Devanagala Raja Maha Viharaya is an ancient cave temple in the Mawanella area of the Kegalle District which has been in news recently. Devanagala Temple is believed to be built during the era of King Parakramabahu the Great (1153-1186) of Polonnaruwa Kingdom. There is also belief that the temple was first built by king Wattagamini Abaya, better known as King Walagamba (89-77 BC). This temple has housed the Dalada of the Buddha in the past and the ruins of this building still can be seen.
At a later date king Wimaladharmasuriya (1592 – 1604) of Kandyan Kingdom has also contributed towards development this temple.
One of the inscription at Devanagala has been made by King Parakramabahu who describes the donation of land in the surrounding area to a commander of his army named Kirthi Nuwaragala (Kith Nuwara Gal), who lead a battalion to Burma on his victorious campaign against the Burmese King. The full translation of this inscription is found on the publication “Lakdiva Sellipi” by Kothmale Amaravansha Thero published by M. D. Gunasena in 1969.
King Wimaladharmasuriya is regarded by some historians as the Kandyan Kingdom’s second founder, responsible for its revival. Born as Konnappu Bandara, he was baptized under the Portuguese name of Don Juoão da Austria. In 1581 , the Portuguese placed Kusmasana Devi who was baptised as Dona Catherina as the rightful owner of the Throne to Kandy Kingdom. King Rajasinghe I who ruled Sitawaka kingdom immediately overthrew her and annexed the Kandyan Kingdom to Sitawaka.
Konnapu Bandara was a commander of the Portuguese army but schemed with the Buddhist Priests to free Kandy from the Portuguese. In 1572, he renounced Christianity and embraced Buddhism and was consecrated as king Wimaladharmasuriya of the Kandyan Kingdom. To establish the royal bloodline, he married Kusumasana Devi and fought 2 very successful battles against the Portuguese who attempted to invade the kingdom.
The King Wimaladharmasuriya then handed over the Devanagala Raja Maha Viharaya to Devanagala Rathanasara Thero who helped him in his attempt to take the throne of Kandy. A second rock inscription describes this donations to the Devanagala Raja Maha Viharaya by the king.
The Devanagala was declared as a protected archeological reserve in 1941 based on the land measurements done in 1876 which had 72 acres of land belonging to the temple.
By late 1900’s the temple had gone in to ruins Muslims had started to invade the land belonging to the temple. Today the rock of Devanagala stands surrounded by an Muslim Colony with all the land belonging the temple grabbed by them. Unfortunately they have also destroyed all the ruins and tried to erase all the archeological importance of the site. One of the inscriptions in Devanagala has been attempted to destroy by pouring highly concentrated acid. The rock carving of a Buddha’s foot print has been scrapped and disfigured. All the statues and stupa belonging to Kandyan era have been destroyed looking for treasures.
A recent (around 2012-2014) revival of the heritage of Devanagala has now become an national issue with the Muslim Community refusing to leave the land belonging to the temple. The government attempted to re measure the land surrounding the area in 2005 and more recently in 2013. Although there was no objection from the effected Sinhalese community, the Muslim Community vehemently objected to this exercise and the officials were not allowed to complete this task both times.
Finally it had been agreed only to measure the area of the rock and leave only a buffer zone of 400 meters from the rock there by losing all the land which temple owned along with its heritage. But its was reported that even marking this buffer zone had been disrupted by the Islamists and local politicians.
In April 2013 it was reported that some unscrupulous individuals set fire to Mana grass in the Temple garden causing extensive damage to the water pipe which feeds the temple. Despite all these effects systematic destruction of this historical heritage is still going on in an organized manner. Even in the month of January 2021, an organized group of people used a backhoe machine to dig at the base of the Devanagala temple grounds for a paddy field. It was reported that ancient stone slabs and stone pillars used for paving were being dug up and been buried under earth to hide any proof of archaeological value of this site.
No matter how much grassroots efforts are made to preserve this ancient land, spineless politicians who rule this country are afraid to take any action regarding the protection and preservation of this historic heritage.
Tampita Viharaya of Devanagala
Devanagala is also home to one of the Tampita Viharaya belonging to the Kandyan kingdom. Today a new building has been built surrounding the Tampita Viharaya.
A Tampita Viharaya is a structure built on a wooden platform which rests on number of stone stumps usually 3-4 feet tall. The roof is held by a structure built of timber and the walls are generally made of wattle and daub. These buildings were a popular religious architectural design during the Kandyan period.
A seated Buddha statue underneath an elaborate dragons arch (makara thorana) lie at the center of the Tampita Vihara image house in Devanagala. Two statues of deities stand beside seated Buddha. Next to the deities stand two standing Buddha statues and seated Buddha statues facing each other.
The Makara Thorana (Dragon Arch) above the main statue is unique. in most cases, two dragons on the sides are facing upwards towards the “Kihibi Muhuna” at the upper center. Only the Kihibi Muhuna is looking straight forward at you. Here you will find the dragons of the Makara Thorana facing towards you with a comical grin on their face.
- Tampita Vihara of Sri Lanka Index
- Ancient Heritage Sites of Sri Lanka
- Other Places of Interest Within Close Proximity
Map of the Devanagala Raja Maha Viharaya
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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Driving Directions to Devanagala Raja Maha Viharaya
The climb to the temple at the top of the rock takes approximately 45 mins
|Route from Mawanella Town to to Devanagala Raja Maha Viharaya|
|Through : Bakmeedeniya|
Distance : 7 km
Travel time :10 mins
Driving directions : see on google map