Temple of the Tooth Relic (Anuradhapura)

Temple of the Tooth Relic, Anuradhapura
Photo credit: Ali Marhubi, Google Street View

A ruined building popularly known as Dalada-ge (Temple of the Tooth Relic) is located in the Inner City of Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka.

At present, this building is believed as the Dalada-ge, the shrine used to place the sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha during the Anuradhapura Period. However, this identification is still in the debate as there is no strong evidence has been found to prove that belief. Scholars have divided opinions regarding the true location of the ancient Dalada-ge (the Temple of the Tooth Relic) at Anuradhapura (Amarasinghe, 2015).
Tooth Relic of the Buddha
During the reign of King Sirimeghavanna (c.362-389 A.D.), the Tooth Relic of the Buddha was brought to Sri Lanka and placed in a shrine named Dhammacakka (Paranavitana, 1936). Since then, it was kept in or near the royal palace, treated with higher esteem and considered a symbol of kingship (Jayasuriya, 2016). Presently, this relic is safely housed in the Dalada Maligawa (Temple of the Tooth Relic) in Kandy (Jayasuriya, 2016).

Slab Inscription of Mahinda IV
An inscription of King Mahinda IV (956-972 A.D.) engraved on a slab was discovered near a ruined building with tall monoliths located adjacent to the premises of Mahapali Alms-Hall. It lays down certain rules regarding fields belonging to the royal palace and also mentions the Shrine of the Tooth Relic [(Dalada-ge) Paranavitana, 1936; Ranawella, 2004]. The reference to the Dalada-ge is important for it hints to identify the Temple of the Tooth Relic which was rebuilt by Mahinda IV in the centre of the city (Ranawella, 2004). As mentioned in the chronicles, the Temple of the Tooth along with Mahapali Alms-Hall was burnt down by the South Indian Cola army who invaded Anuradhapura in the reign of King Udaya III (935-938 A.D.) but was rebuilt by Mahinda IV.
The ruined building located near this inscription was identified by the eminent archaeologist Senarath Paranavitana as the Dalada-ge which is mentioned in the record (Paranavitana, 1936).

The location of the ancient Temple of the Tooth
The building presently called the Temple of the Tooth Relic was identified by Paranavitana as an edifice with a layout similar to the nearby Gedige Image House and he named it "Building A" (Paranavitana, 1936). He found a masons mark on one of the moulded stone slabs fixed onto the Asana (platform) which is in the inner room of this edifice and with the help of that, he dated the building to the 8th century A.D. (Paranavitana, 1936). According to the view of Paranavitana, the ancient Dalada-ge was located at the spot situated south of the pond and next to the Mahapali Alms-Hall where a ruined building with tall monoliths and the slab inscription of Mahinda IV can be seen (Amarasinghe, 2015).

A palace building?
However, Senake Bandaranayake in the belief that both edifices referred to as the "Gedige Image House" and "Building A" by Paranavitana may have served as the Temple of the Tooth Relic (Amarasinghe, 2015). According to him, the beads and the seated lion image that were unearthed in the 1930s from the spot where Paranavitana identified as the Dalada-ge indicate that it was a secular/palace building (Amarasinghe, 2015). Also, he pointed out that the slab inscription of Mahinda IV which contains certain rules enacted with regard to lands belonging to the royal household should be set up within the precincts of the king's palace rather than the Temple of the Tooth Relic (Bandaranayake, 1974).

The two buildings
The building presently called "Dalada-ge"
This is roughly a rectangular building. It comprises an inner cella 33 ft. 6 in. square with projections 20 ft. 6 in. by 2 ft. 6 in. on the west, south and east (Paranavitana, 1936). The projection on the north is lengthened to form an entrance porch 20 ft. 6 in. by 11 ft. 3 in. (Paranavitana, 1936). The porch probably had a timber roof covered with tiles (Paranavitana, 1936). The main building would appear to have had a vaulted roof (Paranavitana, 1936).  

The entrance porch of this building faces north and a flight of five stone steps accompanied by two Korawak-gal (wingstones), two Muragal (guard stones) and a Sandakada-pahana (moonstone) provide access to it. After the porch is a stone door-frame, 7 ft. 4 in. by 3 ft. 7 in. (Paranavitana, 1936). It gives access to an ambulatory passage that runs around the inner room. The passage was lightened by eleven stone windows (Paranavitana, 1936). The walls are preserved to the levels of windows sills, four of which are still in situ, at a height of about 8 ft. from the original ground level (Paranavitana, 1936).
In the inner room (the sanctum) is an Asana (a platform) faced with moulded slabs of stone, measuring 8 ft. square and 2 ft. 7 in. high from the floor level (Paranavitana, 1936). One of these slabs had a masons' mark read as "uturudese"= north side and with the help of that, Paranavitana dated this building to the 8th century A.D. (Paranavitana, 1936). 

The building near the Mahapali Alms-Hall 
This is an oblong building, 76 ft. 6 in. by 45 ft., with grand monolithic pillars, 15 ft. 6 in. in height by 10 in. square (Paranavitana, 1936). It is located within a quadrangle enclosure, 200 ft. by 214 ft. (Bandaranayake, 1974). The main entrance to this enclosure lies in the centre of its northern side and the slab inscription of Mahinda IV stands near this entrance (Bandaranayake, 1974).

1) Amarasinghe, K.C. 2015. Identifying the Daladage at Anuradhapura. Social Sciences Academic Forum (SoSAF), Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Kelaniya. p.54
2) Bandaranayake, S., 1974. Sinhalese monastic architecture: the Viharas of Anuradhapura (Vol. 4). Brill. p.382. 
3) Jayasuriya, E., 2016. A guide to the Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka. Central Cultural Fund. ISBN: 978-955-613-312-7. p.48.
4) Paranavitana, S., 1936. The excavation in the Citadel of Anuradhapura. Memoirs of the Archaeological Survey of Ceylon. Vol. III. Ceylon Government Press. Colombo. pp.2,5-7,14-23.
5) Ranawella, G.S., 2004. Inscription of Ceylon. Volume V, Part II. Department of Archaeology. ISBN: 955-9159-30-5. pp.267-272.

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This page was last updated on 8 January 2023
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