Devanagala Raja Maha Viharaya – දෙවනගල රජමහා විහාරය

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Devanagala Raja Maha Viharaya - Dhathu Mandiraya where the Dalada was kept

Devanagala Raja Maha Viharaya – Dhathu Mandiraya where the Dalada was kept
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Devanagala Raja Maha Viharaya is an ancient cave temple in the Mawanella area of the Kegalle District which has been in news recently. The 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 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 who lead a battalion to Berma called Kirthi Nuwaragala (Kith Nuwara Gal) for his victorious campaign against the Burmese King. The full translation of this inscription can be 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.

 

Kuragala buddhist monastery

Concentrated acid pored on valuable Dewanagala Stone Inscription
image source : sinhalabuddhist.com

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 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.

Devanagala Buddha's foot print - attmpt to destroy it

Devanagala Buddha’s foot print – attmpt to destroy it
Source : dharmadveepayeiranama.blogspot.com

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.

Hopefully archeological department will be able to revive any leftover heritage at this site for the future generations.

 

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.

Also See

Map of the Devanagala Raja Maha Viharaya

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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.

Zoom out the map to see more surrounding locations using the mouse scroll wheel or map controls.

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

Though : Bakmeedeniya
Distance : 7 km
Travel time :10 mins
Driving directions : see on google map

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