ccording to Mandarampura Puwata, the Kandyan Kingdom was established after king Vimaladarmasuriya ascendent to the throne defeating Yamasinha Bandara in 1592 AD. The king immediately embraced Buddhism and brought the sacred Tooth Relic to Kandy then known as Senkadagalapura and later came to be known Sri Wardhanapura (meaning the city that increases her beauty) from Delgamuva and built the present Dalada Maligava.
The temple was originally built in two storeys by king Vimaladarmasuriya and subsequently erected a three storeyed building to house the tooth relic.
The Pattirippuva or the octagon with the moat in front was added later by the last king of Kandy. Along the moat runs a brick wall, the Diyaweli Bemma or the “Waveswell wall”.
In the main building the first chamber is called the pallemale and upper chamber is called Uda Male or Vedahitina Maligava where the tooth relic resides.
The oldest of the four directly faces the Dalada Maligava. It has the rare distinction of being identified as the oldest building in the ancient capital dating back to the 14th century and is said to have built by Vikramabahu III. The God Natha to whom a deistic shrine was dedicated is taken to be the power deity who influenced the political affairs at the time. The shrine shows the influence of the Dravidian school of architecture.
Natha Devale receives a special prominence during the times of the kings. Hence statuswise it ranked first among four devales. It played an important role on king’s behalf in the affairs of the state. A new king is obliged to call on this devale and in front of the image of Natha, select the name by which he is to be known. Also this devale played an important role in preparing and distributing the Nanu or medicinal herbs that go with the first bath taken in the Sinhala New Year. A tradition which comes down from the time of the Sinhalese kings. Natha Devale possessed a flag depicting Natha deiya. An image of Natha with left hand broken and seated in the Raja Leela is housed in the inner sanctum of the devalaya.
Visnu Devalaya popularly known as Maha Devalaya, is situated in front of the main gate of the Natha Devale across the road and near the Royal Palace in the Deva Sanhinde. The history of this place is not known. Robert Knox called the deity in it as Alut Nuvara Deiyyo or the God of Alut Nuvara indicating that the god was originally residing in Alut Nuvara in the Kegalle district. According to another folk legend the god residing at Devundara in the deep south was also brought to Alut Nuvara. This god is called Upulvan or ‘blue coloured’ (god Rama?) and later identified as Visnu because of the colour. However, in later times, the resident god in this devale came to be known as Visnu and a separate shrine-room for the local god – Dedimunda of Alut Nuvara Devale was built near by the main Devale.
According to mythology the Buddha entrusted to Sakra (Indra) the task of preserving the Buddhist dispensation (sasana) in Sri Lanka and Sakra in turn delegated this power to Visnu. He is believed to be a future Buddha after Natha.
In the 15th century the God at Devundara, as described in the Paravi Sandesaya, a Sinhalese Sandesa (epistle) poem, is viewed as a powerful god and a vanquisher of Asuras, full of power, glory an might. Therefore, it may be said that this god described as Upulvan is perhaps Rama. This hypothesis is supported by the above named poem where the Devale in Kandy is referred to as Rama Devale. It is also interesting to note that this Devale had in its possession a cloth canopy depicting the battle of Rama and Rawana.
During the time of the Kings, the Abhiseka Mangalle or the anointing ceremony of the newly appointed King was held in the Maha Devale. It is believed a gold plated Conchshell was offered to this shrine by King Rajadhi Rajasinha after the defeat of the Dutch at Gurubebila.
Traditionally the perahera conducted by the Visnu devale is believed to have taken place to commemorate the birth of Visnu, or the victory of King Gajabahu over the Cholas. During the Esala Perahara this Devale plays an important role by supplying the remaining Devales with the Kapa or the sacred pole necessary for planting at the Kapsituwime Mangalle before the perahara commences. A ritual known as Valiyakun Netima is performed at the Visnu Devale immediately after the perahera for seven successive days in order to seek divine forgiveness for any lapses in the pageant and also to give profuse thanks to the Divine powers.
Architecturally, the Visnu Devale has a long building with a storeyed shrine at the end. The Kandyan devales are generally plainer than Hindu kovils. The roof over the two storeyed garbha or sanctum has taken the place of the dome.
The upper square carries a small balcony or verandah supported by slender wooden pillars. In front of the sanctum is the digge or the long hall intended today for the devotees to pray in but in the olden days it was a dancing hall in honour of the resident deity. The dance performed was called digge netuma. Today in this hall is also found the palanquin used in the Perahara.
In recent years many alterations and additions have been made to the buildings by the Basnayake Nilames or the custodians to suit their taste, thus maiming the beauty of the traditional Kandyan architecture.
The Pattini Devale dedicated to goddess Pattini is situated to the west of the Natha devale. In the past, the two devales were separated by a cross-road called Et Vidiya or the Elephant Street which is no more. The history of the devale is not known. That it is at least four centuries old, there is no doubt, for Robert Knox makes references to the perahara of Pattini Devale.
Pattini, the goddess of chastity was and still is the most popular deity amongst the peasantry of Sri Lanka. Though a goddess of South Indian origin, she became more popular in this country. Her virtues are extolled in a Tamil epic called Cilappadikaram written in the 2nd century and in a number of Sinhalese poetical works written during the 18th and 19th centuries. According to the Tamil epic, one of the earliest known deistic shrines in Sri Lanka was built by King Gajabahu in the 2nd century A.D. enshrining the golden anklet of this goddess. There are a large number of shrines dedicated to her scattered all over the country, but the most popular is the one at Kandy next to Navagamuva Devale. She is beneficial to the people in many ways. She is associated with the cure of infectious diseases and children’s diseases and is also propitiated in times of drought and consequent famine.
The devale devoted to her in Kandy is a simple, small rectangular building on the usual stone platform. The shrine is at the south end like that of Natha, and unlike the one at Maha Devale which is on the north end, and the Kataragama Devale in the west end. It consists of four compartments. Kandyan roof adorns this simple but beautiful devale.
The Kataragama devale is situated in the Kotugodelle Vidiya, in that part of the street known in the past as Kavikara Vidiya. Kataragama devale was in existence during the 16th Kavikara Vidiya. Kataragama Devale was in existence during the 16th century and is dedicated to the God of Kataragama who is identified God Skanda, the warrior God. There are unambiguous references to the God in the great Chronicle but he seems to have run into popularity in the 14th century and since the 16th century his popularity seems to have increased. He is considered as one of the four guardian gods of Sri Lanka. By the 16th century this god was known by the name of his central shrine at Kataragama, but was known earlier as Skanda, Kumara or Mahasen. He is supposed to be a god who protected the Sinhalese against their enemies.
The entrance to the Kataragama Devale in Kandy faces the Main street. The devale building is more or less the same as the others and has the upper storeys square like lantern or tower over the sanctum, with a balcony. It consists of four compartments, the innermost or western one forming the sanctum with an image. In the next compartment also is an image where the officiating priests perform their rites. The third has the palanquin used in the Perahara, and the fourth is the drummers’ quarters. To the north is an extra building attached to the main shrine and dedicated to the planetary gods. What is special to this devale is that unlike at the other devales, it has Hindu Brahmins as the officiating priests.
Malawtu Maha Viharaya
Across the lake from the temple of the Tooth Relic, is situated one of the great centres of the Sangha, belonging to the Siam Nikaya, known as Malwatu Maha Viharaya. This great monastery consists of two sections. The first is the Uposatha Viharaya on the right, popularly known as Poyamalu Viharaya and the other Pushparama Viharaya popularly known as Malwatu Viharaya which is seen today with a newly built octagon. Of these two complexes, the older is the Poyamalu Viharaya, supposed to have been built by Senasammata Vikramabahu with a two storeyed Uposathagaraya or Ordination Hall and a Caitya or a Dagaba close by. The Chronicle goes on to say that he further built 86 monasteries for the use of the monks in the two fraternities namely, Malwatu and Asgiri Viharas. This account is further supported by Sulu Rajawaliya, Asgiri Talpata, and Pohoya Malu Upatha.
Since the time of the Sangharaja, residing monks have grown in numbers and a great number of high priests specially those who are in the Karaka Maha Sangha Sabha or the executive council of monks now reside there. The Maha Nayake is the Viharadhipati or the chief incumbent of the monastery and one of the three joint custodians of the Tooth Relic, the other two being the Maha Nayaka of Asgiriyia Maha Viharaya and the Diyavadana Nilame, the lay custodian.
The Poya-ge of the Malwatu Viharaya is part of the Malwatta complex and here in takes place all the important meetings of the Sangha Sabha as well as the annual higher ordination ceremony. The poye-ge is supposed to have been built during the reign of Kirti Sri Rajasinha with a beautiful image of the Buddha installed therein.