Maha Siyambalawa Devalaya in Kebiliththa also popularly known as Maha Kebiliththa Devalaya is a small shrine deep inside block IV of the Yala National Park. The general belief is that Deity Kataragama spends most of his time at tranquil Kebiliththa in meditation.
This devalaya has no fixed buildings but a few statues around a Small Tamarind (Siyambala) tree. This Tamarind Tree is about 9 feet high but quite old. This tree is said to be an offshoot of the original tamarind tree which has stopped growing after a few years. After the original tree died, the deity Kataragama selected another tamarind tree lying a little way from the devalaya.
The Kataragama Devalaya at Kataragama draws thousands of devotees every day but Kebiliththa draws only a handful of the most devoted to Kataragama. This site is believed to have great spiritual powers thus a visit requires preparation for at least a week ahead. The visitors must stay away from all forms of meat, fish or eggs at least a week ahead and the process of worshipping and offering puja is also more stringent and the trip needs to be done with great faith and dedication.
There are numerous stories of unfortunate incidents happening to those who violated the faith of this holy land from being stranded in the jungle for days due to water levels of rivers, vehicle problems, getting lost, and getting mysteriously ill on the trip to incidents occurring days after completing the journey.
The history of the devale is also intriguing. When the Dutch landed in Sri Lanka in 1602, they systematically started looting Buddhist temples and devalayas of valuable gems and gold in the coastal region. Katragama Devalaya is and was one temple that was accumulating large amounts of wealth and treasures being the most popular devalaya in the country.
When the custodians of the Kataragama Devalaya heard this news they collected all valuables and came to Kebiliththa which was already being considered an area of God Kataragama. They hid the treasures in a tamarind tree trunk and handed over the custodianship to a person called Kebiliththe Rala who was so strong that he had been able to capture running wild buffaloes and tame them.
The Dutch came through Panama looking for the hidden treasures of Kataragama Devalaya and finally reached Kebiliththa. Kebiliththe Rala is said to have fought and killed 10 Dutchmen but he too died of wounds. The treasures were taken away by the Kataragama custodians but it is said that the spirit of Kebiliththe Rala now looks after this devale under the instructions from God Kataragama.
An ancient Bodhi Tree also exists near this devalaya and a large amount of ruins consisting of rock pillars can be seen spread around the area. Although no research has been done, this area would have been part of a Buddhist monastery in the ancient past.
The travel to this devale is also an experience of its own. It is one of the toughest 4×4 tracks in the country crossing rivers and muddy terrains. A jeep hire alone will cost 35,000 – 40,000 rupees for the trip and it’s always advised to travel in two jeeps to back each other. Winches, snatch belts, high lift jacks, and an experienced 4×4 driver are a must for the ride. Sometimes tractors are also used to make this trip.
There are 4 routes used to reach the Kebiliththa Devalaya
Map of Maha Kebiliththa Devalaya
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Travel Directions to Maha Kebiliththa Devalaya
1 (through Kumana Entrance) – About 56 km
Kumana -> Kuda Kabaliththa -> Ada Kumbuka -> Gal amuna -> Kebiliththa
Route 2 (through Yala Block II Entrance) – About 87 km.
Yala -> Block ii -> cross Kumbukkan Oya -> Kuda Kabalithth -> Ada Kumbuka -> Gal amuna -> Kebiliththa
Route 3 (through Kotiyagala) – About 32 Km from Kotiyagala. This is not a official entrance to Yala Park. This is one of the most popular routes. The route can be made also on tractors. The cost of a tractor hire is about Rs 15,000/- and a jeep around Rs 35,000/-
Monaragala -> Kodayana -> 5 Kanuwa(5th Post) -> Kotiyagala -> Bogas hanidiya road or Kammal yaya road -> Kebiliththa
Route 4 (through Galge Entrance) – about 30 km.