Wegiriya Natha Devalaya

Wegiriya Natha Devalaya (Sinhala: වේගිරිය නාථ දේවාලය) is a Devalaya Shrine situated in Wegiriya village in Kandy District, Sri Lanka. It has been dedicated to God Natha, a local deity who was highly venerated by the people along with other deities such as Visnu, Skanda, and Pattini during the Kandyan Period. Natha is considered one of the deities of the Mahayana Buddhist pantheon and people believe him as an aspirant Buddha.

Due to the presence of an early-Brahmi cave inscription, the history of this site can be dated back to the pre-Christian era (Paranavitana, 1970). Locals believe that some of the companions of Sanghamitta Theri, the daughter of the Indian Emperor Asoka (c. 268-232 B.C.), had taken up residence in the caves in this area (Abeyawardana, 2004).

The Natha worship is said to have prevailed in Sri Lanka since the 6-7th century A.D. and therefore, this Devalaya shrine may have been erected during that period (Abeyawardana, 2004). However, according to some, this shrine has been established during the reign of King Buvanekabahu IV [(1341-1351 A.D.) Abeyawardana, 2004; Rajapakse, 2016].

The shrine & inscriptions
The shrine has been built in a cave on the upper part of a lonely mountain. The statues of God Natha and Goddess Tara are found in the cave (Abeyawardana, 2004; Rajapakse, 2016). The Sandakada Pahana (the moonstone) at the front of the Devalaya shrine and the stone door-frame at the entrance of the Buddha shrine are considered important monuments (Rajapakse, 2016).
Two inscriptions are found on the Wegiriya Devalaya premises. Of them, the first one is a cave inscription belonging to the period between the 3rd century B.C.- 1st century A.D. (Paranavitana, 1970). 

Period: 3rd century B.C-1st century A.D.                    Script: Early-Brahmi                    Language: Old Sinhala
Transcript: (1) Bata-Sumanasha Tishaha upashika [Suma]naya upashika Tishalaya upa[saka]......[Ku]marasha gapati-Dutakasha kubakara-Sonaha datika-Sumanasha (2) manikara-Date patike mani-kara-Cude shapatike
Translation: [The cave] of lord Sumana of Tissa of the female lay-devotee Sumana of the female lay-devotee Tissala of the lay-devotee......Kumara of the householder Dutaka of the potter Sona and of the ivory worker Sumana. The lapidary Datta is a partner. The lapidary Cuda is a co-partner.
References: Paranavitana, 1970. p.62.

The second one is a rock inscription engraved in the Saka Year 1337 or the Buddha Year 1957 [(1415 A.D.) Ranawella, 2014; Rohanadeera, 2007]. It contains details about the registration of certain land grants made during the reigning periods of several kings named Buvanekabahu (this name is recorded in two places), and Vikramabahu in favour of the Vegiriya Devalaya (Ranawella, 2014; Rohanadeera, 2007). The kings mentioned in this record are Vikramabahu III (1357-1374 A.D.), Buvanekabahu V (1372-1391 A.D.), and Sri Parakramabahu Apanan [(1409-1415 A.D.) Ranawella, 2014; Rohanadeera, 2007]. The last king, Parakramabahu Apanan can be identified with the prince of that name who figures in the Niyampampaya Inscription of Vikramabahu III (Ranawella, 2014).

A protected site
The Wegiriya Devalaya, the rock with inscriptions, and the cave situated in Wegiriya village in Udunuwara Divisional Secretary’s Division are archaeological protected monuments, declared by a government notification published on 6 August 1965.

1) Abeyawardana, H.A.P., 2004. Heritage of Kandurata: Major natural, cultural and historic sites. Colombo: The Central Bank of Sri Lanka. p.80.
2) Paranavitana, S., 1970. Inscription of Ceylon (Vol. I). Department of Archaeology Ceylon. p.62.
3) Rajapakse, S., 2016. Pauranika Sthana Ha Smaraka: Mahanuwara Distrikkaya (In Sinhala). Archaeological Department of Sri Lanka. ISBN:955-9159-34-8. pp.64-65.
4) Ranawella, S., 2014. Archaeological Survey of Ceylon: Inscriptions of Ceylon: Vol. VII. Department of Archaeology. ISBN: 978-955-9159-62-9. pp.83-84.
5) Rohanadeera, M., 2007. Archaeological Survey of Ceylon: Inscriptions of Ceylon: Vol. VIII. Department of Archaeology. ISBN: 978-955-91-59-64-3. pp.12-13. 
6) The government gazette notification. No: 14472. 6 August 1965.

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This page was last updated on 6 May 2023
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