The temple by
Nawagamuwa Devale, close to the Kelani river has many historical
links, writes Hiranthi Fernando
Among the archaeologically
significant sites in the Colombo District, Nawagamuwa Devale is
important as a historic place of worship. Legend has it that the
origin of this Pattini devale close to the Kelani river goes back
to the early Anuradhapura period.
Vihara Mandiraya. Pix by Athula Devapriya
due to destruction by foreign forces and reconstruction over the
years, little visible proof remains to confirm this belief. However,
archaeological research has revealed several sites in the Nawagamuwa
area to confirm that settlements in the area date back to a B.C.
When the early
Aryan settlements were being established, Kelani river and Kelani
thota were of importance. Nawagamuwa is located at the 13th milepost
on the old Colombo - Ratnapura road. It is believed that during
the early Anuradhapura period, Nawagamuwa belonged to the Kelani
a popular legend, when King Gajaba 1 (A.D. 114 - 136) came from
India with 12,000 men as prisoners, bringing with him a Pattini
anklet, he alighted at the landing place close to the devale. It
is said that he built a devale, enshrined the anklet and held poojas
here. From then till the Kotte period no significant facts have
been discovered about the site.
the Kotte period, the area was known as Hewagam Korale, according
to Rajavaliya. It is said that when Rajasinghe I fought the Portuguese
forces at Mulleriyawa, his last camp was pitched here. After his
victory, he named the area Hewagam Korale in gratitude to the Hewagama
soldiers who came to his aid. During this period, it is said, Nawagamuwa
was used as a jetty on the road connecting Colombo Fort with Malwana,
Hanwella and Gurubebili. The Pattini Devale was then famed as the
Pattini Kovil. The first historical mention of the Nawagamuwa Pattini
Devale is found during the Kotte period. Mention is made in the
'Godagama Sannasa', made known by Buwanekabahu V (A.D. 1521 - 1580),
of a royal decree for a gift of oil to be made for the Nawagamuwa
Pattini Kovil perahera.
Sitawaka period too this area was historically important. It is
noted that when King Mayadunne (A.D. 1521 - 1580) set out to fight
the Portuguese in the Colombo Fort, he stopped on his way at the
Nawagamuwa Pattini Devale to make a vow before he went to war. According
to Portuguese reports, in 1550, the Portuguese king sent 600 troops
to help King Buwanekabahu V. They clashed 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 devale was rebuilt by King Mayadunne only to be destroyed again
by the Captain of the Colombo fort, leaving a pile of ruins.
of the Archaeological Department says that according to popular
beliefs and historical data, Nawagamuwa devale was known as a pilgrim
site from the beginning of the 15th century. Excavations around
the devale from time to time unearthed building materials, wells,
Dutch coins and iron implements of the middle ages. North of the
old devale at what was known as the old landing place, coins used
during the Dutch period in Ceylon, 1554 - 1765, have been found.
Old stone posts have been found discarded on some of the private
properties in the vicinity. Signs that a pier or similar erection
had existed on a large flat rock by the riverside, have also been
uncovered. These archeological artifacts were discovered when construction
work on a suspension bridge across the river was in progress. The
Archaeological Department then stepped in and construction has been
discontinued until further research on the site is carried out.
research conducted in the Nawagamuwa Devale area, remains of several
buildings of the Kotte period and some buildings of the 19th century
have been identified. The Department has declared eight archeologically
important sites as protected monuments to be conserved. These sites
are the Viharaya or Pilimage, the monks' abode or Sanghavasaya,
Galkanu devale, Maha Pattini Devale, Vishnu, Kataragama and Dedimunda
devales and the grove of ancient Na trees, which is over 100 years
of the shrines is the Galkanu devale. It was a 'tampita' devale,
which is built on four stone posts, Mr. Tillekewardene explained.
The original stone posts still remain. It is believed by some to
be the site of the original Pattini devale. A shrine was rebuilt
by Katuwawala Sri Sumanatissa Himi, the chief priest of the temple
during A.D. 1813 - 1928.
When Sri Sumanatissa
Himi first came to Nawagamuwa he built a small cadjan thatched dwelling
place or 'Awasaya' at 'Thanayamwatte', where the fruit stalls are
now. This place was known as thanayamwatte because there had been
a rest house for travellers there. The autobiography of the learned
Kalukonduwawe Sri Pagnasekera Nahimi, who was a student of Shri
Sumanatissa Himi, describes the temple constructions undertaken
by his guru. According to this the old name of the devale was Sri
Sudarsharamaya, which was later changed to Sri Sugathabimbaramaya.
It was Sri Sumanatissa Himi who also constructed a permanent abode
for the monks.
the Galkanu devale, Sri Sumanatissa Himi constructed the monks abode
or Sanghavasaya and the Vihare or Pilimage in 1894. The Maha Pattini
devale and the Dharma shalawa were constructed later.
of the Sanghavasaya, an old 19th century British period building
is unfortunately defaced by the construction of a nondescript extension.
also of the same period is a beautiful old building with a stone
entrance and characteristic architecture. The stone pillars in front
are believed to have been from a temple destroyed during the Portuguese
period. The moonstone at the entrance is of the post Kandy period.
The large reclining Buddha statue and wall paintings are in the
style of the Kandy period. There are also 'doratupala' figures or
guard stones and a 'Makara thorana'.
The Maha Pattini
devale, which is the main devale on the premises is also from the
19th century but the front section had been added more recently.
A gold plated statue of the goddess Pattini is enshrined within.
Outside the Maha devale, is an old 'Asana' stone, dating back to
the Kotte period, which is not in its original setting. The other
five shrines stand in a row.
Of these the
Vishnu, Kataragama and Dedimunda devales are of the 19th century
while Saman and Moratu devales have been constructed recently.
Department has declared these important sites protected monuments
to be preserved for future generations. Architectural conservation
of the buildings is also being undertaken to preserve them in their
original style as far as possible. Extensions such as the one to
the Sanghavasaya would not be permitted in future.