Okanda Devalaya (ඔකඳ දේවාලය)

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Okanda is a small hamlet on the eastern coast of Sri Lanka at the official entrance to the Kumana National Park. Just before the ticketing office of Kumana, a small lane toward the sea will take you to the Okanda Devalaya on a rocky outcrop on the beach.

For the devotees travelling on the annual Kataragama Pada Yathra, Okanda is the last gathering point before entering the unforgiving jungle of Kumana and then Yala where they would continue their weeks long walk towards the Katragagama Devalaya. The devotees would worship the Murugan (a form of  Kataragama Deity for Hindus) Kovil at Okanda and obtain blessings of the Murugan for a safe journey through the jungles.

At the top of the rock is a small devalaya dedicated to Valli Amma, the concubine of Murugan ( Skanda). At the bottom of the rock lies a large devalaya dedicated to Murugan (deity Kataragama). A flight of rock-cut steps from this devalaya leads to the top of the rock.

The caves at Kottadamuhela, nearby, were a gift to the Sangha of the four quarters of the world, past, present and yet to come by the descendants of an independent dynasty of Kshatriya who reigned over southeast Ceylon with its seat in Kataragama. The emblem of the fish, found in the caves in this region, is the insignia of these rulers.

This entire region, as attested to by ancient cave inscriptions (out of which 20 have been identified at Kottadamuhela), has been used for similar purposes to those of this initiative since before the time of Christ.

According to the Historian Ven. Medhadana Thero, he has observed ruins of the stupa at the top of the rock during a visit in 1978 but today only some traces of it is found. Ancient bricks are scattered at the bottom of the rock.

Rock Pool at the Okanda Valli Amma Devale
Rock Pool at the Okanda Valli Amma Devale
image source : okanda.org

Also according to the Thero, this devalaya was owned by Buddhists till 1970 when the Tamils overrode the Sinhalese in the area. With the emergence of LTTE terrorists in the 80s this area was systematically cleansed of Sinhalese. Whoever was not hacked to death left an area other than a few farmer families in Panama, the only existing ancient Sinhalese village today, who survived with the help of the forces.

The Name “Okanda Devalaya” which appeared on a board till 2002-04-27 has been replaced with “Murugan Kovil” since then according to Thero. But even today this Okanda Devalaya (Murugan Kovil) is a place of worship for almost all those who come to visit Kumana irrespective of race and religion.

In 2009, the LTTE Terrorists were defeated after a bitter war which raged for 30 years. The Okanda Devalaya and the surrounding area have been freely accessible since then.

References

  1. Ellāvala Medhānanda, 2005. The Sinhala Buddhist heritage in the East and the North of Shri [i.e. Sri] Lanka. 1st ed. Colombo: Dayawansa Jayakody & Co.

Also See

Map of Okanda Devalaya

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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

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Travel Directions to Okanda Devalaya

The monastery lies 98 km from Ampara town and 141 km from Batticaloa town

Route from Colombo to Okanda Devalaya Route from Batticaloa to Okanda Devalaya
Through : Awissawela – Ratnaputa – Beragala – Wellawaya – Buttala – Monaragala – Arugam Bay – Panama
Distance :355  km
Travel time : 7 hours.
Driving Directions : see on google map
Through : Kalmunei – Oluvil – Akkaraipattu – Pottuvil – Panama
Distance :141
Travel time : 3 hours.
Driving Directions : see on google map

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