Natha Devalaya at Kandy (මහනුවර නාථ දේවාලය)

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Natha Devalaya is one of the Hatara Devalya (four main devalaya) in the Kandy, the other three being the Vishnu, Kataragama and Patini. These four Devalayas have a long association with the Royal Palace ( Maha Vasala) and the Temple of Tooth Relic (Sri Dalada Maligawa) and have been venerated by Buddhists and Hindus alike from their inception. Another devalaya dedicated to Ganesha, the elephant-headed Hindu deity now known as Pillaiyar Kovil is located in Katukele.

During the Kandy period, Natha was the highest-ranking deity, and then it was Vishnu, Kataragama and Patini in that order. This devalaya is the oldest of the four primary devalaya of the kingdom.

It is also believed that the “Natha” appeared in many forms in Sri Lanka in different regions and during different Eras. One of these forms is “Avaloktheeshvara” Bodhisattva who is highly worshipped in Mahayana Buddhism.

The “Natha Devale” is situated directly facing the Dalada Maligaya and this building is the oldest surviving structure from the Kandyan Kingdom. The devale was built by King Vickramabahu III in the 14th Century. The building has a Dravidian architecture with a “gedige” style. The structure has 3 stories but the 1st and the 2nd floor levels serve no practical purpose. The roof is a dome with the shape of a stupa.

There are three beautifully decorated entrances to gain admission to the sanctum. A figure of Natha made out of bronze is the focal point of this shrine room. The southern entrance of this devalaya has been referred to as Deva Sanhinda during the period of the Kandyan kingdom. Madduma Bandara, the child hero born to Ehelapola Nilame and Ehelapola Kumarihami was beheaded by the king at this entrance. Ehelapola Kumarihami was also ordered to pound the infant brother of Madduma Bandara in a Vangediya at this location. The wangediya used for this cruel act had been left in a place called Alakolamaditta. Present St. Paul’s Church was later constructed at this site (Abeyawardhana,2004).

The Devale has two stupas and recent excavations have revealed a circular shape basement probably a Mandapa which has been destroyed by invaders. The stupa near the Devale is thought to contain the bowl relic of Buddha and was broken into by Relic Hunters in 1889.

The Image house facing east contains an ancient “siripathul gala” or a footprint of Buddha engraved on a stone. The Bodhi tree in this devale is a sampling of the Sri Maha Bodhi in Anuradhapura. The Vahalkada or the entrance to the area is a roofed building with two guard stones on the sides and a makara thorana on the top.

A parapet wall was constructed around the Natha Devalaya and all its subsidiary buildings later (1860-1887). Fragments of two inscriptions with a reference to Jayawira wedaun-tena have been embedded onto the western side of the wall. This parapet wall around the Natha Devalaya complex is believed to be a construction done by the people of the Hatara Korale at the request of King Narendrasinghe (1707-1739)

Otunu Mandapaya

Close to the stupa, to the west, is a circular foundation called the Otunu Mandapaya as the name signifies, naming, anointing and crowning of Kandyan Kings had taken place at this venue. The stone close by where the crown had been kept is called the otunugala (Abeyawardhana,2004).

This Devale also plays a key role in the appointment of a new King. All newly appointed kings would come in front of the image of the Natha and select a name by which he is to be known.

Gambara Devalaya

There is a small devalaya to the east of Natha devalaya referred to as the Gambara Devalaya. Gambara Deviyo, also known as Suniyam Deviyo, Huniyam Deviyo bears both a Deva (divine) personality and a Yakksha (demonish) personality, He has been worshipped throughout Sri Lanka for the last few centuries. He is the protector of villagers and on the other hand the deity of sorcery.

Offerings similar to those made to Natha are also made at this devalaya. Some old paintings can be seen on the walls of this devalaya as well. However, on the left side external wall, you would find the paintings deliberately defaced with graffiti. Several sailing ships have been scratched on the wall plaster using a pointed object. Prof. Prematilaka believes that the ships were Portuguese, which is reasonable when taking into account the slab inscription on the wall of the devale which refers to an invasion by the Portuguese.

References

  1. Seneviratna, A., 1983. Kandy: an Illustrated Survey of Ancient Monuments With Historical, Archaeological and Literary Descriptions Including Maps of the City and Its Suburbs. Colombo: Central Cultural Fund, Ministry of Cultural Affairs.
  2. Abeyawardhana, H. A. P. (2004) Heritage of Kandurata: Major Natural, Cultural, and Historic Sites. Kandy: Kandurata Development Bank, in association with the Central Bank of Sri Lanka.
  3. Obeysekere, G. (1984) The Cult of the Goddess Pattini. University of Chicago.
  4. Fleisher, S. L. (1996). Rethinking Historical Change in Sri Lankan Ritual: Deities, Demons, Sorcery, and the Ritualization of Resistance in the Sinhala Traditions of Suniyam. Journal of Anthropological Research, 52(1), 29–59.

Also See

Map of the Kandy  Natha Devalaya

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The map above also shows other places of interest within a approximately 20 km radius of the current site. Click on any of the markers and the info box to take you to information of these sites

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Traveling Directions to  Natha Devalaya (Kandy)

Kandy can be reached from Colombo on the old Colombo – Kandy road (option 1) which is scenic but heavy in traffic, especially on Fridays and Sundays. However, the new Central Expressway (option 2) has opened up a new route which is longer but less cumbersome.

Route 1 from Colombo to KandyRoute 2 from Colombo to Kandy
Through : Katunayake Expressway – Central Expressway – Kurunegala
Distance :150 km
Travel time: 3.20 hours
Driving Directions : see on Google map
Through : Katunayake Expressway – Central Expressway – Kurunegala
Distance :150 km
Travel Time: 3.20 hours
Driving Directions : see on Google map
Route From Nuwara Eliya to Kandy
Through : Walapane – Raja Mawatha
Distance :100 km
Travel Time : 3.0 hours
Driving Directions : see on Google map
Route 1 from Colombo to KandyRoute 2 from Colombo to Kandy
Though : kadawata – Warakapola – Ambepussa – Mawanella
Distance :120 km
Travel time : 3.45 hours
Driving directions : see on google map
Though : Katunayake Expressway –
Distance :150 km
Travel time : 3.20 hours
Driving directions : see on google map
Route From Nuwara Eliya to Kandy
Though : Walapane – Raja Mawatha
Distance :100 km
Travel time : 3.0 hours
Driving directions : see on google map

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