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Sunday, 17 April 2011





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Nawagamuwa Devalaya

Nawagamuwa Devalaya - Dedicated to goddess Pattini

It was the day of the ICC Cricket world cup finals. Sri Lanka was yet to play the biggest match of the season. With the intention of coming back before the commencement of the match, we started our journey from Colombo to the famous Nawagamuwa Devalaya around 9 a.m. Situated at the 13th mile post of Colombo-Rathnapura Road, 4km from Kaduwela Junction, it is one of the most visited devalayas of the country.

Nawagamuwa Devalaya is a shrine dedicated to Goddess Pattini. Buddhists as well as non-Buddhists offer poojas to the deity with the intention of getting blessings for children and pregnant mothers. On the day we visited, the place was full of devotees despite the match. History of this devalaya goes back to the Anuradhapura era. As the legend unfolds King Gajaba 1 (A.D. 114 - 136) came from India with 12,000 men as prisoners, bringing with him a Pattini anklet, he landed at a place close to devalaya. Devalaya was built enshrining the anklet.

“Other version of this legend is that Goddess Pattini arrived at this place from India with 12,000 devotees belonging to 16 castes. The men and women settled down in adjacent villages to serve the goddess,” said Nawagamuwe Podi Hamuduruvo Atigala Kunnarathana Thera.

Moonstone with floral decor

“The well, which is believed to be the one that the Goddess Pattini used to bathe, can be found near the devalaya,” said the Thera. “The oldest building of the premises is the Pattini Devalaya. Viharageya and the other artefacts had been built later to accommodate the large number of devotees arrived at the place,” he added.

The temple, which is attached to the devalaya is Sri Sugathabimbaramaya. The first historical mention of the Nawagamuwa Pattini Devale is found during the Kotte period, in the ‘Godagama Sannasa’, it is said that King Buwanekabahu V (A.D. 1521 - 1580), a gift of oil is made for the Nawagamuwa Pattini Kovil Perahera.

This area was historically important even during the period of King Sitawaka. It is renowned that King Mayadunne (A.D. 1521 - 1580) had stopped at the Nawagamuwa Pattini Devale to make a vow before he went to war with the Portuguese in the Colombo Fort. According to the reports of the Portuguese, in 1550, the King of Portuguese sent 600 troops to help King Buwanekabahu V. They fought with King Mayadunne at Nawagamuwa. It is also recorded that in 1576, the Portuguese army destroyed Nawagamuwa Devale and established an army camp there.

The devalaya was rebuilt by King Mayadunne only to be destroyed again by the Captain of the Colombo Fort, leaving a pile of ruins. According to the Department of Archaeology some building materials, Dutch coins, and iron implements have been found during an excavation around the devalaya.

Dagoba of the temple Bodhisatva Statue

The Viharageya, which is believed to have been built in 19th century, is a beautiful building with paintings belonging to the Kandy era. It has four stone entrances and three Bodhisattva Statues. The inner part of the Viharageya has a long reclining Buddha Statue and a statue of God Vishnu. That ceiling is decorated with magnificent floral paintings. The door, which opens to the inner hall, is decorated with paintings of a flower and a picture of a worshipping ‘vamana’.

The stone pillars in front of the building are believed to be from a temple, which has been destroyed during the Portuguese period. The whole building is built on a stone foundation. The moonstone at the entrance, which belongs to the post Kandy period is rather different from what we see in other places. Instead of a liyawela this one has six petal flowers and tuskers.

There are also two doratupala figures and remains of a Makara Thorana. “The oldest shrine of the devalaya premises is the Galkanu Devalaya,” said Podi Hamuduruwo. This shrine is built of four stone posts. The remains of the original stone posts are still visible. Some people believe these as rubbles of the first Pattini Devalaya. However, this was rebuilt during the Katuwawala Sri Sumanathissa Thera, one of the Chief Priests of the Sri Sugathabimbaramaya.

The Maha Pattini Devalaya, the main shrine of the area, has been built during the 19th century. A gilded statue of the Goddess Pattini is enshrined in it. There are five other shrines stands in a row in front of the Maha Devalaya. Out of these Dedimunda, Kataragama and Vishnu Devalayas belongs to the 19th century, however others are built recently. During a recent research conducted by the Department of Archaeology, Viharage, Sangavasaya (the Monks abode), Galkanu Devalaya, Maha Pattini Devale, along with these three ancient shrines has declared as archaeologically important sites.

Ancient Devala

Old avasaya ge

In addition to that, a grove of Naa-tree, which is believed to be more than 100 years old, is also one of the protected sites. “The legend says that there is a white king cobra in this grove,” said Podi Hamuduruvo. “I have never seen him, but there are people who had spotted him,” he added. The procession of the devalaya is also unique. Unlike other shrines, Bulls are used for the procession instead of elephants. This is known as ‘Gon Pita Perehera’. “The jewels of Vishnu and Kataragama are taken on bulls back during the Perehera,” explained Podi Hamuduruwo.

Stories related to the devalaya are also interesting as much as its history. The most popular out of those is that once a Jak fruit has grown out of the wooden entrance of the devalaya. A villager who had come into the devalaya premises in search of his cow had spotted this well grown Jak fruit. The hungry villager had offered a portion to Goddess Pattini and had eaten the rest. Hearing this story the angry kapurala of the devalaya had cursed the villager. “However, it is said that the Kapurala himself had died from that curse,” explained the thera. “This devalaya is a place full of miracles. Unlike today, our ancestors believed that the deity punished the drunk devotees and never allowed to pass the devalaya with loose hair,” added the Thera.

Pix: Janani Amarasekara



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