong to the King’s Treasury and therefore, left it in the hands of the Maha Sangha.
Governor General Sir Robert Brownrigg vested the land in front of the Pathiruppuwa or Octogon on March 10, 1815 in the Sri Dalada Maligawa. Dr. Vimalananda Tennakoon relates the March 10 incident as a historic function. “Governor Brownrigg, with no lesser significance and political importance than the ceremony which took place at the Audience Hall on March 2. He gave abundant evidence of the solemnity, gravity, dignity and political importance which spoke of the religious ceremony in which he actively participated. The function was attended by the the Mahanyake Theras of Malwatte and Asgiriya. Sir James Sunderland, the Chief Secretary for Kandyan Affairs, Sir John D’Oyly the British Resident General and a vast assembly of people gathered at the Maha Maluwa. The British band played music, throughout the conference. In order to mark the occasion, the British Government gifted the Octogen and the Maha Maluwa to the Dalada Malgawa and it was accepted by the Maha Sangha”. This has been reported by Dr.Tennakoon from the research papers from the Archives in London, of which the original document had been perused by him.It confirmed that Governor Brownrigg “gifted the Octogen and Maha Maluwa to the Sangha”.
Author A.M.Hocart recorded that “In 1817, there had been a a rebellion and the Tooth Relic was removed by a rebel party. After the recovery of the Sacred Relic, the British deployed an armed guard, thereby the military occupied a section of the Maligawa. So it became the property of the Army. Because of the rebellion the British soldiers took over and continued to be the custodians of the property. All were clearly recorded by Dr.Tennakoon and also by the British writers at that time. The relics were exposed to the public by order of the Governor who himself attended an exposition in 1828. “The Sacred Tooth Relic was exhibited at the Maha Maluwa for 14 days at the Governor’s request, which created the famous “Dalada Watura”.
A drawing of the Pathiruppuwa from the further end of the lake. The row of trees covering the Maha Maluwa could also be seen in the picture
The Maha Maluwa was extended up to Queen’s Hotel and there was no road in between according to the paintings and maps drawn by the British Army. The Colonial Secretary’s office on August 3,1891 writes, “The War department acting on the recommendations of the Boundary Commission of 1854, had abandoned all reserves or other rights over the portion from Castle Hill Street - not hitherto surrendered to the government and the Esplanade on the Lakeside between Queen’s Hotel and the Dalada Maligawa within the Kandy Municipal Council (KMC) limits. He adds that he was directed by the Governor to hand over the sites in question to the Municipality for the purpose of Conservancy. On the condition that no buildings should be constructed by them without the permission of the government. But there was no vesting order by the Government to the KMC. Castle Hill street is the present Kotugodelle Veediya and the Esplanade is Maha Maluwa.
In a photograph taken in 1828 (which was later reproduced), which is still displayed at the National Museum it exposes the Sacred Relic at Maha Maluwa. There was no road in between those lands which led to the Queens Hotel and beyond. In 1819, the KMC, for no specific reasons, requested the Government to hand over the Maha Maluwa and the War Department did so with the specific term “For the purpose of Conservancy”. The KMC continued as a ‘Preserver’. However, one Councillor, Late Upatissa Ratnayake put it as a ‘Destroyer’.
Then, the Councillors wanted the Maha Maluwa to be made as a ‘Pleasure Garden’, not knowing that Maha Maluwa was a Sacred plot of land. When the so-called ‘second Sacred Tooth Relic of Buddha’ from China was exposed to the public, and it was at the Maha Maluwa. That exposition was done on the road which is now canvassed to be opened by some who do not know the history of Kandy nor that the Citadel of the Buddhist World stands at the end of Maha Maluwa and the Kandy Lake.
A number of Kandy residents, including Lawyers petitioned to the KMC. According to a Senior Lawyer and member of the KMC Late G.B.de Silva, that no structure of the Maha Maluwa should be altered. Since the then Mayor published that Maha Maluwa was to be converted into ‘Pleasure Garden.’ But the project Municipal Councillor said it was only an Artists’ view to give the Maha Maluwa a ‘proper forecourt’.
Also the British had deployed a military guard at the Sri Dalada Maligawa and the Pattiruppuwa. After the military guard had moved away, the first resident of the Kandyan Kingdom Sir John D’Oyly had made the Pattiruppawa his official Headquarters where the King’s Palace was adjacent to the Sri Dalada Maligawa. Due to unknown reasons, on August 13, 1893 this land was handed over to the KMC for “Conservancy”, which means to conserve.
Former Diyawadana Nilame Niranjan Wijeyaratne is seen with the Ven. Theras
But the Boundary Commission which was held in 1884 had abandoned the reserve or other rights over the plot of land from the Sri Dalada Maligawa to the present Queen’s Hotel, which at that time was a lodging house for the Army personnel. The controversial road that cuts across the Dalada Maligawa is no issue at all, since there was no road in 1815, when the British administration was declared in March that year. The simple answer was the survey done by H.L.Keppetipola in 1815.
There was only a diagonal footpath across the Maha Maluwa. The road, being a part of that Sacred area was built by the British. They also had built another road towards the present day Janadipathi Mandiraya or the then King’s Pavilion to provide access to the Governor to the Stately Mansion built over the Pilimatalawa Walauwe. This was to provide hassle-free ride to the Governor who visited Kandy from Colombo to spend his leisure at the King’s Pavilion.
Kandy is situated in a valley, and no doubt the emitted fumes could damage the structure of the Pathiruppawa or Octogen, that had witnessed the 1998 bomb blast and subsequently reconstructed with similar architecture by Prof. Ranaweera of the Peradeniya University’s Engineering Faculty, when most of them, other than the then Diyawadana Nilame Niranjan Wijeyaratne decided against the Pattippurppuwa been brought down. The vibrations that would be caused by the plying vehicles on this road adjacent to this ancient building could disturb the serenity of the Hallowed Shrine.
However the road has been closed permanently; except for the Mahanayakas and ‘service’ monks by former President Mahinda Rajapakse, and it is hoped that the incumbent President too would act accordingly.