Embekke Devalaya | The Shrine of Wood Carvings

Embekke Devalaya

Embekke Devalaya (Sinhala: ඇම්බැක්කේ දේවාලය; Tamil: எம்பக்க முருகன் கோயில்) is a Devalaya Shrine in the village of Embekka in Kandy District, Sri Lanka. The site is located on the Embekka - Pilimatalawa road, about 7 km from Pilimatalawa town. Embekka Devalaya is considered the place where the greatest collection of wood carvings in Sri Lanka is found (Rajapakse et al., 2010).


According to the traditional asserts, Embekke was the audience hall of the Gampola Kings which have been later converted and dedicated to the Sinhalese War God Kataragama Deviyo or Kartikeya (Devendra, 1955; Gamage, 2018). A local deity called Devata Bandara is also worshipped here (Godakumbura, 2011). Textual sources and folklore reveal that this Devalaya was established by King Vikramabahu III (1357-1374 A.D.) during the Gampola period (Devendra, 1955; Gamage, 2018; Godakumbura, 2011; Rajapakse et al., 2010). The palm leaf manuscript  Embekke Varnanawa written by Delgahagoda Mudiyanse in the 18th century attributes the construction of this shrine to Vikramabahu III (Gamage, 2018). It further records that the original building over the sanctum used to be a three-storied structure and it was supplemented by a later restoration or a reconstruction in the 18th century by the Kandyan kings (Gamage, 2018). The Kirala Sandeshaya, poetry written during the Kandyan Period, mentions this shrine as "Mahasen Devalaya" (Rajapakse, 2016). The Digge of the shrine is said to have been embellished during the reign of King Rajadhi Rajasinha [(1781-1798 A.D.) Abeywardana, 2004].

The art/ architecture of the Digge of Embekke Devalaya is often seen as the oldest of its kind in the country (Gamage, 2018). The tradition says that it was the source of inspiration for the work at the Audience Hall in Kandy (Devendra, 1955).


There are several folk stories associated with the origin of this temple. According to one such story, a Panikkiya (a drummer) who was suffering from an incurable skin disease visited the Kataragama Temple in the south of the country and as a result of the blessing he received from the god there, the rash was cured (Gamage, 2018). To pay homage to God Kataragama, the drummer paid an annual visit to Kataragama and on one such visit, he fell asleep under a tree that was located at the site where the present Embekke Devalaya stands (Gamage, 2018). The drummer saw a dream in which he was informed by God Kataragama that he would soon find a sign that would indicate where a shrine on behalf of the god was to be built (Gamage, 2018). The drummer who woke up from sleep went back to his village and one day heard about a man who had cut down a Kaduru Tree (Cerbera manghas) in Embekke which secreted red liquid instead of its natural white colour sap (Gamage, 2018). By thinking that this could be the miraculous sign that god informed him in his dream, the drummer immediately informed the king, Vikramabahu III (Gamage, 2018). Believing the story of the drummer, the king proceeded to build the Embekke Devalaya where the Kaduru tree was located (Gamage, 2018).

Henakanda Biso Bandara who is believed to be a queen of Wikramabahu III is said to have lived in a place near the Embekke Devalaya and it is said that the present shrine has been erected within the park belongs to her (Abeywardana, 2004; Thalwatta, 2017). According to folklore, God Kataragama who was mesmerised by the beauty of Henakanda Biso Bandara killed and took her as his wife in her afterlife (Gamage, 2018; Thalwatta, 2017).


The Devalaya building was in a deteriorated state in the mid of the 1940s and the Department of Archaeology conserved the timberwork preventing further damage (Uduwara, 1990). Between 1970 and 1971, the roof of the Maha Devalaya, the entrance porch and the Palle Devalaya were conserved (Uduwara, 1990). The Digge was conserved in 1978 (Uduwara, 1990).


Within the Digge, there are two Sinhala inscriptions engraved on wood pillars (Gamage, 2018).

Period: 19th century A.D.                         Language: Modern Sinhala                         Script: Modern Sinhala
Content I: The five supportive poles that are fixed in front of this Devāle were brought from the valley of Udabulathgama by Panabokke Bandara Rate Mahatmaya of Udabulathgama, in 1856 A.D. Work done by Upāsaka Gedara Kirihami.
Reference: Gamage, 2018. p.100.

The Temple Complex

Mainly eight old buildings are identified at the site. They include Vahalkada (the entrance), Maha Devalaya (the main shrine), Palle Devalaya, Muruthengeya (the kitchen), Vee Atuwa (granary), the Buddha shrine, Rittageya (Embekke Ambalama), and Sinhasana Geya (the throne house). Except for the Rittageya and Sinhasana Geya, the other six buildings are found within the temple premises. 


The porch at the entrance of the temple is called Vahalkada and it is said to be the oldest construction found on the site (Godakumbura, 2011). It has been built on a quadrangle base of about 2.5 ft. in height and the roof of the building is supported by 10 pillars set in three rows of which the two extreme ones have three each (Devendra, 1955). The pillars are of the same age and type as those in the Hewisi Mandapaya (Devendra, 1955). The structure is 22 ft. 11 inches in length and 18 ft. 8 inches in width.

Maha Devalaya consists of five parts; the Garbha, Pirith Kiyana Ge, Antharalaya or Meda Digge, Sandun Kudama and Digge or Hewisi Mandapaya The soldier, Embekke

Maha Devalaya

The main shrine (Maha Devalaya) consists of five parts; the Garbha (the sanctum), Pirith Kiyana Ge (Dhamma enchanting house), Antharalaya or Meda Digge, Sandun Kudama and Digge (dancing hall) or Hewisi Mandapaya (drummers' hall). 


The temple has earned great attention from visitors because of the splendid low-relief wood carvings found on the pillars and the high-pitched roof of the Digge (Gamage, 2018; Godakumbura, 2011). It has been built on a quadrangle stone-faced platform measuring 16.26 m (52 ft. 10 inches) long, 7.92 m (25 ft. 9 inches) wide and 0.92 m (3 ft.) high (Abeywardana, 2004). Totally 32 carved wooden pillars about 11 ft. tall have been planted on this platform to bear the roof (Abeywardana, 2004; Gamage, 2018). The medial panels of the wooden pillars contain the finest Sinhalese wood carvings depicting swan figures, double-headed eagles, the women growing out of the vine, bacchanalian figures, wrestling pairs, dancers, soldiers, etc. (Godakumbura, 2011). The upper part of the pillars is decorated with dropping lotuses. The Madol Kurupawa (or Keni Madala), a giant catch pin (wood) that holds 26 rafters at the northern part of the roof contains no single metal pin used and is considered a special piece of work. Totally, 514 wood carvings (including 128 medial panel carvings, 256 Liyapath Wardana carvings, 64 Pekada Nelum carvings, 30 Balka, and 36 Thalada carvings) are found in the Digge (Abeywardana, 2004).

The wood carving designs of Digge contain representations of real life as well as the mythical (Devendra, 1955). The real-life designs include the figures of humans, animals (royal lion, Kesara Sinha and swans), floral (sun and lotus), leaf (Liya-potha, Liyawela) and rope (or coil) motifs (Devendra, 1955). The mythical motifs include the figures of Serapendiya (scaly-bodied feathered bird with a human face), Bherunda Pakshiya (double-headed eagle), Gaja Sinha (the elephant-headed lion) and Narilatha [(a female reminiscent of the woman-creeper) Devendra, 1955]. However, there are no images of God Kataragama or his consorts or any carving depicting Buddhist or Hindu religious symbols (Gamage, 2018).

The soldier on horseback, Embekke, Kandy Pekada carvings, Embekke, Kandy Madol Kurupawa (Keni Madala), Embekke, Kandy The lion, Embekke, Kandy

Sandun Kudama

The small hall which is entered through the Digge is called Sandun Kudama. The Digge and Sandun Kudama are separated by a wall and a doorway that is framed by a Kala Makara Thorana (the dragon arch) flanked by two lion figures in bas-relief on the wall (Gamage, 2018). In the centre of Sandun Kudama is a cloth depicting God Kataragama with his two consorts and devotees are not permitted to go further into the shrine beyond this cloth.

The Sandun Kudama has two arched stone doorways on either side that open to the outside. The left door directs the visitors to the Palle Devalaya, the right to the Buddha shrine, and the straight door to the Antharalaya, Pirith Kiyana Ge, and Gharbha chambers.


Behind the Sandun Kudama is the Antharalaya. It preserves some artefacts including a palanquin believed to be of Henakanda Biso Bandara, drums, metal umbrellas, a large oil lamp, hanging bells, lamps and a pair of tusks that are said to have been donated to the temple by Vikramabahu III (Gamage, 2018). More wooden pillars containing carvings are said to be erected in the Antharalaya.

Pirit Kiyana Ge & Garbha

After the Antharalaya is the Pirit Kiyana Ge where Buddhist monks chant annually. Behind the Pirit Kiyana Ge is the Garbha or sanctum in which the image of God Kataragama is placed. There is no doorway to the sanctum and it only can be approached through the roof level (Gamage, 2018). Only the Kapu-mahattaya (the main priest of the temple) is allowed to go into this room (Gamage, 2018).

Buddha Shrine & Palle Devalaya

A seated Buddha image decorated with a Makara Thorana, standing Buddha figures, and wall paintings are found in the Buddha shrine. It can be entered through three doorways, of them the middle door frame has been highly decorated with nice carvings. To the left side of the Maha Devalaya is the Palle Devalaya. Devatha Bandara who is considered the Adhikaram of Kataragama Deviyo is worshipped here.

Vee Atuwa and Muruthengeya

Vee Atuwa

Vee Atuwa (the rice container/granary) and the Muruthengeya (the kitchen) can be seen at the left of the entrance. The granary consists of two fully enclosed rooms with an open passage in the centre (Gamage, 2018). The entire structure is built on short stone pillars and functions as a repository for the harvest that is brought to the shrine (Gamage, 2018). There is no doorway to enter the granary, instead, there is a ladder that reaches the roof level (Gamage, 2018). 

The open passage through the granary provides the main entrance to the Kitchen. Located behind the granary and corner of the temple premises, it consists of a small hall and two rooms. Near the granary and the kitchen is a decorated stone door frame which is said to have been placed here by Kiribathkumbure Basnayaka Rala in 1878 (Rajapakse, 2016).


Built on a flat rock plain located in a paddy field called Vijayandeniya near the Devalaya shrine, the Embekke Ambalama is said to have been constructed during the reign of King Bhuvanekabahu IV (1341-1351 A.D.) to serve as a resting place for the people who engaged in the construction of Gadaladeniya and Lankatilaka Vihara (Abeywardana, 2004).

A Protected Site

The Embekke Dewale together with the building complex of the same era Gale Ambalama situated in the Grama Niladhari Division of Embekke in the Divisional Secretary’s Division of Udunuwara is an archaeological protected monument, declared by a government gazette notification published on 23 January 2009.

The dancing girl, Embekke The Makara Thorana, Embekke Embekke Devalaya


1) Abeywardana, H.A.P., 2004. Heritage of Kandurata: Major natural, cultural and historic sites. Colombo: The Central Bank of Sri Lanka.  p.77-78.
2) Devendra, D. T., 1955.The Pillared Pride of Embekke. The Department of Information. pp.1-4.
3) Gamage, L. S., 2018. The Dwelling of the War God: the Art and Architecture of Embekke Devāle in Medieval and Early Modern Sri Lanka (Doctoral dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles). pp.12-14,23-25,43,47-49,52,54,98-101.
4) Godakumbura, C. E., 2011. Embekke (Chapter seven). International Scientific Committee: Wood. ICOMOS International Committee on Wood. pp. 52-53.
5) Rajapakse, R., Tokuyama, Y., Marasinghe, A., Miyata, K., and Somadeva, R., 2010. Visualization and haptic rendering of ancient wood carvings in Sri Lanka. Proceedings of the 14th International Conference on Geometry and Graphics (ICGG’10).
6) Rajapakse, S., 2016. Pauranika Sthana Ha Smaraka: Mahanuwara Distrikkaya (In Sinhala). Archaeological Department of Sri Lanka. ISBN:955-9159-34-8. pp. 55-56.
7) Thalwatta, A., 2017. ජනශ්‍රැතිය මගින් නිරූපිත හෙණකඳ බිසෝ බණ්ඩාර දේවිය (In Sinhala). Sarathi. Department of Cultural Affairs: Central Province. ISSN: 22792414. pp.1-9.
8) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. No: 1586. 23 January 2009. p. 109.
9) Uduwara, J., 1990. History of the Department of Archaeology, 1970-1990. Archaeological Department Centenary (1890-1990): Commemorative series: Volume I: History of the Department of Archaeology. p.165.


1) Embekka Devalaya 25 by Cherubino is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
2) Embekka Devalaya 24 by Cherubino is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
3) Embekka Devalaya 17 by Cherubino is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
4) Embekka Devalaya 19 by Cherubino is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
5) Embekka Devalaya Pillar Tops by Dhammika98 is licensed under CC BY 3.0
6) Madol Kurupawa by Dhammika98 is licensed under CC BY 3.0

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This page was last updated on 7 March 2024

ඇම්බැක්කේ දේවාලය

ඇම්බැක්කේ දේවාලය ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ මහනුවර දිස්ත්‍රික්කයේ ඇම්බැක්ක ග්‍රාමයේ පිහිටි පුරාණ දේවාලයකි. එය ඇම්බැක්ක-පිළිමතලාව මාර්ගයෙහි, පිළිමතලාවේ සිට කි.මී. 7ක් පමණ දුරින් පිහිටයි. ශ්‍රී ලංකාවෙහි විශිෂ්ඨතම දැව කැටයම් හමුවන ස්ථානය ලෙස ඇම්බැක්කයේ පිහිටි මෙම දේවාලය සැළකේ.


සාම්ප්‍රදායික විශ්වාසයන්ට අනූව, ඇම්බැක්කේ යනු ගම්පොල රජවරුන්ගේ මන්ත්‍රණ ශාලාව වන අතර පසුකාලීනව එය සිංහලයන්ගේ දේවතාවෙකු වූ කතරගම දෙවියන් වෙනුවෙන් කැපකර තිබේ. කතරගම දෙවියන් හැරුණු විට ප්‍රාදේශීය දෙවියෙකු වූ දේවතා බණ්ඩාරද මෙම දේවාලයේදී වන්දනාමානයට පාත්‍ර වේ. කෙසේනමුදු මෙම දේවාලය 3වන වික්‍රමබාහු රජු විසින් ස්ථාපනය කරන්නට ඇතැයි විශ්වාස කෙරේ. මහනුවර යුගයේ රචිත කිරල සංදේශයෙහි මෙම පුදබිම හඳුන්වා ඇත්තේ මහසෙන් දේවාලය ලෙසයි.

සිද්ධස්ථාන සංකීර්ණය

ප්‍රධාන වශයෙන් පැරණි ගොඩනැගිලි 8ක් මෙම ස්ථානයේදී හඳුනාගත හැකිවේ. ඊට වාහල්කඩ, මහ දේවාලය, පල්ලෙ දේවාලය, මුළුතැන්ගෙය, වී අටුව, බුද්ධ මන්දිරය, රිට්ටාගෙය (අම්බලම) හා සිංහාසන ගෙය ඇතුලත්ය. මින් රිට්ටාගෙය හා සිංහාසන ගෙය හැරුණු විට අනෙක් ගොඩනැගිලි 6 දේවාල පරිශ්‍රය තුල පිහිටයි.


අඩි 2.5ක් පමණ උස්වූ චතුරස්‍රාකාර වේදිකාවක් මත ඉදිකොට තිබෙන ගොඩනැගිල්ලෙහි වහල වේදිකාවට සවිකොට ඇති දැව කුළුණු 10ක් මගින් රඳවා ගනී. මෙම කුළුණු වලද දේවාලයේ හේවිසි මණ්ඩප ගෘහයේ වූ දැව කුළුණු මතවූ කැටයම් වලට සමාන වූ සියුම් දැව කැටයම් දැකගත හැකිවේ. සමස්ථ ගොඩනැගිල්ල අඩි 22යි අඟල් 11ක් දිගුවන අතර අඩි 18යි අඟල් 8ක පළලින් යුක්ත වේ.

මහ දේවාලය

ගර්භය, පිරිත් කියන ගේ, අන්තරාලය, සඳුන් කුඩම, හා දිග් ගේ (හෝ හේවිසි මණ්ඩපය) යන කොටස් 5න් මහ දේවාලය සමන්විත වේ. දේවාලය ඉදිරිපසින් වූ හේවිසි මණ්ඩපයෙහි වූ දැව කණු හා වහලයේ දැව මත දැකගත හැකි විශිෂ්ඨ දැව කැටයම් හේතුවෙන් මෙම පුදබිම සංචාරකයින්ගේ දැඩි අවධානය දිනාගෙන තිබේ. අඟල් 34ක් පමණ උස්වූ ශිලා වේදිකාවක් මත ඉදිකර ඇති එය වහලය දරා සිටින දැව කණු 32කින් සමන්විත වේ. දැව කණු වල වූ මධ්‍ය පනේල වල හංස පූට්ටුව, සුරාධූර්ථක, නාරිලතා, අංගම්පොරකරුවන්, හේවායන් වැනි විශිෂ්ඨ සිංහල දැව කැටයම් දැකගත හැකි වේ. කුළුණු වල ඉහල කොටස රූරා වැටෙන නෙළුම් මල් කැටයමින් යුක්තය. පරාල 26ක් රඳවා ගන්නා, වහලයේ උතුරු කොටසෙහි වූ මඩොල් කුරුපාව විශේෂ නිර්මාණයක් සේ සැළකෙන අතර ඊට කිසිදු ලෝහ ඇණයක් භාවිතා කොට නැත. හේවිසි මණ්ඩපය කොටස තුල සමස්ථයක් ලෙස දැව කැටයම් 514ක් (මධ්‍ය පනේල කැටයම් 128ක්, ලියපත් වර්ධන කැටයම් 256ක්, පේකඩ නෙළුම් කැටයම් 64ක්, බාල්ක කැටයම් 30ක් හා තලාද කැටයම් 36ක්) දැකගත හැකිය.

සඳුන් කුඩම

හේවිසි මණ්ඩපය හරහා ඇතුළු විය හැකි කුඩා ශාලාව සඳුන් කුඩම ලෙස හැඳින්වේ. එහි ද්වාරය සිංහ රූප දෙකකින් සමන්විත වූ කුඩා මකර තොරණකින් සරසා ඇත. ශාලාව දිශා තුනකට විවෘත වන අතර වම් පසින් වූ ද්වාරය පල්ලෙ දේවාලයටත්, දකුණු දිශාගත ද්වාරය බුද්ධ මන්දිරයටත්, කෙලින්ම ඉදිරිපසින් වූ ද්වාරය අන්තරාලයට, පිරිත් කියන ගෙට හා ගර්භයට විවෘත වේ.

බුද්ධ මන්දිරය හා පල්ලෙ දේවාලය

මකර තොරණකින් සමන්විත හිඳි බුද්ධ ප්‍රතිමාවක්, හිටි බුද්ධ ප්‍රතිමාවන් හා බිතු සිතුවම් රැසක් බුද්ධ මන්දිරය තුලදී දැකගත හැක. ඊට ඇතුළු වීම පිණිස ද්වාර ත්‍රිත්වයක් වන අතර ඉන් මධ්‍යයේ වූ දොරටුවේ උළුවස්ස අගනා කැටයමින් යුක්තය. පල්ලෙ දේවාලය, මහ දේවාලයට වම් පසින් පිහිටන අතර කතරගම දෙවියන්ගේ අධිකාරම් සේ සැළකෙන දේවතා බණ්ඩාර මෙහි වන්දනයට පාත්‍ර වෙයි.

වී අටුව හා මුළුතැන්ගෙය

දේවාල පරිශ්‍රයට ඇතුළු වන ස්ථානයට වම් පසින් වී අටුව හා මුළුතැන්ගෙය පිහිටා ඇත. මුළුතැන්ගෙය කුඩා ශාලාවකින් හා කාමර දෙකකින් යුක්තය. වී අටුවට නුදුරින් කැටයම් කරන ලද ශිලාමය උළුවස්සක් දැකගත හැකිවන අතර එය මෙහි ගෙනැවිත් ඇත්තේ කිරිබත් කුඹුරේ බස්නායක රාළ විසින් බව කියවේ.

පුරාවිද්‍යා ස්මාරක ස්ථානය

උඩුනුවර ප්‍රාදේශීය ලේකම් කොට්ඨාශයට අයත් ඇම්බැක්ක ග්‍රාම නිළදාරී වසමේ පිහිටි ඇම්බැක්කේ දේවාල සංකීර්ණය හා ගලේ අම්බලම 2009 ජනවාරි 23 යන දින ප්‍රකාශයට පත් රජයේ ගැසට් නිවේදනය මගින් ආරක්ෂිත පුරාවිද්‍යා ස්මාරක ලෙස නම් කොට ඇත.

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