Saturday, September 18, 2021

Okanda Devalaya

Okanda Devalaya
Okanda Devalaya (Tamil: Ukanthamalai Murugan Kovil) is a Devalaya shrine situated on a hillock in Okanda village in Ampara District, Sri Lanka. It has been dedicated to Murugan or Kataragama, a deity who is worshipped by both Hindus and Buddhists. 

History
Ancient Okanda Viharaya
The present Devalaya shrine has been built on the premises of an ancient Buddhist temple called Okanda Viharaya (Medhananda, 2003). The ruins of an ancient dilapidated brick Stupa and other monastic buildings are found on the top of the hillock and most of them have been destroyed today (Medhananda, 2003; Withanachchi, 2013).

Beginning of the Kataragama Devalaya
The Devalaya has been built in the southern part of the hillock. It is said to have been started after the formation of Panamapattu in about 1800 by a Rate Mahattaya (traditional office and title from the Kandian Kingdom) named Siyathu (Medhananda, 2003). In the beginning, it was maintained by Sinhalese devotees and the deity Kataragama was worshipped there (Medhananda, 2003). However, after the 1970s, the Sinhalese presence was gradually decreased from the site mainly due to the emergence of LTTE terrorism (Sri Lanka Civil War: 1983-2009) in the north and eastern regions of the country (Medhananda, 2003).

Present Murugan Kovil
God Kataragama is identified with Lord Murugan by Tamil Hindus. Presently, this site is maintained by them. Besides the temple of Murugan, several small shrines dedicated to other deities of the Hindu pantheon have been built by them over the hillock.  According to local Hindu beliefs which are usually based on their traditional mystic emotions and religious literary works, the history of this site is related to Lord Murugan and his consort Valli Amma. Okanda is believed by them as the location where Murugan landed on the shore with Valli Amma in a golden boat. The boat is said to be turned into a rock that is still visible on the nearby Okanda beach.
 
The name board of this shrine was changed from Okanda Devalaya to Murugan Kovil in May 2002 (Medhananda, 2003). Presently, this site has become the main stand for the Tamil devotees performing pilgrimage to Kataragama Devalaya through Kumana Jungle.

A protected site
The rock with archaeological evidence at Okanda Dewala premises (latitude 06º 65089' N and longitude 081º 72000' E) in Okanda village in Grama Nildari Division No. PP 02 Panama South in the Divisional Secretary’s Division, Lahugala is an archaeological protected monument, declared by a government gazette notification published on 10 October 2014.
References
1) Medhananda, Ven. Ellawala, 2003. Pacheena passa - Uttara passa: Negenahira palata ha uturu palate Sinhala bauddha urumaya (In Sinhala). Dayawansa Jayakody & Company. Colombo. ISBN: 978-955-686-112-9. p.102.
2) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, no: 1884. 10 October 2014. p.918.
3) Withanachchi, C. R., 2013. Pauranika Sthana Saha Smaraka: Ampara Distrikkaya (In Sinhala). Department of Archaeology (Sri Lanka). ISBN: 955-9159-44-5. p.35.

Location Map
This page was last updated on 26 September 2021
For a complete tourist map follow this link: Lankapradeepa Tourist Map

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