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POOJA CEREMONY

Monks of the two chapters of Malwatte and Asgiriya conduct daily worship in the inner chamber of the temple. This daily worship (Pooja Ceremony) would mean a service ritual conducted daily at regular times of the day in the morning (6.00 AM), noon (10.00 AM) and evening (6.00 PM). It is similar to a Buddha-puja usually conducted in an image shrine. The difference here is that only a limited number of people, monks and layman, are allowed to take part in the Dalada-pooja, unlike in the normal Buddha-pooja in an image shrine where all participants take part freely. This tradition of conducting preparatory service before admitting worshipers to the shrine is a common practice among Hindus. The daily worship of Hindu shrines is also conducted by lay custodians or servicemen at limited times of the day. The Hindu tradition restricts the admittance of worshipers only to the front vestibule. The divinity within the chamber is covered from vision by a curtain. Similar practice is followed in the daily worship of the sacred Tooth Relic as well.

However, in the case of the Buddhist practice, the casket containing the Tooth Relic placed within the chamber is made visible to the worshiper. At a determined time two monks and two or three servicemen enter the shrine bringing with them the triple robe, flame, cowries, bell, sandalwood casket, camphor flower spray, tooth picks, water vessel, towel, beetle tray, spittoon and flower basket. They are offered to the casket symbolically as if attending to the needs of the Buddha. The Buddha-pooja is always carried from the kitchen (Mulutange) in a pingo (Hemakada), so called because it was prepared out of cloth embroidered with golden thread.

In early times the king himself carried the Hemakada bringing food inside the relic chamber. Prior to the bringing of the Buddha-pooja, the chief service monk brings the key to the shrine and the doors are open by the officer named Vattorurala, who is allocated this function. The Buddha-pooja are offered by the service monks. The puja is first offered in the name of the king and the Royal Palace and then followed the puja made by the public. The offerings of food are emptied into special bowls, gold and silver, of different sizes set apart for different grades of officers who took part in the Tevava. The ringing up of the bell announces the completion of service when the food is emptied into large bowls and are carried away. The chamber and the flower alter are cleaned in readiness to receive the offerings made by the devotees. All through this period of service the drummers at the lower hall continue their drumming performance.

The tradition of washing the images or their symbols has been continued from the past by the Hindus, and this custom has been adopted by the Buddhists as well in rituals connected with the Tooth Relic. A small silver casket is used to symbolize the Relic Casket. The shadow of the casket is made to fall on a mirror which is bathed with herbal unguents and oils.

For this purpose, two service women known as Alatti Amma used to be employed in the Nanumura Mangalle. During the ceremony the poets of the Kavikara Maduwa (Poets Forum) recite poems in praise of the Buddha. After the ceremony the used unguents and Oils are distributed among the devotees who use them as herbal applications and they believed it contains healing powers. Finally, flowers are offered to the relic casket in the usual manner and you really get a feel for the ritual, the tradition, and the importance of this place.