Friday, October 30, 2020

Natha Devalaya, Kandy

Kandy Natha Devalaya
The Natha Devalaya is a shrine situated in the premises of the Sacred City of Kandy in Sri Lanka. It is considered as one of the four Devalas (Hatara Devala) associated with the Maha Wasala (the Royal Palace) and the Dalada Maligawa (the Temple of the Tooth Relic) during the Kandyan Period.

God Natha was highly venerated by the people along with other deities such as Visnu, Skanda, and Pattini during the Kandyan Period. Natha is considered as one of the deities of the Mahayana Buddhist pantheon and people believe him as an aspirant Buddha (Abeyawardana, 2004).

History
The Natha Devalaya which is believed to have been constructed in the 14th century is said to be the oldest surviving Devalaya shrine found in Kandy (Abeyawardana, 2004; Jayasuriya, 2016; Rajapakse, 2016). Two inscriptions belonging to King Jayavira (1511-1552 A.D.) have been found inscribed on eight stones forming part of the western wall of the Devalaya (Codrington, 1934; Ranawella, 2015). Publishing these two inscriptions, Codrington has expressed his opinion regarding this shrine as follows;
The present inscription chiefly is of value in giving us the correct name of the ruler who was on the throne of Kandy in 2085 A.B., as this year, according to tradition, marks the accession of Vikrama Bahu, the founder of that city as the capital. We have already seen that this date in all probability was derived from the record now published, engraved as it is on a temple the foundation of which was attributed to this Vikrama Bahu. A shrine of the god Natha in Senkadagala or Kandy is mentioned in the Sagama inscription of the reign of Bhuvanaika Bahu V. This shrine, if identical in site with the present devale, quite possibly was rebuilt by Vikrama Bahu. The existing building, however, as it stands, cannot be his, for the wall, on which our inscriptions are cut, evidently has been rebuilt, and at least one stone of the second epigraph lost in the process.
Citation: Codrington, 1934. p.28.
The parapet wall that surrounds the Natha Devalaya complex is said to have been constructed by the people of the Hathara Korale at the request of King Narendrasingha [(1707-1739 A.D.) Abeyawardana, 2004].

Inscriptions
Among the two inscriptions of King Jayavira, the first record is dated on the tenth of the dark half of Bak in the Buddhist year 2085 [(30 March 1543) Codrington, 1934; Ranawella, 2015]. It records the grant of various concessions by the king to the people of particular territories or villages for their services in an attack by the Portuguese on the Hill Country (Codrington, 1934; Ranawella, 2015). The second inscription deals, among other things, with the nila panduru or money presents on appointment to office and with the malaraya or heriot (Codrington, 1934).

The Devalaya complex
The Natha Devalaya is the focal shrine of this temple complex. A Devalaya dedicated to God Gambara, two Stupas, a Bodhi-tree, a circular foundation known as Otunu Mandapaya, a kitchen, and several other structures once belonged to the Kandy Dharmaraja College are also found within the premises. The Stupa near the Devalaya is thought to contain the bowl relic of the Buddha and was vandalized by treasure hunters in 1889.

As the presence of several Bodhi-trees, the Natha Devalaya complex is thought to be originally a Buddhist shrine (Abeyawardana, 2004). The Bodhi-tree situated near the Devalaya is believed to be a sapling of Anuradhapura Sri Maha Bodhi-tree brought here by a Brahmin named Sankanda (Abeyawardana, 2004). The ruins of an ancient Bodhighara (a Bodhi-tree shrine) and a fragment of a seated bronze statue of Buddha were also discovered during a recent archaeological excavation done at the site (Jayasuriya, 2016).

Natha Devalaya
The Devalaya building is 34.1 m long and 6.8 m wide (Rajapakse, 2016). It consists of four sections, viz; Weda sitina malaya, Antaralaya, Handun Kudama, and Pewana maluwa (Rajapakse, 2016). The Weda sitina malaya is a three-storied building completely built out of stones and in which, a bronze statue of God Natha has been placed. The first and second floors of this section serve no practical purpose and the roof of it has a dome-shape and therefore, the building is known as a Gedige type shrine that has a vaulted-roof (Rajapakse, 2016). South Indian influence is clearly visible in this part of the building (Jayasuriya, 2016).
 
In front of the Weda sitina malaya are the Antaralaya and the Sandun Kudama. The Pewana Maluwa is an open hall built by erecting 24 elegantly decorated pillars on a quadrangle base (Rajapakse, 2016). The roof of it is balanced on the pillars and has been clad with flat clay tiles.

Gambara Devalaya
Gambara Devalaya
This is a small Devalaya shrine situated to the east of the Natha Devalaya. It is dedicated to Gambara Deviyo, a local deity who is worshiped by Buddhist devotees. Expecting good things for their lives, people perform various religious activities at this shrine.

The external walls of this shrine have been decorated with wall paintings of a type typical of the Kandyan Period. However, the painting on the left-side wall has been deliberately defaced by graffiti. A group of sailing ships scratched with a pointed instrument are found among the graffiti (Devendra, 2002). According to the view of Devendra, these represent the European ships possibly belong to the Dutch, and the British (Devendra, 2002). He believes that these graffiti could be a work of the latter part of the 18th century (Devendra, 2002).

Otunu Mandapaya
A circular brick foundation known as Otunu Mandapaya is found within this complex. This was the venue where the naming, anointing, and crowning of Kandyan kings had taken place (Abeyawardana, 2004). The stone close by where the crown had been kept is called the Otunugala (Abeyawardana, 2004).

A protected site
The Natha Devale building situated in the Kandy town within the Kandy Grama Niladhari Division in Gangawata Korale Divisional Secretary’s Division  is an archaeological protected monument, declared by a government gazette notification published on 8 April 2009.

Gambara Devalaya paintings Otunu Mandapaya .
References
1) Abeyawardana, H.A.P., 2004. Heritage of Kandurata: Major natural, cultural and historic sites. Colombo: The Central Bank of Sri Lanka. pp.13-14.
2) Codrington, H.W., 1934. (Edited and translated by Codrington, H.W.; Paranavitana, S.) The Kandy Natha Devale Inscriptions. Epigraphia Zeylanica: Being lithic and other inscriptions of Ceylon: Vol. IV. Archaeological Survey of Ceylon. pp.27-34. 
3) Devendra, S., 2002. Sailing ships and temple walls. ‘Honouring Martin Quéré o.m.i’, ed. Gérard Robuchon, Viator Publications.
4) Jayasuriya, E., 2016. A guide to the Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka. Central Cultural Fund. ISBN: 978-955-613-312-7. p.115.
5) Rajapakse, S., 2016. Pauranika Sthana Ha Smaraka: Mahanuwara Distrikkaya (In Sinhala). Archaeological Department of Sri Lanka. ISBN:955-9159-34-8. pp.10-11.
6) Ranawella, S., 2015. Inscriptions of Ceylon. (Vol. IX). Department of Archaeology. ISBN: 978-955-9159-98-8. pp.18-21.
7) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. No: 1597. 8 April 2009. p.445.

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This page was last updated on 30 October 2020
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