ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday October 7, 2007
Vol. 42 - No 19
Kandy Times  

History is sinking and cracking

The world-famous Embekke Devale is in need of urgent renovations

By L.B. Senaratne

The sanctum of the historic Embekke Devale dedicated to God Skanda or Kataragama is in danger of collapse, with the floor being attacked by weevils over the past several years. The Embekke Devale is known for its elaborate wood carvings consisting of some 514 distinctive designs carved on pillars and other surfaces of the temple. The Devale was built during the reign of Wickremabahu III and is associated with his Queen Henakanda Bisso Bandara and a drummer Rangama.

The wooden beams with ' weevils ' plastered with some material

The floor of the sanctum has been attacked by 'weevils' and is now sinking with the danger of the roof and other areas also being affected. This famous archaeological site comes under the purview of the Archaeological Department. There are eight buildings within the Devale complex and many are the legends associated with it.

The story is told in the "Embekke Varananawa". The construction of the shrine is linked to a drummer called Rangama who suffered terribly from a skin disease, which was finally cured at the Ruhunu Kataragama Devale. Thereafter he had promised to drum yearly at the shrine. With the passage of time, however, it was not possible for him to make the journey to Kataragama to perform this ritual and God Skanda is said to have appeared to him in a dream promising a miracle.

The flower garden of the Queen Henakanda Bissobandara was close by and it is said that when a gardener tried to cut a kaduru tree there, a stream of blood flowed from it. Hearing of this, the drummer went there to perform his rituals and built a small temple of branches around the tree. The King then ordered that a temple be built and it came to be that a three-storeyed building was constructed in honour of Lord Skanda.

Basnayake Nilame Rasika Sudantha Unchi Bandara Senanayake said that they need permission to rehabilitate the shrine. If the Archaeology Department does not have the money for the repairs, it could be done, provided it is under their supervision, he said. The Basnayake Nilame and the Chief Kapurala Dissanayake showed the extent to which the floor has sunk and how in some places the wooden beams are kept on rock stands. This needs to be attended to as cracks could appear.

The Shrine

Some years ago, when Professor Senerat Paranavitharne was the Archaeological Commissioner, on seeing the weevil attack in the Hewisi Mandapaya, he had had the beams containing the wood carvings lifted and left on rock stands. This is seen even today. The same could be done in the sanctum.

In the 'Viharage' too, the floor is sinking and the ancient Buddha statues have been damaged. On areas of the Makara Thorana, one could see that the Thorana and the ceiling is now separated.

The Archaeological Department is responsible for preserving the country's ancient vihares. If they lack the funds to mount such repairs, they should allow the rehabilitation of the vihares to be done with funding from other sources, under their supervision, for these national treasures need to be preserved for future generations.

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