Thaniwella Devalaya at Madampe – මාදම්පේ තනිවැල්ල දේවාලය

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Thaniwella Devalaya at Madampe
Thaniwella Devalaya at Madampe
Image courtesy of Dr. Ashan Geeganage

As you travel past Wenappuwa towards Puttalam on the Colombo – Puttalam road, one of the landmarks that no one misses is the Devalaya with a giant white horse in a jumping position facing away from the road. Popularly known as the Thaniwella Devalaya (Thaniwelle Devalaya) most travelers make it a point to get down and drop a coin to the collection box as a offering.

Almost all devalaya’s in the country is dedicated to some deity and the most prominent figure  you would see in front is a statue of this deity or the devalaya itself. But at the Thaniwella Devalaya, the most prominent is the large white horse with its front feet in the air in a gesture of worshiping the devalaya.


Thaniwella Devalaya has been built as a place of worship for the deity known as “Thaniwelle Bandara Deviyo”. A deity worshiped only in this region. So who is this deity ? The history of “Thaniwelle Bandara Deviyo” is an intriguing one.

King Weera Parakramabahu VIII of Kotte Kingdom (1477 – 1489)  had two wives who were sisters. He had five sons; Dharma Parakamabahu, Sri Rajasinghe and Vijayabahu by one wife and Sakalakala Vallabha and Thaniya Wallabha by the other wife.

When the sons grew up, the king divided his kingdom in to five regions and allowed the five sons to rule the area as regional kings. Dharma Parakamabahu ruled the capital Kotte, Sri Rajasinghe from Manikkadawara, Vijayabahu from Raigama, Sakalakala Vallabha from Udugampola and Thaniya Wallabha from Madampe. For years these 5 regional rulers worked as one helping each other bringing stability to the whole region.

Sub king Thaniya Wallabha is said to have equally contributed towards the economic stability of his region just as to political stability. The best known irrigation work he had carried out is the Maha Wewa reservoir in Madampe which had been built to support the agriculture in the region. This reservoir still can be seen about 2.5 km before devalaya still supporting the surrounding paddy fields.

Many stories are still told of the death of Thaniya Wallabha. One is that he went to war with his brother Sakalakala Vallabha against a Soli (or Muslim?) army and and as per the tradition, his army was supposed to raise a white flag if he had won and black flag if he had  lost. This served as a pre warning to the palace and its subjects where if they see a white flag they would plan their celebrations to greet the winning army and if a black flag is seen, the subjects and the palace would prepare for the ultimate loss of the king and the army.

The man who was in charge of raising a flag was called “Adapparaya” who had fallen in love with the queen and he had raised the black flag instead of the white flag hoping the queen may flee the palace but the queen had committed suicide instead. Some say the king too committed suicide once he realized the queens fate and some say he left the palace to spend the rest of his life meditating.

But another story is that none of this happened but Thaniya Wallabha was murdered by his grand son “Veediye Bandara” around 1853.

Irrespective of his death, king Thaniya Wallabha was deitified as Thaniwelle Bandara Deviyo by his subjects as with many other kings who had made immense contributions to its subjects.

The exact birth of this Devalaya is not recorded but the current building has been built in 1894 but the bo tree at the premises is said to atleast 250 years old. Thaniwella Devalaya continues to intrigue the travelers today but few would know the colorful history of the deity for which this unique place of worship was built.

Also See

Map of Thaniwella Devalaya at Madampe

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Travel Directions to Thaniwella Devalaya at Madampe

Route from Polonnaruwa to Thaniwella Devalaya at Madampe
Distance :  71 km
Travel time : 2 hours
Driving directions : see on google map