The finale of the New Year celebrations, the “Hisa Tel Game” or oil anointing ceremony, took place on Saturday. The Mahanayake of Asgiri, Venerable Panditha Warakagoda Gnanaratne Thera anointed oil on President Mathiripala Sirisena at the auspicious hour of 11.04 am. This ceremony took place at the historic Natha Devale, the abode of Maithree Buddha or God Natha.
In fact there is no record indicating that anointing oil on New Year’s Day was conducted elsewhere in the country. The abode of God Natha seems to be where this event first occurred. The first Baronet of Kandy, Sir John D’Oyly speaks of this event in 1815, the year the British ceded the country to the Crown of Britain. In fact he writes about a ‘Beht Vatura ‘ being prepared at Natha Devale, which he witnessed. This was for the preparation of oil anointing during the New Year. He further talks of the distribution of this oil to the two Devales before the event at the Natha Devale (the abode of God Natha). This was the first Devale to be built with the founding of Senkadagalapura.
God Natha has no form or shape but his goal was to help people and avoid conflict as he was to become the next Buddha or Maithree Buddha, sometimes called Avalokesva Buddha in the Mahayana cult of Buddhism.
God Natha does not belong to any provincial cult of Gods or to any Hindu clan. His arrival is a mystery but his first place of abode is attributed to Dorawaka in the Warakapola District in the Sabargamuwa Province. While he was residing in the area, God Pitiye told God Natha that he too wanted to reside in the same place. God Natha refused and with this, God Pitiye found that the only way to send him off was to kill cattle and eat their meat. He saw to it that the bones of these animals were thrown at God Natha to drive him away from the area. God Natha, whose vision and mission was to become Maithree Buddha, developed a strategy of moving away from the area that offended him.
So God Natha moved to the Central Hills and to Vehgiriya at Embekke. God Pitiye followed God Natha and wanted him to accommodate him at Vehgiriya. God Natha refused and acted in the same manner as at Dorawaka. He left the area and went to Dodamwela, located in the present-day Yatinuwara electorate. Here too, God Pitiye began to develop the same attitude towards God Natha. God Pitiye who is famous for bringing disaster rather than favour, used this system to drive God Natha out of any area he resided in.
God Natha complained to the mighty God Sakra and he is believed to have advised God Pitiye to leave God Natha alone and find a suitable place as his abode. But that did not deter him and God Pitiye continued to enjoy carrying out his tactics to drive God Natha from place-to- place as a beggar.
God Natha, though not afraid of the attitude of God Pitiye, wanted to pursue his mission. He then moved to Gonawatte in Haragama. This is an area full of deer. God Pitiye arrived and demanded that he move out of Gonawatte. But God Natha refused. Thereupon, he adopted the same methods as at Dorawaka, instead of cattle he killed deer, ate their flesh and threw the bones at God Natha.
Being a God with pure qualities, God Natha moved away to find another area at Pasgama, in the present Hewaheta Electorate. While on this route near the present Kande Junction, the intersection between Hanguranketha and Talatuoya, he came upon an old man clearing a land. He changed into the form of a human and asked about the closet way to Pasgama. The old man went with God Natha, thinking he was a human. At Pasgama, God Natha took his own form, that of no shape or form, and called upon the old man to inform all and sundry to come to the village that God Natha had come to reside in. Further, he took the stick that was in the hand of the old man and stuck it on the ground, saying an abode should be constructed for him. This information was passed onto King Bhuvanekabahu IV and he directed that a Devale be constructed on the spot where God Natha had planted the stick.
God Natha, through his powers, knew that his task had to be accomplished at Senkadagalapura and set up an abode on Dharmaraja Hill. From here he set out on foot to the present Natha Devale premises. He established himself on this sacred ground, the very place where the oil anointing ceremony was held on Saturday, April 15, graced by President Maithreepala Sirisena
Natha Devale also hosted a specific ritual in the naming of a new ‘King’ when elected. There was no crowning in the Kandyan Kingdom. The new King was named at the Natha Devale and he bellowed his name, looking towards the Sri Dalada Maligawa while standing on a stone (which is now used as a flower stand). According to Late Professor Warakewe Dhammaloka Thera who lived at Natha Devale Temple, the Cheitiya close to the Sri Dalada Maligawa is built over the ‘Begging Bowl’ of the Buddha.
It is a know fact that the Begging Bowl was always with the Sacred Tooth Relic. Professor Warakewe Dhammaloka Thera time and again opined that the begging bowl of the Buddha should be in one of the two Cheitiyas on the grounds of the Natha Devale.