will be the 19th DN?
By D. C. Ranatunga
By a notice published on June 1, the Commissioner of Buddhist Affairs
has fixed the meeting to elect the new Diyawadana Nilame of the
Sri Dalada Maligawa for Friday, July 1 at 1.30 pm. The venue is
the Senkadagala Eksath Bauddha Bala Mandalaya hall at Angarika Dharmapala
Mawatha, Kandy and the meeting is to be presided over by the Commissioner.
newly-elected Diyawadana Nilame will be the 19th to assume office
since Kapuwatte Adikaram held the post from 1814-1824. With anyone
younger than 70 years of age and older than 21 being eligible, there
are bound to be at least four or five candidates seeking election.
Diyawadana Nilame is the lay custodian of the Sacred Tooth Relic,
with the responsibility of looking after and administering the wealth
and properties of the Dalada Maligawa. The British who captured
the Kandyan kingdom in 1815 handed over the authority to perform
all rituals and other activities connected with the Tooth Relic
to the Mahanayaka Theras of the Malwatte and Asgiriya Chapters and
the Diyawadana Nilame in 1853. Though the post of Diyawadana Nilame
had been in existence from the time of the Sinhala kings, it was
the British who allocated these tasks to him.
is made of an official, Hiripitiye Rala, who held the title 'Divana
Nilame' in the king's court at the time the Tooth Relic was in Kotte
prior to being taken to Senkadagala. The king protected the Tooth
Relic since it was considered the royal symbol of authority. The
belief that the possession of the Tooth Relic conferred on a prince
the legitimate right to the sovereignty became established during
the Polonnaruwa period. When King Vimaladharmasuriya I (1591-1604)
ascended the throne in Kandy, the Tooth Relic was brought to the
hill capital and a two-storey building constructed adjoining the
palace to house it. The officials attending to the king's personal
comfort were selected from among the most trusted noblemen and the
Diyawadana Nilame being one of them his duties included preparing
the king's bath. He would pour the water and rub the body of the
king during his bath. In the early days, the person selected as
the Diyawadana Nilame held this post until his death.
Buddhist Temporalities Act 19 of 1931 regularized the appointment.
The Act declared that the Diyawadana Nilame was the custodian of
the Dalada Maligawa and when a vacancy occurred, a successor had
to be elected within three months. Though the Diyawadana Nilame,
if he is younger than 70 years, is eligible for re-election, he
can hold office only for a maximum of 10 years. A month's notice
has to be given for the electors to gather at a specified location
to select the new Diyawadana Nilame. Section 7 (2) of the Act lays
down the procedure to elect a new Diyawadana Nilame. Earlier the
Electoral College consisted of:
a) The Mahanayaka Theras of the Malwatte and Asgiriya Chapters.
b) Kandyan Adikarams and Dissawes
c) Rate Mahattayas and District Revenue Officers of the Kandyan
d) Basnayaka Nilames of all 'devalas' in the Kandyan districts
e) Trustees of all temples in the Kandyan districts which have
a proven annual income of Rs. 1,000 for the past three years
with some of the titles and designations indicated in the Act being
scrapped over time, those eligible to vote, numbering 397 -- anyone
holding office as acting Divisional Secretaries, females and non-Buddhists
have no voting rights -- today are:
a) The Mahanayaka Theras of Malwatte and Asgiriya Chapters --
b) Divisional Secretaries (who have replaced DROs & AGAs)
c) Basnayaka Nilames and other lay custodians of 'devalas' --
d) Heads of Raja Maha Viharas -- 138
contacted, the Commissioner of Buddhist Affairs refused to confirm
these figures, explaining that they are still being finalized. The
districts from which the electors are drawn cover a wide area. They
are: Vavuniya Sinhala Pattu, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Trincomalee
Sinhala Pattu, Kurunegala, Kegalle, Matale, Kandy, Nuwara Eliya,
Ratnapura, Galle Hinidum Pattu, Matara Morawak Korale, Badulla,
Moneragala and Ampara Sinhala Pattu.
the post of Diyawadana Nilame has been contested by the Basnayaka
Nilames, as they know the rituals and traditions connected with
the Dalada Maligawa. With nothing written down, it's through observation
that these rituals and traditions are learnt.