Untold story behind Kandy Esala Festival

25 July 2019 12:44 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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The Kandy Esala Perahera commences on  Monday, August 5, 2019, with the planting of Kap on Friday, August 2 at the four Devales only.

King Parakarama Bahu II brought about without his knowledge a low country-up country dialogue through a Perahera performed at Dondra Upluvana Devale.

The Aluthnuwara Dedimunda Devale is the outcome of this procession performed at Dondra Upulvana Devale. With this, the first procession or the perahera in the hill country was performed at Aluthnuwara Navalathge or the ‘new city’. Now, this has become the prelude to the Kandy Esala Perahera, where the ‘Kap’ is cut from the Dedimunda Devale premises to commence the Esala Perahera.

The Aluthnuwara Perahera for God Dedimunda ended on July 21 this year, which was held for only four days. But it should have been held for 26 days, as there had been two deaths in the proximity to the Dedimunda Devale.

The Devale is situated in the still sleepy town off Hingula on the main Kandy-Colombo road and it comes alive during the Aluthnuwara Dedimunda Devale Perhera season. The history of Aluthnuwara is not clear until the shifting of the effigy of God Upuluvan to Kandy by King Senarath to avoid Portuguese terror.

The Aluthnuwara Dedimunda Devale is the outcome of this procession performed at Dondra Upulvana Devale. With this, the first procession or the perahera in the hill country was performed at Aluthnuwara Navalathge or the ‘new city’. 

In 1258 King Parakrama Bahu II fell sick and allegedly developed an unsound mind which could not be diagnosed properly by his physicians. 

The Basnayake Nilame Mahendra Ratwatte worships the original abode of God Dedimunda before the day perahera last Sunday. Note that the Basnayake Nilame is dressed in white.

They reported that the king should proceed to Dondra or Devi Nuwara and perform a Perahera for God Upulvan and God Dedimunda. As the King could not proceed he ordered that the Chief Minister Deva Pathiraja and his Cabinet proceed to Devinuwara and perform this pageant.

The Perahera is reported to have been held for seven days. After the final night, a Brahim appeared when Prime Minister Pahiraja was asleep and said that the king’s malady could not be cured as it was a result of ‘karma’ from a previous birth. 

Deva Pathiraja indicated in his dream that he would build a Devale at Dambadeniya so that the king could live a long life with the malady.

On his return, Queen Sunethra Devi said that she would prefer that the Devale for Upulvan be built in the ‘new city’. The Queen did not select the place alone but with the help of the Chief Priest of the ‘len vihare’ now known as the Galagama Raja Maha Vihare. 

The Devale that was built was near a giant ‘Mara Tree’ under which a brass lampstands and is lit day and night throughout the year. This is to indicate that the Devale was built in this spot.

To build the Devale proper they came across a huge rock. They tried to blast the rock but to no avail. Then the Queen suggested that they should get the assistance of God Dedimunda also known as “Sudu Mal”. They prayed that God Dedimunda intervenes in the process to break the rock. 

According to legend, God Dedimunda had come from India and landed at Dewinuwara or Dondara. From there he had gone to Seenigama and then come to Aluthnuwara or the new city. God Dedimunda wears white and holds a cane and a sceptre in his right hand. It is also claimed that Dedimunda stood with the Buddha when ‘Maraya’ sent his daughters to seduce him so that he may not attain eternal bliss. British civil servant Hugh Nevill describes God Dedimunda as a Devata Bandara, Veera Vikum, Yahala Bandara and Yahal Deviyo.  

The original place of the Devale, now marked by a brass lamp lit for 365 days of the year.

 

The palace from where God Dedimunda ordered the demons to cut the rock.

The perahera, where the ‘Ran Ayuda’ is carried and no ‘Ransivige’ is used.

During the establishment of the Devale at Aluthnuwara the most important factor was the establishment of an effigy of God Upulvan. To carve out the effigy of God Upulvan, one of the foremost artistes called Pathiraya was commissioned. 

However, after shifting the effigy of God Upuluvan and the Pethikada of Queen Sunethra on the command of King Senarath the Kandy Kanaha Vishnu takes pride of place and Aluthnuwara goes side by side. It is in this aspect that the Basnayake Nilame of Kandy Maha Vishnu Devale, presently held by Basnayake Nilame Mahendra Ratwatte is also the Basnayake Nilame of Authnuwara. 

Dr H.E. Hettiarachchi notes that God Upulvan appears in Hindu writings, but his presence has been felt with the arrival of Vijaya to Sri Lanka. He is also assigned the protection of Buddhism by Sakara. Therefore God Upulvan plays a significant role in the lives of the people of this country. 

The Kandy Esala Perahera commences on  Monday, August 5, 2019, with the planting of Kap on Friday, August 2 at the four Devales only.

 

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