This site is under maintenance Contact Us !

Devalaya in Sri Lanka

Devalaya Shrines Sri Lanka

Devalaya (lit: the Abode of God) is a type of shrine normally located within or attached to a Buddhist Viharaya in Sri Lanka (Holt, 2004). However, there are some Devalas that are constructed separately from Buddhist temples but they function under the nominal jurisdiction of the Buddhist temple of the particular area (Gamage, 2018). Devalas are venerated by Sinhalese Buddhists and sometimes by Tamil Hindus.

Although the rituals performed in Devalaya are similar to those observed in Hindu shrines (Kovils), they have evolved their own practices and deity concepts (De Silva & Chandrasekara, 2009). A person with the title "Kapu-mahattaya" acts as the intermediary between the god and the patrons and this position is usually passed down through one family (Gamage, 2018).

Deities

Devalas are found scattered throughout the country mainly in Central, Sabaragamuwa, Uva and Southern provinces. Presently, in every Buddhist temple in Sri Lanka, there is at least a small Devalaya shrine dedicated to a deity. Most of the Devalas have either lost their original links with the Indian sub-continent or have generated new deities unknown to the Indian region (De Silva & Chandrasekara, 2009). Kataragama, Visnu or Upulvan, Saman, Pattini, Devol, Suniam, Dedimunda, and Natha are a few popular deities worshipped in Devalas in Sri Lanka.

Architectural Aspects

The Devalaya can be a small, separate, and simple building or an adjacent cave or Puja room next to the main shrine hall dedicated to worshipping the Buddha (Holt, 2004). A typical Devalaya building mainly contains two sections, viz; the sanctum or Garbhagruha (the room housing the image of the deity) and the Digge or audience hall, where devotees present themselves and their petitions to the Kapurala [(shrine priest) Holt, 2004]. In some Devalas, there is a verandah attached at the front where ritual drumming occurs during Pujas offered by the Kapurala to the deity (Holt, 2004).

The sanctum remains a strictly private area meant only for the Kapurala assigned to service the temple (De Silva & Chandrasekara, 2009). The part between the sanctum and Digge is called Antaralaya (the connecting passage) from where the Kapurala accepts the offerings of the devotees and carries them to the sanctum thereafter (De Silva & Chandrasekara, 2009). Usually, a part of these offerings (mostly foods) is returned to the devotees.

In some major shrines, the Devalaya building is surrounded by an inner court that retains other shrines such as the image house of the Buddha (De Silva & Chandrasekara, 2009). At the lower level in front of this is another courtyard where the ceremonial procession commences. The entrance of this procession path is an elaborate gateway leading to the Mahaveediya (De Silva & Chandrasekara, 2009). At the further end of the processional path is the Sinhasanaya, the depositary where the weapons of the deity taken during the annual procession are kept (De Silva & Chandrasekara, 2009).

Notable Devala shrines in Sri Lanka

Dedimunda Devala



Devol Devala




Kataragama Devala


Natha Devala


Pattini Devala


Rajjuru Bandara Devala


Saman Devala


Thaniya Wallabha Devala



Visnu/Upulvan Devala

References

1) De Silva, N.; Chandrasekara, D.P., 2009. Heritage Buildings of Sri Lanka. Colombo: The National Trust Sri Lanka, ISBN: 978-955-0093-01-4. p.13.
2) 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.14-15.
3) Holt, J.C., 2004. The Buddhist Visnu. In The Buddhist Visnu: Religious Transformation, Politics, and Culture. pp.170-171.

This page was last updated on 5 November 2023

Post a Comment

Cookie Consent
We serve cookies on this site to analyze traffic, remember your preferences, and optimize your experience.
Oops!
It seems there is something wrong with your internet connection. Please connect to the internet and start browsing again.
AdBlock Detected!
We have detected that you are using adblocking plugin in your browser.
The revenue we earn by the advertisements is used to manage this website, we request you to whitelist our website in your adblocking plugin.
Site is Blocked
Sorry! This site is not available in your country.