Devanagala Rajamaha Viharaya

RATE THIS LOCATION :1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (17 votes, average: 3.65 out of 5)

Devanagala Raja Maha Viharaya is an ancient cave temple in the Mawanella area of the Kegalle District which has been in the news recently. Devanagala Temple is believed to have been built during the era of King Parakramabahu the Great (1153-1186)  of Polonnaruwa Kingdom. There is also a 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 the Kandyan Kingdom also contributed towards the development of this temple.

One of the inscriptions 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 led a battalion to Burma on his victorious campaign against the Burmese King. The full translation of this inscription is found in 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 in Kandy Kingdom.  King Rajasinghe I who ruled the 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.

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 these donations to the Devanagala Raja Maha Viharaya by the king.

The Devanagala was declared a protected archaeological reserve in 1941 based on the land measurements done in 1876 which had 72 acres of land belonging to the temple.

By the late 1900’s the temple had gone into ruins Muslims had started to invade the land belonging to the temple. Today the rock of Devanagala stands surrounded by a Muslim Colony with all the land belonging to the temple grabbed by them. Unfortunately, they have also destroyed all the ruins and tried to erase all the archaeological 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 footprint has been scrapped and disfigured. All the statues and stupas belonging to the Kandyan era have been destroyed looking for treasures.

A recent (around 2012-2014) revival of the heritage of Devanagala has now become a 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 affected Sinhalese community, the Muslim Community vehemently objected to this exercise and the officials were not allowed to complete this task both times.

Kuragala buddhist monastery
Concentrated acid pored on valuable Dewanagala Stone Inscription
image source:
Devanagala Buddha's foot print - attmpt to destroy it
Devanagala Buddha’s footprint – attempt to destroy it
Source :

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 thereby losing all the land which the temple owned along with its heritage. But it 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, the systematic destruction of this historical heritage is still going on in an organized manner. Even in 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 buried under the earth to hide any proof of the 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 a 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 dragon arch (Makara Thorana) lies at the centre of the Tampita Vihara image house in Devanagala. Two statues of deities stand beside the 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 centre. 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

Please click on the button below to load the Dynamic Google Map (ගූගල් සිතියම් පහලින්)

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


0-09 m (87) 10-19 m (77) 20-29 m (46) 30-39 m (50) 40-49 m (24) 50-99 m (49) Ambalama (161) Ancient Anicuts (33) Articles (0) Asanaghara (8) Ashtapala Bodhi (5) Attraction Articles (3) Attractions (225) Beaches (9) Biosphere Reserves (3) Botanical Gardens (5) Bridges (34) Cave Art (6) Caving (7) Churches (17) Cities (9) Destinations (16) Dethis Pala Bodhi (15) Devalaya (41) Events (2) Flora and Fauna (74) Forts (49) Heritage (1628) Heritage Articles (28) Historic Events (5) History (7) Hot Springs (9) Hydro Heritage (87) Irrigation Articles (4) Islands (15) Kovils (25) Kuludage (11) Lighthouses (27) Memorials (53) Mile Posts (6) Mosques (3) Museums (8) National Parks (22) over 100 m (20) Pabbatha Vihara (11) Personalities (7) Pillar/Slab Inscriptions (37) Pre Historic Burial Sites (19) Prehistory (38) Prehistory Articles (2) RAMSAR sites (6) Ravana (12) Reservoirs (48) Rock Inscriptions (9) Ruins in Wilpattu (5) Ruins in Yala (25) Santuaries (7) Sluice Gates (13) Stone Bridges (18) Strict Nature Reserves (3) Sumaithangi (3) Survey Towers (14) Tampita Vihara (240) Tourist Attractions (198) Travel (3) View Points (18) Walawwa (13) War Memorials (26) Waterfalls (375) Wildlife Articles (24) Yathuru Pokuna (4)

Abhayagiri Monastery (20) Ampara District (193) Anuradhapura District (212) Badulla District (118) Batticaloa District (22) Colombo District (79) Galle District (64) Gampaha District (60) Hambantota District (117) India (1) Jaffna District (72) Kalutara District (51) Kandy District (201) Kegalle District (158) Kilinochchi District (13) Kingdom of Anuradhapura (85) Kingdom of Kandy (14) Kingdom of Kotte (9) Kingdom of Polonnaruwa (55) King Kavan Tissa (1) King Mahasen (1) King Walagamba (3) Kurunegala District (171) Maha Vihara (14) Mannar District (47) Mannar Island (10) Matale District (86) Matara District (44) Mihintale (22) Monaragala District (101) Mullaitivu District (21) Negombo (5) Nuwara Eliya District (117) Polonnaruwa District (119) Puttalam District (36) Ratnapura District (161) Trincomalee District (49) Vavuniya District (31) waterfalls in Sinharaja (3) z Delft 1 (5) z Jaffna 1 (20) z Jaffna 2 (24) z Jaffna 3 (12)

Leave a Reply