Maha Maluwa (Great Terrace) – steeped in history and legend By Arundathie Abeysinghe

Maha Maluwa (Great Terrace) – steeped in history and legend

 By Arundathie Abeysinghe

Arundathie Abeysinghe

Maha Maluwa (Great Terrace) is an open park area located in front of the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic (Dalada Maligawa) in Kandy, the most venerated Buddhist temple in Sri Lanka visited by hundreds of pilgrims as well as local and foreign tourists daily.  

Maha Maluwa is steeped in history and legend. Initially, Maha Maluwa was the threshing ground of a large paddy field (this paddy field was later converted as the Kandy Lake). According to folklore, when King Wimala Dharmasuriya I (reign 1592 – 1604) consulted astrologers to select a site for his capital, they advised him to select this threshing floor which was frequented by a Kiri Mugatiya (white mongoose – Ichneumia albicauda) as the site was considered a very auspicious place.

During the Kandyan Kingdom, many historical and religious events have taken place at Maha Maluwa. According to historical records, King Wimaladharmasuriya I has created this artistic esplanade. It was during his reign the Sacred Tooth Relic was brought to Sri Lanka.

Magul Maduwa (Audience Hall) was established as a place of public audience, whereas Maha Maluwa (Great Terrace) was the center of religious and national festivities connected with the Kandyan Kingdom.

During the Kandyan Kingdom, Maha Maluwa had been a key center for hosting significant religious festivals. At present too, the site serves as the starting point of Kandy Esala Perahera.

Maha Maluwa was the place where Ambassadors of western powers had waited (before meeting the ruling king) to present their credentials and gifts to the king and his royal officers at the Audience Hall.

During the Kandyan Kingdom period, aggrieved people of all creeds, castes and religions had brought their grievances and injustices done to them by royal officers to the notice of the ruling king at the Maha Maluwa. Such grievances had been investigated and the offenders were punished.

In this esplanade, there are several monuments. There is a stone pillar memorial of *Keppetipola Disawe (a Sinahalese hero), *Madduma Bandara (a Sinahalese child hero) and statutes of *Princess Hemamala and Prince Dantha who brought the Sacred Tooth Relic to Sri Lanka in the 4th century AC which was preserved in *Kalinga after the *parinirvana* of the Buddha. The Sacred Tooth Relic was brought to Sri Lanka hidden inside Princess Hemamala’s coiffeur.

Kandyan Kings had held Maha Maluwa in great esteem during the Kandyan Kingdom.

  • Ehelapola Nilame – He was a courtier of the Kingdom of Kandy. He was the first Adigar or Maha Adikarama (a Great Officer) from 1811 – 1814 during the reign of King Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe (reign 1798 – February 10, 1815). After the brutal execution of his entire family, he aided the British to invade the Kandyan Kingdom. 
  • Kalinga – Historical state of India. At present, it has been merged largely in Odisha and larger part of Andhra Pradesh to the extent of present day Chhatisgarsh and Telengana. The Sacred Tooth Relic was preserved in Kalinga after the parinirvana* of the Buddha. But as there was a war, King Guhasiva decided to send the Sacred Tooth Relic to Sri Lanka to protect it. According to historical records, Prince Dantha (son-in-law of King Guhasiva) and Princess Hemamala (daughter of King Guhasiva) donned garbs of ascetics and carried the Sacred Tooth Relic hidden within the hair of Princess Hemamala to hide it from passers-by during their journey to Sri Lanka. When the Sacred Tooth Relic reached the Sri Lankan capital Anuradhapura (Kingdom of Anuradhapura), the Relic was kept in Megha Vihara (Temple) Park. The Sacred Tooth Relic was received by King Kirti Sri Meghavanna (4th century AC) and enshrined in the edifice Dhammacakkageha built by King Devanampiyatissa (306 BC – 266 BC) which was situated within the Royal enclosure. There is a wall painting on the wall of Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya which depicts the arrival of the Sacred Tooth Relic to Sri Lanka. This wall painting was done by artist Solius Mendis.
  • Keppetipola Disawe – A high ranking official during the reign of King Sri Wickrema Rajasinghe as well as during British Colonial Era. He is immortalized as a national hero for standing up to the British Colonials in the *Uva – Wellassa Rebellion.
  • Madduma Bandara – Madduma Bandara Ehelapola popular as Madduma Bandara was a child hero who lived during the reign of King Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe, the last king of Sri Lanka. Madduma Bandara’s father Ehelapola Nilame* was one of the ministers of King Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe. As he did not obey the King’s orders and fled, the King was angry. Later, the King ordered to kill Ehelapola’s wife and children. According to legends, Madduma Bandara’s elder brother had to face the executioner, but he was frightened and ran away to his mother. But Madduma Bandara offered to face the executioner first without any fear and became a child hero. Later, the King ordered the entire family to be executed, the elder brother of Madduma Bandara was also beheaded, his infant brother was pounded in a mortar and his mother and sisters were drowned in the Kandy Lake.
  • Sacred Tooth Relic – According to legends, after the parinirvana (passing away) of  the Buddha, the Sacred Tooth Relic was taken from the Buddha’s funeral pyre. It was preserved in Kalinga in India. Princess Hemamala and her husband, Prince Dantha brought the Sacred Tooth Relic on the instructions of Princess Hemamala’s father King Guhasiva and handed over the Sacred Tooth Relic to King Kirthi Sri Meghavarna, the king who was ruling the country during that time. The Sacred Tooth Relic was enshrined by the king in Anuradhapura. Each king who ruled the country protected the Sacred Tooth Relic by constructing tooth relic temples near their palaces. As a result, the Sacred Tooth Relic was kept in many places in the country until King Vimaladharmasuriya I built the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic in Kandy.
  • Uva Province – Fourth largest province in Sri Lanka bordered by Central, Eastern and Southern provinces.
  • Uva – Wellassa Rebellion – Also known as the Great Rebellion of 1817-1818 was an uprising, the third Kandyan war between native Kandyan rebels and the British Colonial era under Governor Robert Brownrigg. The rebellion took place in *Uva which was ruled by Kandyan Kingdom.
  • Nirvana – It refers to a release from the cycle of death and rebirth, the ultimate spiritual goal of Buddhism.
  • Parinirvana (Sanskrit) – Passing away of the Buddha or an Arhat (one has gained insight into the true nature of existence and has achieved Nirvana*).

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