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 Post subject: Temples of the Tooth in Polonnaruwa
 Post Posted: Sun Feb 19, 2006 1:40 am 
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Temples of the Tooth in Polonnaruwa

The Sacred Tooth Relic, as we all know, is one of the most important objects of worship to Buddhists, not only in Sri Lanka, but also in other parts of the world. Another fact that we all know is that this sacred relic is housed at the Temple of the Tooth, Kandy. But the tooth relic wasn't always in Kandy. There was a time when it was protected at Polonnaruwa, when this city was the royal capital of the country.

It was housed among a group of magnificent buildings, some of which are the finest examples of architecture in Polonnaruwa, on the Terrace of the Tooth Relic (Dalada Maluwa) in the centre of the ancient city. It is believed that the terrace was upon the site of an ancient Buddhist monastery which had four principal buildings - dagoba, bo tree shrine, image house and chapter house.

The monuments on the site such as the Atadage, Hatadage, Vatadage, Gal Potha, Thuparama, Nissankalatha Mandapaya, Satmahal Prasada, gate-house and a Bodhisatva image are said to have been built at different times.

The possession and protection of the tooth relic became an essential duty for our kings during this period and an important symbol of royal power.

Atadage

The Atadage was the Temple of the Tooth built by King Vijayabahu I after he freed the country from foreign invaders and set up his capital in the city. Some believe the old king instructed his minister named Deva to carry out the construction work.

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The ground floor of the building looked like a conventional image house with many Buddha statues, while the relic was housed in the upper storey. It had been designed in such a way that visitors to the top floor wouldn't be standing directly above the statues on the ground floor. The stairway to the upper floor had been restored later. There are two beautifully carved pillars in the first chamber with ornamented scrolls enclosing charming scenes.

On the left of the temple is a large slab showing inscriptions in Tamil, known as the Velaikkara inscription. It records that the Velaikkara Regiment, the royal bodyguards comprising mostly of Indian mercenaries (soldiers fighting other people's wars for money), had the additional duty of protecting the tooth relic. These bodyguards had revolted during Vijayabahu's reign, but later returned to their duty of safeguarding the relic.

Hatadage

The Hatadage was the second temple in Polonnaruwa built to house the Sacred Tooth Relic. Its name is said to mean either 'house designed for 60 sacred relics' or 'relic-house constructed within 60 days'. However, it is largely believed that it was built in one day.

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It is surrounded by a stone wall which is 120 feet long and 90 feet wide, and has a ground plan which is similar to that of the Atadage. The walls are constructed with irregular slabs of stone, which perfectly fit together, to form a complete stone facing, and the gap in between was filled with a 'cement' made of rubble and lime plaster.

Although there are remnants of a stairway with nine steps leading up to a second storey, nothing is left of this top storey which is thought to have been made of wood. There are beautiful carvings both at the entrance to the buildings as well as on the walls. A glowing account of King Nissankamalla's feats is inscribed on the walls.

Although this king has claimed to be the builder of this temple, it is thought that King Parakramabahu I may have in fact been responsible for the construction.

Gal Potha

A huge stone slab located to the east of the Hatadage is known as the Gal Potha (stone book). It bears a large inscription of Nissankamalla which states that the stone, weighing over 25 tonnes, was brought to Polonnaruwa from Mihintale.

It is 26.10 feet long and 4.7 feet wide, while the thickness varies from 1.4 to 2.2 feet. On the side of the stone, there is a carving of two elephants showering water on the Goddess Lakshmi. The top face of the slab, divided into three parts, bears the inscription which is in 24 lines with each line about nine feet long. Among the records detailed in this inscription are Nissankamalla's brief invasion of India, and his relations with many foreign states such as Indonesia and modern Pakistan.

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The inscription has been made to resemble an ola leaf book, hence the name. This is the longest stone inscription found in Sri Lanka.


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