Two Great Monasteries

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The Malwatta and Asgiriya monastic establishments have been closely associated with the sacred Tooth Relic to the extent that the Mahanayakes of the two monasteries, together with the Diyawadana Nilame, play the role of the three custodians of the sacred Tooth Relic. All religious rituals throughout the year, expositions of the sacred Tooth Relic and other matters relating to the sacred Tooth Relic are executed under the jurisdiction and the blessings of the two Mahanayakes. The two Mahanayakes today play the role of guardians of the State of Sri Lanka in that the Heads of States seek their blessings in the practice of State policies. The two monastic establishments seem to have been following the age-old monkish avocations – gamavasi (City dwellers) and vanavasi (Forest dwellers). Of these, Malvatu Maha Vihara comes closer to gamavasi sect with more closer association with the ruling houses, while Asgiri Maha Vihara traces its origin from the vanavasi sect of the well known Dimbulagala forest monastery of Polonnaruva. Over the years, the two monasteries have grown in stature and significance and both play equal roles in the reiligions activities of the Sri Dalada Maligawa.

The Maha Viharas have their own executive councils (Karaka Sabha) consisting of senior monks. The Mahanayake thera, the Aunnaka Thera (Deputy) and the Lekhakadhikari (Secretary) of the respective Council play singular roles in the administration of the monasteries as a whole. Each of the Chapter possesses a string of smaller monasteries spread around the suburbs of the city of Kandy and outside. These temples play active roles in the religious and social activities of the Chapter concerned. Both Chapters belong to the major sect known as the Siam Nikaya as against the Amarapura and the Ramanna sects established in the maritime region of the country.