Sunday, December 9, 2018

Devinuwara Upulvan Devalaya

Devinuwara Upulvan Devalaya
Devinuwara Upulvan Devalaya (or Devinuwara Vishnu Devalaya) is a historic shrine located in Devundara (Dondra) in Matara District, Sri Lanka.

The history of this place, according to a folklore is related with Rama and Ravana, two mythical figures presenting in the Indian epic Ramayanaya. According to the folklore, this is the site where the war between Rama and Rawana was happened and the nearby areas today known as Vandurudeniya and Rassadeniya were the encampment sites of these two characters (Vikramaratne, 2015). However, the authenticity of Ramayanaya is controversial and hence it is today dismissed as a myth (Goonatilake, 2010).

The great chronicle, Mahawamsa mentions that a Buddhist Vihara called Kihireli Pirivena was built in the 7th century A.D. by a prince named Dappula. Parakumba Sirita, a Sinhalese poem of the 15th century also mentions that King Dapalusen installed an image of God Upulvan made of sandal wood in this site. However, the first record about the name Devinuwara is found in an inscription of King Nissankamalla of the 12th century, along with the list of Anuradhapura, Mahiyangana, Kelaniya and Medirigiri (Chutiwongs et al., 1990). During the 13th and 14th centuries, several kings such as Parakramabahu II [(1234-1269) Sudharmawathie, 2011] had erected or renovated the temples at Devinuwara (Chutiwongs et al., 1990). 

Devinuwara was an important commercial port located in the southern tip of the country during the 13th to 15th centuries and had gained its reputation as a flourishing trade center. The Trilingual Slab Inscription of Galle (15th century), records about the ritual items sent to Sri Lanka from China for worship of Tenavarai Nayanar. The name Tenavarai, according to Senarth Paranavitana, is the Tamil form of the Sinhalese Devinuwara (the City of God) and Nayanar is the Tamil word used to denote the God/lord (Paranavitana, 1933).

At the beginning of the 16th century, Portuguese came to Sri Lanka. In 1588, a Portuguese army led by Thome de Souza destroyed Devinuwara and built a church over the temple ruins (Chutiwongs et al., 1990). During this period, the identity of God Upulvan was transformed to the status of God Vishnu (Chutiwongs et al., 1990). After expelling the Portuguese from the Matara District, King Rajasinghe II (1635-1687) built the current Vishnu shrine at Devinuwara (Chutiwongs et al., 1990).

A protected site
Dewinuwara Upulwan Dewale premises and its ancient buildings and other archaeological remains situated in the Sinhasana Devale premises within the limits of No. 433 C Devinuwara Grama Niladhari Division in the Devinuwara Divisional Secretary’s Division are archaeological protected monuments, declared by a government gazette notification published on 8 April 2009.
Pillars at the Devalaya premises, Devundara A stone doorframe, Devinuvara Vishnu Devalaya
1) This image (Devinuwara Sri Vishnu Maha Devalaya in Sri Lanka) has been released into the public domain by its creator, අනුරාධ
2) Ancient Mandapa Pillars, Dondra 0682 by G41rn8 is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0
3) Ancient Torana, Dondra 0676 by G41rn8 is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

1) Chutiwongs, N., Prematillake, L. and Silva, R., 1990. Paintings of Sri Lanka: Devinuvara. Colombo, Sri Lanka: Archaeological Survey of Sri Lanka and Central Cultural Fund. pp.35-36
2) Goonatilake, S., 2010. Introduction: Inventing Archaeology: The Tourist Board's "Ramayana Trail"
3) Paranavitana, S., 1933. The Tamil inscription on the Galle Trilingual Slab. Epigraphia Zeylanica (Vol. III). pp.331-341.
4) Sudharmawathie,. J. M., 2011. Reign of King Parakramabahu ІІ: As Evident From The Devinuwara Slab Inscription.
5) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. No: 1597. 8 April 2009. p.446.
6) Vikramaratne, I., 2015. Pauranika Sthana Ha Smaraka: Matara Distrikkaya (In Sinhala). Archaeological Department of Sri Lanka. ISBN:955-9159-34-8. pp.6-7.

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