Kotte Kingdom

 

                            According to historical records, Kotte became the highest point of Sri Lankan history and had it’s Golden Era during the time of King Siri Parakramabahu the Sixth who united Sri Lanka and ruled for sixty years (1412-1467) with Kotte as the then capital know as Ceylon The Mahawansa mentions the existence of a , “Jayawardena Kotte” Before Kotte kingdom came into being the last capital of Ceylon had been Gampola In the records of Gampola kingdom’s history the name of Sri Wardenapura occurs as a neighboring city It had also been known as Nawardanapurapura. According to Dr. Senarath Paranavithana a traveller in the 14th century had mentioned “Kathe Und De Vehiclar” a place called Seylane Kotte. Also according to Dr. Paranavithana in 1352 A.D Kotte was located north of the Kalani river. Apart from these almost all the Sandesa Poems wrriten during the Kotte Period make mention of Kotte and it’s environment, it’s beauty and elegance and that it’s fortifications brought fear to the enemy To quote one verse from the Salalihini Sandesa written by Rev. Thotagamuwe Rahula. Kotte has been described thus,

 

පොහොසද්දන ඇති තුනුරුවන බැති පෙමා  

With devotion to the Triple Gem they are richly endowed

මුලුවද්දන සුරපුර පිරි සිරින් හැමා  

In all it’s splendour to a heavenly abode it is Compared

ජයවද්දන කෙරුමෙන් සුසැඳි තම නමා

In action behoved to be named the Bringer of Victory

ජයවද්දන පුරවර දනු මිතුරු තුමා

My dear friend then know ye this be the city of Victory

                                   The Maura Sandesa also mention that the Kotte city was equipped with a four – fold army of elephants, horses, Vehicles and foot soldiers. According to this book it can be assumed that Sri jayawardena pura Kotte was established around the year 1370 A.D . Nissanka Alagakkonara was one of the pioneers who created Kotte as a fortified place. Mention of kotte as a place of importance has been made in the” Ambulugala Sannasa” written in about 1332 A.D. it was during the rule of Vikramabahu the 3rd (1357-1374) that Alakeshwara made Kotte a fortress, and for about two centuries as the capital. The first king to ruled Kotte uniting then Ceylon was king Parakramabahu 6th who ruled from 1412-1467. After the rule of king Parakramabahu 6th their arose disputes regarding ascension to the throne. The earlier custom was that after the king’s death his son or grand son becomes king but prince Sapumal the adopted son of king Prakramabahu 6th assassinated the heir to the throne and became king later 1521 the Kingdom came to be divided in to three portions. Vijayabahu and three sons , one son Mayadunne was given Seethawaka, Satarakorale and denawaka Korales. The Pasdun, Walallawvita and Raigam Korale was given to Raigam Bandara. The Kotte area, the coastal region and Viceroy ship was given to the elder Bhuwanekabahu.later Bhuwanekabahu chose his daughter’s son Dharmapala to be king. Dharmapala sought the protection of the Portuguese who were then holding Colombo in their grip Because of disputes the Portuguese took Dharmapala, who had converted to Christianity to reside in side the Colombo Fort. Dharmapala died childless in 1597.he had gifted the Kotte kingdom to the king of Portugal. Due to continuous attacks from Seethawaka ,Kotte being deserted by the King it became unpopulated got covered by forest loosing its splendour.

 

by Mr Lional De Silva 

 

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Sri Dalada Perahera of Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte

 

 

An event of great cultural and historical significance takes place annually in the hill capital of Sri Lanka in the month of Esala. This is followed by several such events right throughout the country. One such event is the historic Sri Dalada Perahera, of Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte Rajamaha Viharaya held in memory of and to pay obeisance and to honour the Sacred Tooth Relic as the kingdom of Kotte was once the abode of the Sacred Tooth Relic.

 

The Dalada Perahera has a long history. It dates back to the time it was brought to Sri Lanka during the reign of King Kithsiri Mewan also known as Kirthi Sri Meghawanna (303-331) who is the grandson of Gotabhaya and son of Mahasen the builder of the Minneriya tank who is worshipped as "Minneriya Deiyo."

 

The Dalada was brought to Sri Lanka concealed in the tresses of princess Hemamala, daughter of King Guhaseeva of Kalinga who was accompanied by her husband prince Dantha whose father was the king of Udenit. The prince and his party were disguised as Brahmins and disembarked at the Illangathurai Harbour in the Kottiar pattu of Trincomalee. It was then known as Lanka Patuna and the oldest temple was Samudragiri Viharaya the fate of which is worth examining. This was destroyed by the terrorists and a Kovil was built at this site. Now SL Army has built a Dagaba at the site and is now open for public worship.

 

The king who received the good news overcame with joy received the Sacred Tooth relic paid homage to it by offering the whole Island of Sri Lanka to the Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha at that moment radiant rays depicting the colours of the Buddhist flag scattered over the area from the relic followed by many wonderful events.

 

The Sacred Tooth Relic was taken to the capital Anuradhapura deposited it in a casket made of precious stones and placed it in an elaborately constructed Dalada Maligawa which was close to his own palace for protection. Foreign Theros Fa Hien and Hiu San who bear witness to this have also reported same. The king held a festival to honour the Sacred Tooth Relic and ordered that similar festivals should be held annually. The possession of the Sacred Tooth Relic was transferred from Megagiri to Abhayagiri for obeisance and this could be mentioned as the beginning of the Dalada Perahera.

 

These annual festivals were followed by all the kings and it became part of their duty to do so. The people believed that the person who possessed the Sacred Tooth Relic was the king of the country as such it became a symbol of royalty.

 

The Sacred Tooth Relic is intimately woven with the history of Sri Lanka. It is said that when there was a drought during King Upatissa’s reign in 370 A.D. he led a procession with a gold image of Lord Buddha, the bowl relics and the Sacred Tooth Relic and that it brought rain ending a severe drought. The same event occurred during the rule of the British invaders where the country experienced a severe drought and the reason adduced was failing to hold the annual Perahera as the British rulers ordered our people not to hold the Perahera. After great persuasion permission had been given mockingly on condition that if no rains come further permission will not be granted. However after the Perahera there had been torrential rain, which led to severe floods and after that the Britishers never refused permission to hold the Perahera and the water which poured from the heavens for weeks was known as "Dalada Wathura."

 

With the Chola invasion King Mahinda (982-1029) was killed by them and the Bhikkhus removed the Sacred Tooth Relic to Ruhuna Prince Keerthi who overcame the Chola invaders and became king and was known as Maha Vijayabahu (1055-1110) and continued the Sinhalese Dynasty. King Keerthi Sri Nissanka Malla (1187-1198) realised the bondage between the Buddhists and the Sacred Tooth Relic and he constructed a palace at Polonnaruwa out of granite with intricate carvings to place the sacred Tooth Relic and it is said that the work was completed within a short period of sixty hours.

 

When Magha the Chola invaded Sri Lanka again, the Sacred Tooth Relic was taken to Pusulpitiya Raja Maha Viharaya at Kotmale for safety. Magha killed Parakrama Panda (1212-1215) who was the ruler at that time. Vijayabahu III defeated Magha and reigned from Dambadeniya and brought the Sacred Relic to Dambadeniya after his son Parakrama Bahu II became king During his reign the Sacred Tooth Relic had performed a miracle as stated in the Maha Wansa.

 

"The Sacred Relic rose to the sky like a ray of the moon from the hands of the king which depicted a lotus and exhibited the true image of the Buddha with several rays of resplendent colours emanating from the Buddha image lighting the entire vicinity bringing immense happiness to the king pleasing him, and came down from the sky and settled on the hand of the king."

 

From Dambadeniya the Sacred Tooth Relic was taken to Yapahuwa, from there to Kurunegala, Gampola and then in 1415 it came to Kotte during the reign of King Parakrama Bahu VI (1415-1472). He ruled the entire land from the kingdom of Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte. His era is known as the ‘Golden Era’ of literature. Several books of great repute were written during his rule as he encouraged scholars to write such books. Lots of invaluable books of literature such as Lo vada Sangarawa, Elu Attanagalu Wanshaya, Chula Bodhi Wanshaya, Hansa Sandeshaya, Kokila Sandeshaya, Gira Sandeshaya, Selalihini Sandeshaya, Paravi Sandeshaya, Kavya Shekaraya, Guththilaya, Parakumba Siritha, Kuweni Asna, Daham Geta Malaya, Wayanthi Malaya, Panchika Pradeepika Saddharma Rathnawaliya and Katinani Sansaya by great scholars such as Weedagama Maitriya Thero and Weedagama Three Sinhala kavithilleke.

 

Kotte Perahera was started in 1415 by Perakumba VI under the auspices of Weedagama Thero with the participation of about 500 caparisoned elephants and had paraded on a road which was 30ft. in width and 8ft. in height, constructed on the rampart. The reign of Kotte which began in 1372 with the reign of Buvenekabahu V (1372-1408) ended in the year 1597 during the reign of Don Juan Dharmapala (1550-1597) who was a puppet king under the Portuguese.

 

The abandoned Kingdom was swallowed by thick jungle and later rediscovered in 1813 by Ven. Pilane Buddha Rakkitha Nayake Thero who discovered the ruins of the present Kotte Raja Maha Viharaya. From this day the temple rose from its ashes like a phoenix. The temple is presently the headquarters of Kotte Sri Kalyani Samagri Dharma Maha Sangha Sabha where the annual ordination of Bhikkhus take place in the famous Poya Ge.

 

The Perahera was started in 1901 by Ven. Embulgama Wimalatissa Thero. Today it is the leading cultural pageant of historical significance in the low country. The necessary support to make the Perahera a success was shouldered by the residents of Kotte, Mirihana, Pagoda and Beddagama. Well-wishers throughout the country help in many ways to complete the Perahera successfully.

 

The Perahera begins with the chanting of Seth Pirith (on the 26th) and then the ‘kap planting’ ceremony is held at an auspicious time (28th). This is a vow made to the gods promising to hold a Kumbal Perahera (31st), Three Mal Peraheras, Pavada Perahera (4th), Weedi Perahera, Randoli Perahera, Maha Perahera (7th) and Diya Kepeeme Perahera (8th).

 

The final Perahera to be held on Saturday is the gem in the crown of the entire pageant where several caparisoned elephants participate. The entire surroundings reverberate to the sounds of low country, upcountry, Sabaragamuwa drums and also the rhythmic beat of kavadi drums which adds an electrifying atmosphere to the neighborhood. The tinkling of bells, jingling anklets and twinkling lights enhance the beat of drums. Dancers of all hues from upcountry, low country and Sabaragamuwa adds colour and rhythm to the entire Perahera.

 

The Diya Kepeema is performed at Etul Kotte on the waters of Diyawanna Oya and all rituals related to the perahera are performed by the Chief Kapu Mahattaya, Rohitha Padmadeva and his followers. Thereafter the kap plant is sent floating down the river.

 

After the ceremony the residents of Etul Kotte under the guidance of the chief priest of Perakumba Pirivena named after the legendary King Perakumba VI and the members of the Dayaka Sabha give a. ‘Deva Dana’ to those who call over at the temple including those who participated in the Perahera and convey merits to Gods.

 

After the ‘Deva Dana’ the Perahaera returns to the Raja Maha Viharaya’s Bo Maluwa bringing the water obtained from Diyawanna Oya, after the water cutting ceremony.

 

From the Bo Maluwa the casket containing the relics is carried in procession by the Secretary and Asst. Secretary of the Dayaka Sabha and is placed in the Maligawa. The sacred ornaments brought in the Perahera which follow the casket is placed in the respective Devalayas after the performance of rituals. All rituals related to the Perahera is performed by the chief Kapumahattaya, Vishva Kala Keerthie A. D. Rohitha Padmadeva and his assistants Ranjith Rathnasiri, Duminda Pathmasiri Kumara, Lasantha Pushpakumara and W. D. Wimalasena under the guidance of Ven. Aluthnuwara Anuruddha Thero.

 

Finally the ‘Gara Yak Shantiya’ is performed to drive away all evil and to bless the Nayaka Thero, resident Theros, all members of the Dayaka Sabha, all those who participated in the Perahera and the residents of Kotte, Pagoda, Mirihana and Beddagana. All ceremonies are conducted under the guidance of Ven. Aluthnuwara Anuruddha Thero, the chief incumbent. He is given all the assistance by the resident monks led by Ven. Talangama Devananda Thero who is the chief incumbent of the Indiana Buddhist Temple in America.

 

The success of the Perahera during the last few years could be attributed to the fact that President Mahinda Rajapaksa has been the President of the Perahera Committee since the time he was the Prime Minister.

 

by A. M. Gunawardhana (LL.B)