Administration of temporalities and its effect on Aluvihāra temple

The Public Trustee Ordinance No. 1 of 1922 was brought into force on November 22, 1930 in order to vest the Public Trustee with the necessary authority. The Buddhist Temporalities Ordinance came into force since 1931 onwards. With the inactions of those regulations the Department of Public Trustee and the commissioner of the Buddhist Affairs have directly themselves joined with the administrations of temporalities. The custodian is appointed with the assent of the Chief Abbot of the temporalities and the Public Trustee. His duty includes the administration of the temporalities, estimating of annual revenue reports thereof and leasing of temporal lands.

After the Kandyan Convention signed on 2nd March 1815 the British Government promised to do what she already had been done regarding temples. Lieut. General Robert Brownrigg, Governor and commander-in Chief in and over the British Settlements and Territories in the Island of Ceylon freed all property of temporalities from income tax enacting the Ordinance No. 12(chapter 21) of 1818 after the chaos; the British intrigue in the kingdom of Kandy happened in 1818. By a special notification issued on 21st January 1818 the British government did not breach the agreement. By another proclamation issued soon afterwards, British government appointed lay custodians regarding the administration of temples since 1847. All temples had to submit a report on properties of temporalities by their chiefs. At the same time, British government considered most of the temples were poor. The chiefs of temples were ordered to survey lands of temporalities. Only a few temples could do so because for others the surveying fees levied on were so exorbitant. The lands of the temporalities were taken over by the government who failed to do so by the Ordinance No. 4 of 1870. The British government acted the dual role on administrations of temporalities, as they had performed over the other conventional proceedings; they wanted to get away from the uproar of the Christian missionaries, and on the other hand, they pretended to impose power on the temporalities on the administration of the property. The gradual change of the objectives of the Buddhist monks manifests the dual role and the interference of the British government on administration of the temples. First, Buddhist monks had to “Cause the most virtues, intelligent, unselfish and spiritual-minded persons in a country to withdraw from the social surroundings …………..acquisition of the highest wisdom and fit themselves to teach and guide others (Rhys Davids, ‘Buddhism’). Next, the priest had to ………… for the temple , keep it clean and offer flower daily, meditation and study, receive the offerings of worshippers….read and expound the scriptures(Buddhist talks). Finally, he stood to their tenants as landlords, and the religious influence of their possessions, they have other holds on the affection of the people……….their monasteries are schools for village children and sons of even the superior head-men ……..and there was a close parallel between the position of the incumbent of the village temple, and that of a parish priest of medieval England.

According to a Government Gazette Notification issued on May 31, 1961 an unprecedented power is vested by the governor to Public Trustee or an authorized appointer to examine, at any time, the movable or unmovable property of a temple. But Several Buddhist and historical sources say that after establishing and dedicating a monastery to the saņgha. No one, be even a king, can think retrogressively on his offering. They argue that devout kings, local rulers or regional chieftains have dedicated these lands to the sangha. They had even appointed officials for duties of the temples.

Later more regulations were brought foreword regarding temples. For commencing or to carrying out any work of restoration, repair or addition in or to any Buddhist shrine, temple, inscription or monument an approval should be made in writing setting out in full the nature of the work. Then the Public Trustee shall deal with each such application in consultation with a committee of advisors consisting of the Archaeological Commissioner, an engineer with architectural experience or qualifications an artist, and other suitable persons including at least one Buddhist, whom the governor may from time to time appoint for the purpose.

Administrative structure of Aluvihāra temple

Following is the value of the annual revenue of Aluvihāra from several lists of temporalities of the years 1933, 1934 and 1935, estimated and submitted by the custodian of the temple to the Public Trustee in Ceylon.



Name of the temporalities

Mixed income



1933 15 Aluvihara(up and down temples) 3208.96 295.85 ………
1934 13 Aluvihara(up and down temples) 1653.81 339.17 ………
1935 09 Aluvihara 1612.25 311.08 ………

In addition to the abovementioned normal administration of this temple the Department of National Physical Planning, with the guidance of the Urban Development Authority and the Department of the Western Provincial Development supervises the preservation work on this sacred city.


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