The Embekka Devalaya is situated in Udunuwara in the Kandy district. It is a temple dedicated to the worship of Mahasen also known as “Kataragama Deiyyo”( Lord of Katharagama). It was built by King Wikramabahu during the Gampola era. It is also the temple local deity Devatha Bandara is worshipped by devotees.
If you are traveling from Kandy, travel along the Colombo – Kandy Road passing Peradeniya and Mampitiya up to Daulagala. Then you should go along the Embekka – Pilimatalawa Road to reach the Embekka Devalaya.
Embekka Devalaya is the best place to witness the finest ancient wood carvings. The main Temple consists of three sections, the “Wedasitina Maligaya” (in which the Deity resides), and the “Digge” (Dancing Hall) and the “Hevisi Mandapaya” (Drummers Hall).
The main hall consists of breathtaking wood carvings. The roof too has a very unique design done using wood. A significant feature is that everything in this place consists entirely of wood, with no other materials being used, not even metal. Even the nails used have been made out of wood.
Some beautifully carved designs feature some significant forms. One of the most famous creations is the Hansa Puttuwa or entwined Swans and others include designs of entwined rope (Lanu Gataya), sneezing face (Kisimbi Muna), festoon work (Liyawala), images of Deities (Deva Ruwa), hawk (Gijulihiniya) along with double-headed Eagles, dancing female forms, a mother breastfeeding child, wrestlers, soldiers fighting on horseback, birds with human figures and many more.
One of the most unique carvings in the temple is the entwined elephant and bull. When you cover the bull carving with one’s hand you will witness the whole elephant, and covering the elephant likewise reveals the bull. This is an amazing example of artistic expertise. It is believed that these exquisite creations are the work of a team of skilled craftsmen led by master craftsman Delmada Mulacari who was under the royal patronage of King Wickramabahu.
Another must-see feature at Embekka is the ‘Madol Kurupuwa’ which is a large wooden pin that holds twenty-six rafters together at one end of the Digge (Dancing Hall) roof, making it one of the most remarkable examples of medieval carpentry in this country.
There is a compartment called the Antaralaya house that displays an array of items with great historical significance. One of these items is a pair of tusks offered by King Wickramabahu, another one is the Kunama (palanquin) given to King Rajasinghe ll by the Dutch, which the king thereafter donated to the Temple. A large number of other valuable items with specific meaning can be seen on display within the Antaralaya. Outside this place, there is a large Bo tree in addition to several Buddhist and Hindu shrines, which provides enough proof to conclude that devotees of both faiths had co-existed in perfect harmony during that period.
This is a beautiful temple with a prestigious history and must-see features that shouldn’t be missed by you on your visit to Sri Lanka.
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