Sabaragamuwa Maha Saman Devale


Sabaragamuwa Maha Saman Devale is established in a charming and beauteous area that is not further than 2.5 km from the Ratnapura-Panadura route. Its premises are spread towards the riverside of Kalu, one of the famous rivers in Sri Lanka. Temples in the name of Sumana Saman god (God Saman) was established after Polonnaruwa reign. The first temple was constructed on Adam's Peak, and, as "Sathara Devale", four temples were gathered in four directions, namely Sabaragamuwa Maha Saman Devale from the west, Mahiyangana Saman Devale from the east, Bolthumbe Saman Devale from the south and Daraniyagala Saman Devale from the north. In the Dambadeniya epoch, a minister of honourable erudite King Parakramabahu named "Aryakamadewayo" came to Ratnapura for gems and has vowed Saman Devale to build a pagoda with a three-story mansion if he could treasure out gems.

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Deity Saman is considered one of the guardian gods of Sri Lanka, particularly in the region of Rathnapura and its surroundings in the Sabaragamuwa province. According to the ancient chronicle of Sri Lanka, the Mahavamsa, Saman was a district administrator during Buddha's visit to the island. It is said that Saman attained the first level of enlightenment, Sotapanna, at the end of Buddha's sermon. After his passing, he started to be revered as a god or deity by the people

The origin of the Maha Saman Devalaya dates back to ancient times. After Saman's demise, his clan of Deva built a shrine in his honour. In the Anuradhapura era, a temple called Saparagama Viharaya was on the same premises. Monks from this temple even attended the opening ceremony of King Dutugamunu's Ruwanwelisaya. The present shrine is believed to have been built in 1270 AD by Aryakamadeva, a court minister during the Dambadeniya era. King Parakramabahu II provided patronage, and later, King Parakramabahu IV of the Kotte era further supported the shrine.

One of the significant events held at the Maha Saman Devalaya is the Esala Perahara, or the Procession of the Tooth Relic. During King Parakramabahu VI's reign, when the Tooth Relic was transferred to Delgamuwa Raja Maha Vihara, the shrine hosted this procession for 11 years. Later, under King Rajasinghe, the Saman Perahara merged with the Esala Perahara. Since then, the Maha Saman Devalaya has hoisted the Esala Perahara annually in August-September. The procession showcases cultural items, dances from different regions of Sri Lanka, and beautifully adorned elephants.

The history of the Ratnapura area and its association with temples goes back to King Dutugemunu of the Anuradhapura Kingdom. However, the more recent history begins during the Dambadeniya period. Aryakamadeva, a court minister, vowed to gemming and built the first devalaya dedicated to God Saman at Ratnapura after a successful gem mining expedition. Although influenced by Hindu culture, the devalaya has remained a Buddhist place of worship.

The arrival of the Portuguese in Sri Lanka significantly impacted many Buddhist temples, including the Maha Saman Devalaya. In 1505, the Portuguese landed in Sri Lanka through the Galle Port. They destroyed and looted temples on their march towards Sitawaka, including the Delgamuwa Raja Maha Viharaya, Ratnapura Maha Saman Devalaya, and Pothgul Viharaya. However, with the downfall of the Sitawaka kingdom, King Keerthi Sri Rajasinghe recaptured Ratnapura, demolished the church and Portuguese fort, and built the current Maha Saman Devalaya on the site.

The Maha Saman Devalaya comprises two platforms, which can be accessed through vahalkadas on the east and south sides. A flight of steps on the eastern side leads from the lower platform to the upper platform. The prakara walls surrounding the platform are topped with tiles. Opposite the flight of steps, there is the Santi module, a pillared structure with dwarfs on either side. The devala premises also house the ancient Pattini Devala. The shrine is known for its simple yet captivating architecture, made primarily of clay.

Within the Maha Saman Devalaya premises, there are several significant artifacts. At the end of the digging is a three-storied structure known as the palace. From a distance, it resembles a dagoba. The vihara, located on a high stereobate, is surrounded by verandas and adorned with ancient paintings. Another notable artifact is a sculptured stone dating back to the Portuguese period. It depicts the Portuguese General Simao Pinnao with a brandished sword trampling a Sinhalese soldier. The stone also bears a Portuguese inscription describing the general.


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