Kothduwa Temple [2] – Sri Dalada was once here

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Kothduwa Raja Maha Viharaya
Kothduwa Raja Maha Viharaya

primary root main first article Next we came to the enchanting isle of Kothduwa fringed by coconut palms where according to legend, the Sacred Tooth Relic was once enshrined. Close to the river bank was the thorana or archway built of brick – the gateway to the Kothduwa temple.

A huge Bo tree, spread its shade in the foreground while a commodious Dharmasalawa (preaching hall) built in 1890 A.D. stood in the upper terrace.The present incumbent of this temple – Ven. Omaththe Punnyasara welcomed us cordially. He related the popular story about the Sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha being kept here for a short time and other legends of Kothduwa.

The Sacred Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha was brought to Lanka by Princess Hemamala and Prince Dantha from Kalinga in India, in the reign of King Sri Megavanna (Kitsiri Mevan) circa 340 AD. The story goes that when political upheaval plunged India into constant wars the King of Kalinga handed the Sacred Tooth Relic to his nephew Dantha and niece Hemamala. He asked that they take it to Lanka as a hallowed gift for King Kitsiri Mevan.

Tradition has it that when the ship set sail, Prince Dantha and Princess Hemamala, receiving news that there was some strife in Lanka resulting in the introduction of the Mahayana doctrine of Buddhism (Vaithullya Vadaya) decided to change the course of their voyage and head for the south coast of the island. They are said to have landed at Welitota – the present estuary of the Madu Ganga.

From there, they came by boat to the Madu Ganga and kept the hallowed Tooth Relic for a short time in the islet now called Kothduwa. There, they built a seya of sand to shelter the Sacred Tooth Relic and this was aptly named Veli Seya (Vihara of Sand). The Sacred Tooth Relic being kept at Kothduwa is mentioned in the Pali Dalada Vansaya (Chronicle of the Tooth Relic).

Another story has it that the Indian Prince and Princess first came during the reign of King Mahasena and returned to where the Sacred Tooth Relic was hidden in the Veli Seya later removing it to Anuradhapura to present it to King Kitsiri Mevan. According to another legend, during the Sitawake-Kotte period (16th Century, A.D.) when Kotte was over-run by Portuguese forces, the Sacred Tooth Relic was again taken for safe custody to Kothduwa by a Senapathi called Veediya Bandara.

Ven. Omaththe Punnyasara told us of another story of a reputed public servant and philanthropist of this area, Mudliyar Samson Rajapakse who lived 125 years ago. One evening while travelling in a canoe, seeing the Bodhiya,he had come ashore to make his offerings, chant the gathas and light a lamp.

When he boarded his canoe to continue his journey, to his astonishment, he had seen myriads of lights miraculously illuminating the whole area. The mudliyar then vowed to build a temple and other buildings there to commemorate this wondrous spectacle of lights.

In the main hall of the spacions Bana Salawa today we see a portrait of Mudliyar Rajapakse. The Buduge (Image House) which is built in the style of church architecture of the time with round pillars and semi-arches has a recumbent Buddha statue, as well as seated Buddha statues.

Ven. Omaththe Punnyasara who has been at the Kothduwa temple for 33 years, having been ordained at the age of 10, has done much for its development.

By Gamini G. Punchihewa
Sunday Times

Also See

Map of  Kothduwa Temple

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Travel Directions to Kothduwa Temple

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