The Buddhist calendar of Sri Lanka opens with the Durutu Perahera Pooja Festival at the Historic Kelaniya Rajamaha Vihara. The sacred Kelaniya temple derives its religious and historical significance,…
The Buddhist calendar of Sri Lanka opens with the Durutu Perahera Pooja Festival at the Historic Kelaniya Rajamaha Vihara. The sacred Kelaniya temple derives its religious and historical significance, mainly due to the Buddha's third visit to the premises on the banks of the Kelani River. Since this highly venerated occurrence, the Buddhists in the island flock to this serene monastery to venerate and receive blessings. All the kings in the country contributed to the development of the Kelaniya temple in many ways. The annual religious ceremony has its roots in the times of ancient kings who sponsored the religious activities at the Kelaniya temple with a great sense of respect.
This highly venerated religious event is organized annually marking the first visit of the Buddha to Sri Lanka (which took place on Wesak full moon poya day) to invoke blessings of the Noble Triple Gem and Gods to all Sri Lankans and all beings on earth in common. The Kelaniya Durutu Perahera Pooja Festival, that was halted for sometimes during the colonial rule was restarted in 1927 with the guidance of Ven. Mapitigama Buddharakkhita Thera, the then chief incumbent of the temple and generous patronage of the Helena Wijewardene Lamatheni. Since then, this religious festival marks one of the major religious events in the country.
Sacred City of Kelaniya
Kelaniya is a suburb of Colombo city in Western Province, Sri Lanka. At Kelaniya, about 10km to the northeast of Colombo, in Sri Lanka, lays Kelani Rajamaha Viharaya, one of the most revered historic Buddhist temples of the orient. Set on the peak of a small mound lapped by the waters of the river Kelani, this beautiful shrine presents one of the most panoramic views ever offered to the tourist by this small island of ours, the pearl of the Indian Ocean.
History of Kelaniya
History of Kelaniya runs back to the ancient times and which was mentioned in the oldest Buddhist chronicle, the Mahawansa which states that the Gautama Buddha (5th century BC) visited the place, after which the dagaba (stupa) of the temple was built. It was also one of the important historical cities because it was the capital of a provincial king Kelani Tissa (1st century BC) whose daughter, Viharamahadevi was the mother of king Dutugemunu the great, regarded as the most illustrious of the 186 kings of Sri Lanka in from the 5th century BC to 1815.
According to Ramayana, after King Ravana's death, Vibeesha-na was crowned as King of Lanka by Lakshmana at Kelaniya. There are murals enshrined outside the Buddhist temple depicting the crowning of Vibeeshana. The Kelani River is mentioned in the Valmiki Ramayana and Vibeeshana palace was said to be on the banks of this river.
From ancient times the tradition has been to paint the walls of temples with portrayals of the Jataka stories. But Kelani Vihara has made a welcome departure from this custom in its new paintings. Instead it has infused variety into the murals by introducing spectrums depicting an array of historical scenes, connected with the birth, rise and progress of Buddhism in Sri Lanka.
Duruthu Maha Perahera Mangalyaya
At this historic temple a procession known as "The Duruthu Perahera" which is a cultural and religious parade, is held on the pre-full moon poya day of the month of Duruthu (Janu-ary) every year. On this occasion, hundreds and thousands of people from all parts of the country, and hundreds of foreign travellers and pilgrimages trek their way to the temple purlieu to witness this spectacular pageant. All the roads around Kelaniya on this day seem, as it were, to lead to Kelani-ya and nowhere else. The procession, by itself, is a ritual depicting the nation's age-old religious customs and ceremonies. It displays the ancient traditions and the cultural heritage of the country. It demonstrates to the world the age-old traditional folklore, folk music and the rhythmic dance forms and drum beats which have developed throughout the ages around Buddhism and Buddhist practices in the island. Hence the Duruthu Perahera today is composed of three separate processions that of the Buddha relics and those of the three devalas, Vishnu, Kataragama and Vibhishana.
The Perahera (Procession) is held at night on three consecu-tive days, prior to the Duruthu (January) full moon. The first day Perahera, held on the upper temple terrace, is called the "Udamaluwa Perahera". The Second day Perahera is more colourful than the first, and is performed on a more extensive and elaborate scale. The third and the final procession called the "Randoli Perahera" is the climax of the whole festival. It is usually held on the pre-poya day of the Duruthu moon.This is the most colourful and magnificent spectacle that the Buddhists of Sri Lanka look forward to with great fervour and enthusiasm.
Before the commencement of the procession, the divine insignia of the respective Gods are ceremonially conducted out of each devala amidst the beat-sounds of hevisi drums and are securely placed on the decorated howdah-like repos-itory on the back of the respective tuskers.
Kalyani Temple, blessed by the Holy Foot Prints of Lord Buddha
Kelaniya, the sacred city, was sanctified with the setting of the foot by the Buddha with a retinue of five hundred (500) "Arahanths" in the eighth year after the enlightenment on the Vesak Full Moon Poya Day. At the invitation of King Maniakkh-itha of Kelaniya, the much delighted King and the Royal Palace had made all arrangements to receive the blessed one with great Honor and Dignity. He prepared a special seat studded with brilliant Gems, for the Buddha to sit and deliver the first sermon, After the partaking of the alms (Royal Food) offered by the king ,the Buddha delivered the first sermon to the five hundred (500) Arahanths, the king and the laymen who gathered to listen to the Buddha. At the end of the ceremony the much delighted king built a pagoda in His memory enshrining the Gem studded Golden seat, hair relics and all the utensils used to prepare the alms. As from the time of the arrival of the Buddha, to Sri Lanka, Kelaniya became a place of worship. The glory of Kelaniya prevails even today.
Unique Wall paintings and murals
Among the many Buddhist temples of Sri Lanka, the Kelani Viharaya stands out as one of the most exquisite examples of the sculptor's art. Its history runs back to more than 2500 years. In the days of yore, it always received full royal patron-age, and to this day, it has been highly venerated by the people of the island. Its significance as a place of Buddhist worship is clearly evident in the island's folklore. The work of a great artist called Soliyas Mendis is highly acclaimed by people of the world over even today. Most of the foreigners who visit this Temple have great admiration of these paint-ings, as similar kind of rare quality wall paintings are not found anywhere in this world. This painting was internationally acclaimed as the best panel of painting of the twentieth century. This panel depicts the Prince Dantha and Princess Hemamala of Kalinga dressed in the Gard of Bhramins, are seen coming through a forest with the tooth Relic of the Buddha hidden in Hemamala's hair radiating illumine rays. This historic episode had taken placeduring the reign of King Keerthi Sri Meghawarna 301-320AD This panel of painting is recognized universally as a national Treasure among the wall painting of twentieth century. This sacred, religious cultural ceremony is awaiting to offer a perfect beginning for the New Year with its glamorous performance.
Experience the Duruthu Cultural & Religious Parade with Colours I Dances I Music I Elephants I Costumes I Actions I Traditions I History I Legends For never ending miracles throughout the year. Will be colouring the streets on 11th January 2017, 7.30pm onwards
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