Natha Devale – Kandy  මහනුවර නාථ දේවාලය
Hatara Devala or the four devalas dedicated to gods Natha, Vishnu, Pattini and Kataragama have a long and close association with the Dalada Maligawa and are held sacred by Buddhists and the Hindus alike. Three of these devalas are situated very close to the Maligawa, while the Kataragama devala is situated along Katugodella Veediya. The Natha Devala shrine situated directly opposite the main entrance to the Dalada Maligawa has been identified by scholars as the oldest building in the city of Kandy.
According to the Archaeological Department Centenary Commemorative Series – Volume Three; two stone inscriptions are found here which read, ‘on the tenth day of the dark half of the month of Bak (March –April) in the Buddha Era 2085’ ( ie March 30, 1543).
It records the grant of concessions by King Sri Jayaweera to the people of Dumbara, Pansiya-Pattuwa, Matale and Uva Thunkinda and Alutgama for the services rendered by them in the attack of the Portuguese on the hill country. According to tradition, this year marks the accession of Vikramabahu, the founder of the capital city of Kandy. Codrington seems to identify Jayaweera with Vikramabahu. This shows that the outer wall which has been built, after the main shrine was there without plaster in 1543, to act as the base of the inscription indicating that the date of the monument is very much earlier than the establishment of the City of Kandy.
The Natha devala did not fall short of royal patronage of the Kandy kings. It was at this devala that a Prince raised to the throne had the golden sword of state girded on him by the first Adigar, at an auspicious hour. The sword placed at the foot of the Natha Deviyo, was picked up by the Prince who then proceeded to take his oath within the devala precincts, pledging that he would rule the country according to the Dasa Raja Dharma; the ten attributes of a good King and to always use the sword with righteousness.
John Davey in his account of the Interior of Ceylon writes that the ceremony of choosing a name and putting on the regal sword by the Prince who had ascended the throne of Kandy, was conducted at the Natha Devala. This Devala plays an important role in preparing and distributing the Nanu, or medicinal herbs that go with the first bath taken in the Sinhala New Year, a tradition which comes down from the time of the Sinhalese kings. During the Kartika festival, the oil needed for lighting the lamps is also supplied by the same Devala.
Natha Devala also possessed a flag depicting Natha Deiyo. An image of god Natha seated in the Raja Leela is housed in the Garbhagrha or the inner sanctum of the devala.
Architecturally, the Natha Devala building resembles the Gadaladeniya image with the same Dravidian style of architecture, construction material and details. The Devala is built on a platform of dressed stone. The monument is three-storied and is surmounted by a sikhara or dome in the shape of a stupa. The two upper stories are non-functional.
There are three-roofed and ornamented entrance gateway buildings to the Devala with Doratupala figures on each side. The Makara Torana on the top carries the image of gods.
The Bodhi tree here is venerated as one of the off-shoots of the sacred Sri Maha Bodhi in Anuradapura. Ruins of an ancient Bodhi Gara structure built for the Bo tree have been found.The circular foundation seen in the premises is known as the Otunu Mandapaya, where it is believed the naming, anointing and crowning of Kandyan kings had taken place.
A small devala known as the Gambhara devala, where offerings similar to those made to Natha is also within the premises.
The stupa nearby is identified as the one that enshrines the sacred Bowl Relic of the Buddha. This stupa was broken into by thieves in 1889. The relic chamber was then opened and two gilt relic caskets and a few images of the Buddha were discovered.
God Natha or Natha Deviyo, is the god who aspires to become the next Buddha, Maitreya or Mete Budun. Mahayana Buddhists call him Avalokitesvara Bodhisatva. He was known to the people as the Senkadagala devindu, or the guardian god of Senkadagala. Lithic records establish that Senkadagala was the centre of the Natha cult.