The little town of Devinuwara or the “City of Gods” is located at the most southern edge of the country, about 6.5kms south-east of Matara. Devinuwara is also known as Dondra in English.
At the height of its splendour, in the 13th-15th centuries, Devinuwara has been a busy seaport and a most renowned place of pilgrimage and worship. It had been a landmark with its magnificent temple with a roof of gilded copper flashing far into the sea, and undoubtedly must have been an aid to those who sailed the vast Indian Ocean. The many stone pillars variously sculptured in designs and shapes are evidence of the magnificent shrines and temples in this town that overlooked the ocean up to the latter half of the 16th century.
According to legend Devinuwara was a flourishing city in the time is King Rawana and is connected to the Indian Epic of Ramayana. The 15th century “Paravi Sandeshaya”, a poetical work describes the deity at Devinuwara as a destroyer of Asura. Thus it can believed that this same deity is also “Rama” of the Ramayana.
Mahavansa, The great chronicle of Sri Lanka, tells how the “Upulvan Deiyo” thus Vishnu was selected as the guardian to protect the land of Sri Lanka and Buddhism within it at the time of Buddha’s passing away.
“When the Guide of the World, having accomplished the salvation of the whole world and having reached the utmost stage of blissful rest, was lying on the bed of his nibbana; in the midst of the great assembly of gods, he, the great sage, the greatest of those who have speech, spoke to Sakka’ who stood there near him: `Vijaya, son of king Sihabahu, is come to Lanka from the country of Lala, together with seven hundred followers. In Lanka, O lord of gods, will my religion be established, therefore carefully protect him with his followers and Lanka.
When the lord of gods heard the words of the Buddha he from respect handed over the guardianship of Lanka to the god who is in colour like the lotus (Upulvan). “
— From Mahavansa
Popular belief is that Vishnu is a future Buddha after Natha. Therefore Vishnu always has had a high ranking within the deities worshipped by the Sri Lankans.
According to recorded history the temple and the Devale (Shrine) was built by King Dappula I (Dappula-sen) during the 7th century. In 1587 a Portuguese army led by Thome de Sonza attacked this sacred city destroying plundering any valuables in the places of worship. But King Rajasinghe II (1635 – 1687) of the Kandyan Kingdom managed to free the Matara from the enemy and the built a Devale at Devinuwara for deity Vishnu.
The Devale (shrine) dedicated to Deity Vishnu draws devotees from around the country throughout the year, specially during the Esala Poya Period (month of July).
The origin of the Esala festival at Devinuwara goes back to the time of King Parakramabahu II of Dambadeniya Kingdom (13th century), who is said to have restored the the dilapidated temple in this holy town and got this festival celebrated regularly in honour of deity Upulvan.
Map of Devinuwara Raja Maha Viharaya
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Driving Directions to Devinuwara Raja Maha Viharaya
Route from Colombo to Devinuwara Raja Maha Viharaya
|Though : Southern Expressway|
distance : 175 km
Travel time : 3-3.5 hours
Driving directions : see on google map