Rajapihilla ( The Royal Bath) – Kandy රජපිහිල්ල – මහනුවර

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The story behind Kandy’s hidden royal bath

Rajapihilla ( The Royal Bath) - Kandy
Rajapihilla ( The Royal Bath) – Kandy

Recently on a trip to Kandy, while visiting friends along the Ampitiya road we noticed an Archeological Department sign board with the word Rajapihilla.

This is how we went looking for the Rajapihilla or the royal spout. However typically there were no more indications along the mountain road that was also named Rajapihilla Mawatha. Inquiries from those along the route were quite in vain, till one lady smiling informed us that we had to go back take an uphill turn on to our right.

As such quite by accident we located this historic spout where long ago the Kandyan kings are said to have bathed whenever they chose to do it outside the premises of the palace. Once a place of royal resplendence today the noble spout stands amidst a tangle of scrub and weeds in a depression of land.

You may even be disappointed to see merely a stone basin supported by a stone pillar. But note refinement of the stone work and the precisely cut stone drain or stone conduit that is placed to lead the water to the basin. From the stone basin the water is let out by three spouts. You can almost imagine the bathers who possibly stood or squatted to hold their heads to the cold fresh outflow.

Rajapihilla ( The Royal Bath) - Kandy
Rajapihilla ( The Royal Bath) – Kandy

If not for the account of this site given by D.T. Devendra, this site may easily be overlooked. He says that the rivulet which fed the conduit pipe has since been deflected from its course. In former times it was known as Heel-pen-kandura, from the cold freshness of its water.

Devendra records for us the following extract from a report of the Ratemahatmaya of Lower Hevaheta to the Government Agent, which gives the reason for the royal choice.

“It is believed that during the reign of King Kirti-siri he caused the waters of all the natural springs in the vicinity to be weighed and tested, and the water of this Heelpenkandura was found to be the best of all. So his Majesty ordered that this stream should be kept exclusively for the royal household, and no one was allowed ( except those of the royal household ) to use it.”

Rajapihilla ( The Royal Bath) - Kandy
Rajapihilla ( The Royal Bath) – Kandy

“The King also ordered a bathroom to be built there, surrounded with a strong wall, and a gate leading to it; and also appointed two officers-one to watch the kandura and one to guard the gate; and his Majesty made it a rule to proceed thither every Wednesday in a palanquin followed by procession of tom tom beaters, musicians and others. This rule was followed by his successors.”

Devendra also records the observations of two early writers. D’Oyly and Davy on the ceremonies involved in the royal bath.

The bathroom, Ulpenge, with the adjoining dressing room, Halumandape, lay between the audience hall and the palace. The Diya and the Haluvadana Nilame respectively superintended the two tasks. The former was personally responsible for washing, combing, and dressing the king’s hair, although he did not perform these tasks himself on every occasion. Sometimes, when personal service was called for, the two functionaries did each other’s duties indiscriminately.

The king used to bathe daily (chiefly in warm water) at mid day, sometimes in the afternoon. Two villagers, Bolana and Lagomuva, were set apart for those who attended to the preparations for the bath. Tenants from them supplied fuel for warning the bath, and cleaned up the place, taking fortnightly turns. They took orders from the Diyavadana Nilame, who with the king’s permission, set a Vidane over them.

Rajapihilla ( The Royal Bath) - Kandy
Rajapihilla ( The Royal Bath) – Kandy

Generally speaking, there were ten officers, known as Sattambi Ralas, who were directly concerned in bathing the king. Panividakarayo, or messengers, were also appointed to summon all who had to render service. Both appointments were in the hands of the Diyavadana Nilame, subject to royal approval.

The Sattambis, and sometimes Panividakara Nilames, had to fetch water and pour it on the king. On special occasions the higher officials attended in person. Two at least of each of the two lower officials had to be in regular attendance at the palace. They had to keep themselves scrupulously clean, having to wash themselves twice a day.

The Sattambis acted as petty chiefs of the people (about 500 families) that were attached to the bath. They were drawn from the best families; otherwise, they could not touch the king’s person. They had certain privileges. For instance, the Adigars, who were given fairly extensive punitive powers, could not inflict corporal punishment on the Sattambis of the Ulpenge.

After the bath the king’s hair was combed by one of these officers. Medicinal oil, duly prepared at the Beth-ge, was then rubbed and the hair was properly dressed. The service was known as singatevata.

On the auspicious bath of a New Year all the ten Sattambis had to be present, and the service was led by the Diyavadana Nilame himself.

Next the chief of the Royal Wardrobe, the Haluvadana Nilame took charge of the King’s person. On a Yahaninda in the adjoining room were spread a robe five or six cubits long, made of the finest texture ( Kasa Somana ) and a white Nilloru tuppotti helped on with his clothes (or rather robes, so long they were) the king now came out to transact any pressing business, or show himself, if need arose.

Devendra concludes that the Diyavadana Nilame was originally an official of the palace. It was Kirti siri who commanded that the honors paid to him should be transferred to the Sacred Tooth. Hence the official’s connection with the ritual of the Dalada Maligave. He now takes rightful place in the Buddhist world of our island as the chief layman.

Kishanie S. Fernado
Daily Mirror

Also See

Map of Kandy Rajapihilla

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Travel Directions to Kandy Rajapihilla

Google doesnt have the last part of the road mapped. See bing maps here for the last stretch of the route from the Raja Pihilla road

Route from Kandy to Rajapihilla

Via : Rajagiriya
Distance : 3 km
Travel time : 15 mins
Driving directions : see on google map

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