Devinuwara Upulwan devalaya – Matara
Devinuwara Upulwan devalaya is situated in the far down south of Sri Lanka, near Matara city. The yearly feature of the devala is the Esala perahera. The procession begins of the stone doorway, which comprises the Makara Thoranaand proceed along Hadagala main road, Sinhasana road, Ampitiya road, lighthouse road, passing kiralawella junction through Tangalle road back to Hadagala and return to the devala. People have a lot of faith in this devale and never fail to visit this devale when proceeding to Kataragama, and this is a popular place of worship. Two thousand years ago, this southernmost point of the island was a place of exceeding virtue known as Dondra, the City of Gods. A great temple to Vishnu has existed for more than the seventh century. Two hundred granite columns form part of the building: Portuguese commanders de attack this place and destroyed and stolen jewellery gems and precious ivory armaments.
Vishnu as the Guardian Deity
Vishnu, one of the principal deities in Hinduism, holds a significant place within the Sri Lankan pantheon. Popular belief considers Vishnu as a future Buddha after Natha, thus elevating his importance among the worshipped deities in Sri Lanka. The Mahavansa, the great chronicle of Sri Lanka, narrates how Vishnu, in the form of Upulvan Deiyo, was chosen as the guardian to protect the land of Sri Lanka and preserve Buddhism within it following the passing away of Lord Buddha.
The roots of the Devinuwara temple trace back to the 7th century when it was built by King Dappula I, also known as Dappula-sen. However, the temple faced adversity in the form of a Portuguese army led by Thome de Sonza in 1587. The invaders attacked the sacred city, causing widespread destruction and plundering of valuable treasures from the places of worship. Fortunately, King Rajasinghe II of the Kandyan Kingdom (1635 - 1687) freed Matara from the Portuguese's clutches and constructed a Devale dedicated to deity Vishnu.
Legend and Connection to Ramayana
According to legend, Devinuwara was a flourishing city during the time of King Ravana, as depicted in the Indian epic Ramayana. The renowned poetical work, "Paravi Sandeshaya," describes the deity worshipped at Devinuwara as a destroyer of Asura, believed by some to be the deity Rama himself. This connection to the Ramayana adds to the mystical allure surrounding Devinuwara Upulwan devalaya.
Destruction and Restoration
The Portuguese attack on Devinuwara was a dark period in its history. The invaders pillaged the city and left a trail of destruction in their wake. However, King Rajasinghe II's efforts brought a glimmer of hope as he successfully repelled the Portuguese forces and restored the temple to its former glory. The devotion to deity Vishnu remained unshaken, and the Devale reconstruction symbolised the people's resilience and their unwavering faith.
The Significance of the Devalaya
Devinuwara Upulwan devalaya holds immense significance for devotees and pilgrims. It serves as a spiritual sanctuary where individuals can seek solace and deepen their connection with the divine. The temple's serene ambiance and the architectural splendor of the Devale attract visitors who are enthralled by its cultural heritage and religious importance. The rhythmic chants, fragrant incense, and the sight of devotees immersed in prayer create an atmosphere of tranquility and devotion.
The Esala Festival
The origin of the Esala festival at Devinuwara can be traced back to the reign of King Parakramabahu II of the Dambadeniya Kingdom in the 13th century. The king, recognizing the significance of the temple, took steps to restore and revive it. Since then, the Esala festival has been celebrated regularly at Devinuwara in honor of deity Upulvan. Devotees flock to the temple during this grand festival, engaging in vibrant processions, traditional rituals, and religious observances. The Esala festival serves as a cultural extravaganza, reflecting the deep-rooted traditions and spiritual devotion of the Sri Lankan people.
Devinuwara Upulwan devalaya stands as a testament to the religious and cultural heritage of Sri Lanka. Its connection to the Ramayana, the significance of Vishnu as the guardian deity, and the historical background of destruction and restoration add layers of depth and intrigue to its story. The temple's popularity and the vibrant Esala festival testify to the people's unwavering faith and devotion. A visit to Devinuwara Upulwan devalaya is not only an opportunity to explore ancient architecture and experience sacred rituals but also a chance to immerse oneself in the rich tapestry of Sri Lankan spirituality.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. What is the significance of Devinuwara Upulwan devalaya? Devinuwara Upulwan devalaya holds immense religious and cultural significance in Sri Lanka. It is believed to be connected to the Indian epic Ramayana and is dedicated to the worship of Vishnu, a highly revered deity in Sri Lankan traditions.
2. How old is the temple? The temple traces its roots back to the 7th century when it was originally built by King Dappula I. However, it has undergone destruction and restoration over the centuries, with contributions from subsequent rulers.
3. Is the temple associated with the Ramayana? According to the legend depicted in the poetical work "Paravi Sandeshaya," the deity worshipped at Devinuwara Upulwan devalaya is believed to be connected to the Indian epic Ramayana. The legend adds a mystical aura to the temple's history and significance.
4. When is the Esala festival celebrated at Devinuwara? The Esala festival at Devinuwara is celebrated during the month of July, known as the Esala Poya period in the Buddhist calendar. Devotees from across the country visit the temple during this time to participate in the festivities.
5. Can tourists visit the temple? Yes, tourists can visit Devinuwara Upulwan devalaya and experience its rich history and cultural heritage. It is advisable to respect the religious customs and traditions while exploring the temple and its surroundings.