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The story of Esala Perahera and Golden Casket

20 August 2013 08:33 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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There is a fallacy that the Golden  Karanduwa or Casket that is being taken during the Kandy Esala Perahera is kept as security on the last night of the Randoli Perahera Finale at  Gedige Vihare in Aadahana Maluwa.  This is said to be in exchange for a sword that is being used for the ‘water cutting ‘ceremony in the early hours of the Day Perahera at Getambe. This impression has no truth and has no basis, as there is no sword at all in the Viharaya.  How it came to be known is unknown.

The water cutting ceremony in the Kandy Esala Perahera is quite different unlike other Peraheras held in the country, where they go out in a ferry to the middle of the river.  But, here in the Kandy Esala Perhera,  the  ‹Kapurala›s of the four Devale›s ,› each Kapurala of the respective Devale, takes the goblet which contains water of the previous year to Getambe.  Here he gets into the water and immerses himself into the water and brings out the fresh water,
 On the east side of the D.S.Senanayake Veediya ( formerly Trincomalee Street )  and almost in front of the main gate of Trinity College is an ascent , a flight of steps and a ‘  short cut’ to Asgiri Maha Viharaya.  Here, above the flight of steps is Aadahana Maluwa. or the cremation grounds of the ancient Kings of the Kandyan Kingdom.
 Gedige Vihare is believed to have been constructed in memory of Queen Chandrawathie, the mother of Vikrama Bahu III.  This Queen who is known to have been a keen worshiper of Asgiri Maha Viharaya.  It is history that this good Queen was cremated at Aadahana Maluwa, and to mark this place today, a Bo Tree stands within the premises.  This Bo-tree is believed to be over 600-years-old.

"The water cutting ceremony in the Kandy Esala Perahera is quite different unlike other Peraheras held in the country, where they go out in a ferry to the middle of the river"

 Gediige Vihare is of Hindu architecture built of rock and is surmounted by a dome whch is also built of rock. Within the Viharaya is  Buddha statue also  built during the same period when the Viharaya was built.  The exterior of the building is of recent origin, perhaps around two hundred years, rehabilitated by the Cultural Triangle in recent times.
There are stone pillars in the Poya Maluwa or Poyage. This perhaps indicates that it would be one of the original structures that was constructed and blessed in the Kandyan Kingdom.

 Aadahana Maluwa which denotes the cremation grounds was in reality used for the cremation of royalty. But, there is no record that Vikrama Bahu III or any member of the royal family, except the mother of Vikrama Bahu was cremated there.
Upali Thera of Thailand, who brought the Upasampada rites to Sri Lanka is believed to have been cremated at Aadahana Maluwa. But in certain texts of the University of Thailand, Upali Thera had gone to Thailand, when the second delegation of monks arrived in Sri Lanka.  

"Aadahana Maluwa which denotes the cremation grounds was in reality used for the cremation of royalty. But, there is no record that Vikrama Bahu III or any member of the royal family, except the mother of Vikrama Bahu was cremated there"

History says that. When Upali Thera who was in Sri Lanka to help in the reforms of Buddhism and of bringing Canonical Ordination or Upasmapada saw the first perahera and he was surprised that the Buddhist concept was not found in this Perahera and was only that of the Devale,
Natha Devale estblished first in the Kandyan Kingdom had its own Perahera for the month of  Esala.  Upali Thera  questioned King Kirthi Sri Rajasinghe, while viewing the Perahera.   It is said the King felt ashamed that the Sacred Tooth Relic was not a part of the Perahera.  The King immediately took steps to have the Sri Dalada Maligawa section added to the once Devale Perahera on the following day

 The King also did not forget to take steps to remember Gedhige Viharaya as it did accommodate the Sacred Tooth Relic when it was brought from Delgomuwa.
This is due to the fact that by the time the Sacred Tooth Relic arrived in Senkadagalapura, the auspicious time was past and it remained there until a new time was arranged.  From then on it came to be known  as Gaman Maligawa.

 The Sacred Tooth Relic was  shifted to Delgamuwa Viharaya and kept inside a grinding stone, fearing Portuguese capture and was only brought back after the victory over the Portuguese.  On the last night of the Perahera  the Golden  Peraehera  Casket returns  to the Sri Dalada Maligawa, around midnight. 
On the same night a second Perhera makes it way with the Devale Perahera›s around 2 am and deposits the Golden Karanduwa in the Viharaya,
Usually the Mahanayake of Asgiriya receives  the Golden Casket, as the custodian of the Asgiri Maha Vihare.  From this point , the Golden Perahera Casket is the responsibility of the Mahanayake of Asgiri , as the custodian and administrator of Gedhige Vihare  . 

"History says that. When Upali Thera who was in Sri Lanka to help in the reforms of Buddhism and of bringing Canonical Ordination or Upasmapada saw the first perahera and he was surprised that the Buddhist concept was not found in this Perahera and was only that of the Devale"

In addition the Maha Vishnu Devale Basnayake Nilame who is the senior of the Nilame orders the most Junior Basnayake Nilame to guard the Golden casket and oversee the rites that is enacted at the Gedhige Vihare. The rites are conducted in the Sri Dalada Maligawa.  The drummers of the Sri Dalada Maligawa drums till the removing of the Golden Casket  from Gedhige Vihare on the Perahera Day.

 There is another story as to why the Golden Casket is deposited at the Gedhige Vihare and folklore tells that this ceremony is conduced  to Honour Queen Chandrawathie, who had been cremated at this site.  But a scion of the Kandy told the writer way back in or around   1935 Tennakoon Raja Wasala Mudiyanselage Punchi Banda, that the bringing of the Casket to Gedhige Vihare was due to the late arrival of the Sacred Tooth Relic from Delgamuwa.  

 Once the casket is placed inside the Gedhige Vihare, the Sri Dalada Maligawa Secretary in charge of the inventory of the articles in the Inner Shrine Room comes on the scene, and he outlines to the Mahanayake of Asgiri the valuables that are on the Casket. In fact he reads out, the inventory.  The Mahanayake examines the Casket and then wrap the Casket in white cloth and seals the Casket.  Then the sealed Casket is deposited on the Sedent Buddha Statue where it remains till Day Perahera.
 On the day Perahera day, the Diyawadana Nilame  comes into the Gedhige Vihare , inspects arrangements with the Mahanayake of Asgiri, while the  Secretary read out aloud the inventory and the Golden Casket is personally handed over to the Diyawadana Nilame to be taken back to the Sri Dalda Maligawa.  

 The Diyawadana Nilame remains inside the Gedhige Viharaya until the Mahanayke hands over the Golden Casket, for its removal for the Day Perahera.  Then the Perahera is ceremonially ended.
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