Vishnu Devalaya of Kandy Kingdom (මහනුවර විශ්ණු දේවාලය)

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On to the North-West of the palace, in front of the “Natha Devale is the “Vishnu Devalaya” popularly known as the “Maha Devale”. This is one of the Hatara Devale in the Kandy, the other three being the Natha, Kataragama and Patini. These four Devalayas have a long association with the Royal Palace ( Maha Vasala) and the Temple of Tooth Relic (Sri Dalada Maligawa) and have been venerated by Buddhists and Hindus alike from their inception. Another devalaya dedicated to Ganesha, the elephant-headed Hindu deity now known as Pillaiyar Kovil is located in Katukele.

Different historical documents have called this deity and the Devale by different names. Robert Knox, the English Prisoner has called the deity in this devale “Aluth Nuwara Deiyo”. According to legend the “Aluth Nuwara Deviyo” was brought to Aluth Nuwara in Kegalle District from Devinuwara in Matara. This deity was called “Upulvan Deiyo” (a deity with the colour of a lotus).

Later this deity in Aluth Nuwara was known as “Vishnu”. The 15th century “Paravi Sandeshaya”, a poetical work describes the deity at Devinuwara, Matara as a destroyer of Asura. Thus it can believed that this same deity is also “Rama” of the great Indian Epic “Ramayana”. Interestingly “Ehelapola Varnanawa”, a poetical work done in the 19th century calls this shrine at Kandy, “The Rama Devale”. It is also interesting to note that this devale has had in possession a cloth painting depicting the Battle of Rama and Ravana.

When the Portuguese invaded the Kandyan kingdom, they damaged the Upulvan Devalaya at Aluthnuwara. Then King Senerath (1604 – 1635) constructed a new devalaya in Kandy for the Upulvan deity. During the days of rulers from the Nayakkar clan, the Upulvan Devalaya was transformed into a Vishnu Devalaya. This mix-up of names had occurred as a result of the similarity of the complexion of the two deities. (Vishnu is shown in blue whereas Upulvan means the colour of blue lotus). (Abeyawardhana, 2004)

“According to Mahavansa, The great chronicle of Sri Lanka, It was “Upulvan Deiyo” thus Vishnu who was selected as the guardian to protect the land of Sri Lanka and Buddhism within it at the time of Buddha’s passing away.

“When the Guide of the World, having accomplished the salvation of the whole world and having reached the utmost stage of blissful rest, was lying on the bed of his nibbana; in the midst of the great assembly of gods, he, the great sage, the greatest of those who have speech, spoke to Sakka’ who stood there near him: `Vijaya, son of king Sihabahu, is come to Lanka from the country of Lala, together with seven hundred followers. In Lanka, O lord of gods, will my religion be established, therefore carefully protect him with his followers and Lanka.

When the lord of gods heard the words of the Buddha he from respect handed over the guardianship of Lanka to the god who is in colour like the lotus. “

— From Mahavansa

According to beliefs, Vishnu is a future Buddha after Natha. Therefore Vishnu always has had a high ranking among the deities worshipped by the Sri Lankans. During the Kandyan Era the the Kings “Abisheka Mangallaya” or the Coronation Ceremony was held at this Maha Devale.

The origin of Vishnu Devalaya or the shrine of Vishnu is unclear. This is a long building with a storied sanctum at the end. In front of the sanctum is a long hall called “dig-ge”. This hall is for dancers who carry out puja for the deity. Today it is used by the devotees to pray. This building complex is entered through a two-storeyed Vahalkada (entrance doorway), to an open hall with timber columns in the middle terrace, a beautifully carved stone flight of steps and the drumming hall.

In addition to the main devalaya, a shrine dedicated to worshipping Dedimunda deity and a Bo tree can be found at this site. To make the confusion more complex W.A. De Silva wrote in 1920 that Dedimunda Deviyo goes under several names. He was born in Talagiri rock. His father was the Yakka Chief Purnaka and his mother was the handsome Naga Princess Irandati. He was known as Sandun Kumara as he lived in a Sandalwood forest. He commanded the Taksha army and hence received the name Dedimunda. He became the guardian of the great gem at Anotatta Lake and received the title of Menik Bandara. He became the guardian of the gem-set seat of the City of Kelaniya and obtained the title of Kirti Bandara. He was known as Uva Bandara for guarding the Soli Country. For destroying the rock at Kirulagama he became Devata Bandara. He had an elephant as his vehicle. Dedimunda Devata is also known as Aluthnuwara Deviyo (De Silva, 1925).

References

  1. Seneviratna, A., 1983. Kandy: an Illustrated Survey of Ancient Monuments With Historical, Archaeological and Literary Descriptions Including Maps of the City and Its Suburbs. Colombo: Central Cultural Fund, Ministry of Cultural Affairs.
  2. Abeyawardhana, H. A. P. (2004) Heritage of Kandurata: Major Natural, Cultural, and Historic Sites. Kandy: Kandurata Development Bank, in association with the Central Bank of Sri Lanka.
  3. De Silva, W.A. (1925) “Ceremonial Songs of the Sinhalese Guardian Spirits (Deva),” Journal of the Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, XXVIII(1919-1920).

Also See

  • Kandy – The Last Kingdom of Sinhale

Map of Vishnu Devalaya of Kandy Kingdom

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Traveling Directions to Vishnu Devalaya of Kandy Kingdom

Kandy can be reached from Colombo on the old Colombo – Kandy road (option 1) which is scenic but heavy in traffic, especially on Fridays and Sundays. However, the new Central Expressway (option 2) has opened up a new route which is longer but less cumbersome.

Route 1 from Colombo to KandyRoute 2 from Colombo to Kandy
Through : Katunayake Expressway – Central Expressway – Kurunegala
Distance :150 km
Travel time: 3.20 hours
Driving Directions : see on Google map
Through : Katunayake Expressway – Central Expressway – Kurunegala
Distance :150 km
Travel Time: 3.20 hours
Driving Directions : see on Google map
Route From Nuwara Eliya to Kandy
Through : Walapane – Raja Mawatha
Distance :100 km
Travel Time : 3.0 hours
Driving Directions : see on Google map

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