Kandy Visnu Devalaya

Kandy Visnu Devalaya, also known as Maha Devalaya (Sinhala: මහනුවර විෂ්ණු දේවාලය), is a Devalaya Shrine situated within the premises of the Temple of the Tooth Relic in Kandy town in Sri Lanka. It has been dedicated to the God Vishnu, one of the deities of the Sri Lankan Buddhist pantheon.


Although the history of the Vishnu Devalaya at Kandy is obscure, Robert Knox (1641-1720 A.D.), an English sea captain who lived in Sri Lanka for 19 years as a captive of King Rajasinghe II (1635-1687 A.D.) makes references to the deity of this temple (Seneviratna, 1983). He called the deity as Alut Nuwara Deviyo indicating that the god was originally residing in Alut Nuwara in Kegalle District (Seneviratna, 1983). The 19th-century poetical work named Ehelapola Varnanawa mentions this temple by the name of Rama Devalaya (Seneviratna, 1983). According to folklore, the blue-coloured deity Upulvan (or Rama?) who was venerated at Devundara Devalaya was brought to Alut Nuwara and later came to be known as Visnu because of the colour (Seneviratna, 1983). In later times, the god of this temple at Kandy started to be known as Vishnu and a separate shrine dedicated to the local god Dedimunda of Alut Nuwara Devalaya was built near it (Seneviratna, 1983).

It is said that a Devaraja Pethikada (a painted board of the god) and his paraphernalia and a sandalwood image of him were brought to the Maha Devalaya at Kandy from Alut Nuwara Devalaya (Seneviratna, 1983). However, after some time, only the Devaraja Pethikada was removed from Kandy to Hanguranketha where a new Vishnu Devalaya was erected (Bell, 1904; Seneviratna, 1983).

The annual Perahera conducted by this temple is believed to have originated to commemorate the birth of Vishnu or the victory of King Gajabahu (114-136 A.D.) over Cholas (Seneviratna, 1983). Also, this is the temple that supplies the Kapa (the sacred pole) to the remaining Devalas during the annual Esala Perahera of the Temple of the Tooth Relic.

The Shrine Building

The shrine consists of a long building (Digge) with a two-storeyed chamber (sanctum) at the end (Seneviratna, 1983). The upper floor of the sanctum has a small balcony supported by slender wooden pillars. Although the Digge is presently used by devotees to gather and pray, it was originally a dancing hall in honour of the resident deity (Seneviratna, 1983).

A Protected Site

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

See Also

#) Natha Devalaya, Kandy
#) Katharagama Devalaya, Kandy
#) Pattini Devalaya, Kandy


1) Bell, H.C.P., 1904. Report on the Kegalle District of the Province of Sabaragamuwa. Archaeological Survey of Ceylon: XIX-1892. Government Press, Sri Lanka. p.47.
2) Seneviratna, A, 1983. Kandy: An Illustrated Survey of Ancient Monuments, with Historical, Archaeological, and Literary Descriptions Including Maps of the City and Its Suburbs. Central Cultural Fund. Ministry of Cultural Affairs. pp.93-96.
3) 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 6 March 2023
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