Delgamuwa Raja Maha Vihara

Delgamuwa Raja Maha Vihara

Sri Lanka is primarily a Buddhist nation and 69% of Sri Lankans adhere to the teaching of Buddha. Hinduism, Islam and Christianity are the other major religions in Sri Lanka. More than 3000 Buddhist temples are scattered around the island and they are popular pilgrimage sites and many of them are included in Buddhist tours. A large number of Buddhist temples are to be found in Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle, west coast, south coast and Sri Lanka’s hill country. One important thing, if you plan a Sri Lanka trip you will never miss a Buddhist temple.

Visiting a Buddhist temple is a must-do activity in Sri Lanka and it is the best way of learning the cultural side of Sri Lankan life. Therefore, Buddhist temples are included in most Sri Lanka trips. However, there few things that you should keep in mind while visiting a Buddhist temple such as the dress code.

Most foreign travellers are visiting Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle, in order to see the historical monuments. Most of these monuments are dating back many thousands of years. there are many UNESCO world heritage sites among them. Touring Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle invariably means visiting Buddhist temples because more than half of the monuments in the cultural triangle are Buddhist temples.

By far tooth relic temple Kandy is the most popular Buddhist temple in Sri Lanka. However, there are many other lesser-known Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka, with immense historical and religious value. E.g. Delgamuwa Raja Maha vihara has very high religious and historical value, but it is very unpopular among travellers.

Location of Delgamuwa Raja Maha Vihara

Delgamuwa Raja Maha Vihara is one of the popular Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka and majestically stands on a hillock in the beautiful village of Delgamuwa in Sabaragamuw province.

How to get there

Delgamuwa Raja Maha Vihara is situated on Colombo-Ratnapura main road. After travelling 86 km from Colombo one needs to take the right-hand turns and travel about 1.5 km on a narrow road to reach the temple.

Present condition

Today the temple is resided by several Buddhist monks and they are actively engaged in educating the devotees on the teaching of Buddha. The most important fact about the temple is its antiquity and its role in the past, in order to protect the tooth relic. The temple is dating back to the 16th century. Though, the present image house is built in 1910 AD at the very place, where the ancient image house was built. The present building of the image house is using the same foundation as the first image house of the temple.

The most important and valuable asset of the temple is a granite grinding stone. The grinding stone is still well preserved in the image house and placed in a specially designed octagonal house. 

This grinding stone is not merely a piece of granite stone, but it has an important religious background, while the tooth relic was hidden in it, several centuries ago. It had been a troubled period in Sri Lanka and invaders were looking for the tooth relic. The monks who were protecting the tooth relic have hidden it in a hole of the grinding stone for a considerable period of time.

History of Delgamuwa Raja Maha Vihara

According to historical information, the temple originated during the period of the Sitavaka kingdom. In the ancient chronicle Rajavaliya, the temple is referred to as Sabaragamuwa temple. In Mahawamsa the temple is named as Labujagama temple while in Sawol Sandeshaya it is known as Delgamuwa temple.

The temple was in existence in the 16th century before the arrival Portuguese. Portuguese were the troublemakers, who made the tooth relic unsafe in normal circumstances. In the beginning, the Portuguese were interested in the spice trade and had a cordial relationship with the king. But, later they started to overrule the commands of the king and engaged in hostile activities against the king. Propagation of their native religion (Catholic) had been a major activity under the Portuguese in parallel to the spice trade.

Portuguese started to convert Buddhists to Catholicism and destroyed the temples and other Buddhist shrines in the maritime region. They caused many hardships for Buddhist monks and monks were made to leave the temples. Knowing the religious and historical importance of the tooth relic, the Portuguese were in search of the tooth relic too. They wish to destroy it and disheartened the Buddhists on their religion.

Unfortunately, King Dharmapala who ascended the throne in the Kingdom of Kotte also embraced the Catholic religion in 1557 and act in favour of the Portuguese. Knowing the grim future for the tooth relic and Buddhism in the country under the Portuguese and Catholic king, Keerawella Hiripitiya Rala, the caretaker of the tooth relic and the temple in the Kotte kingdom, escaped with the tooth relic and fled to the central part of the island. Some people say that he was instructed to leave the temple with the tooth relic in secret at night.

Later the tooth relic was brought to the Sitawaka kingdom as King Mayadunne was reigning the Sitavaka Kingdom. By knowing the imminent Portuguese invasion of Sitavaka Kingdom the king had no idea how to keep it safe in his kingdom.

King sought the instructions of Hiripitiya Rala and the Mahindalankara Thera of Delgamuwa temple about safeguarding the tooth relic. After a discussion, they decide to hide the relic in a hole of the grinding stone at Delgamuwa temple. The Grinding stones were a very common item in temples those days and the Portuguese had no reason to suspect the hiding place of the relic.

A special casket (made of blue sapphire) was prepared to place the tooth relic and the casket was hidden in the grinding stone. The tooth relic was hidden in Delgamuwa temple for 43 years until it was safe for the tooth relic.

When King Wilamadarmasooriya became the king of Kandy in 1593 AD, the tooth relic was handed over to the king. It was taken to Kandy in a special, colourful procession from Delgamuwa to Kandy. Later Portuguese invaded the Delgamuwa temple and looted the all valuable items of the temple. They have destroyed most of the constructions. Then the temple was turned into a fortress and occupied by Portuguese soldiers for several years. The present temple originated in 1910 and Ven. Saddatissa Thera had initiated the construction of it.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.