Saturday, March 20, 2010

Embekke Devalaya - Kandy

Embekke Devalaya (temple), which is famous for its elaborate wood carvings, was built in the 14th century during the reign King Wickremebahu III who ruled in Gampola from 1357 to 1374. UNESCO has identified these carvings as "the finest products of woodcarvings to be found in any part of the world". Many of the carvings depict legends which describe the origin of the devalaya. More images and info after the jump.

The temple was supposed to have been built by queen Henakanda Bisobandara in association with a drummer named Rangama. This temple, dedicated to Kataragama deviyo (god), is supposed to have been housed in a three story building which no longer exists. Currently, only the drummer's hall and the dancing hall remain besides the temple itself. Each of the 32 columns in the drummers' hall, shown in the first image, have square carvings on all four sides. The columns end in a carving designed on a leaf (second image above). Every carving on the columns is different and it is believed that they were created by an artisan named Devendra Mulachari. Some of the square shaped carvings found on the columns can be seen below. Click images for larger versions.



The carvings found on the roof are also in good condition and the intricate details are still visible. The shot below is of one of the beams which appears between the two rows of columns on either side of the drummers' hall. The midday light helped define the detail in all the carvings. 


The roof of the Embekke Devalaya is a masterpiece in classic carpentry. The "Madol Kurupuwa", a wooden pin, is used to hold together 26 rafters at the hipped end of the roof. The pin is shown in the image below. 

The doors which lead into the main devalaya itself have two big brass locks. The first door is made of a dark heavy wood. The inner door is covered with a painting. 


The bells of the devalaya can be found between these two doors. I was unable to photograph the inner sanctum of the devalaya as it was closed when we got there. 

Legend of the Embekke Temple

In 14th century Sri Lanka there was a small village named Araththanna which was famous for producing dancers and drummers. In this village lived a drummer named Rangama who had a skin disease. He tried every possible medicine to try and rid himself of the skin disease but was unable to do so. He then decided to make the pilgrimage to Katharagam, in the southern part of Sri Lanka, to ask the god of Katharagama to cure him of his illness, promising to make the pilgrimage annually if he was successful. His illness was then cured and, as promised, he made the annual trip to Katharagama for several years.

After many years Rangama realised that he could not physically make the long journey to Katharagama and on his last pilgrimage, he prayed that he could no longer make his annual journey as he was too old. The god of Katharagama then spoke to him in his dreams and told him that in a few days a miracle would occur and gave him instructions on what he was to do.

There was a flower garden named Ambakka which belonged to queen Henakanda Bisobandara. A few days after Rangama returned from the south,  a gardener was trying to remove a "Kaduru" tree from the garden and he noticed that a stream of blood was flowing from where he had cut the tree. When Rangama heard of this, he went to the garden and started performing the rituals as instructed by god Katharagama. Rangama built a small temple around the tree and ever since it has been referred to as the Ambakka (Embekke) Devalaya.

When the King heard of this, he built a three story temple on the land and gave land and elephants as gifts to the temple.  Some of the queen's jewellery was also give to the temple as a gift.

To this day, the drummer's descendants are said to perform rituals at the temple.  

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Chulie de Silva said...

love the pics

holdingmoments said...

Dev, another amazing and informative post. A stunning temple, and such intricate carving. A work of art.

Dev Wijewardane said...

Thanks for the comments guys.

The carvings are definitely a work of art.

Chris said...

Superb pictures! I totally agree with Keith!

Dev Wijewardane said...

Thanks Chris.

Welgama said...

Dear Dev,

Love the pics, brings out our heritage, how can i contact you.