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 Post subject: Devundara - ‘City of the Gods’
 Post Posted: Tue Oct 03, 2006 1:39 am 
Devundara - ‘City of the Gods’

By Gihan Indraguptha

Devundara or ‘City of the Gods’ may have lost its original splendour, but it still has the ability to charm a traveller with its grandeur. For many pious pilgrims, the Shrine at Devundara and its residing deity provide solace for their many grievances. They flock in numbers to attain divine favours from the deities guarding the city especially in the month of July, when many festivities take place in honour of the deities.

Whether on pilgrimage or just a sightseeing tour, the fabulous shrine situated on the southernmost tip of Sri Lanka still radiates its splendour throughout the region, reassuring the many visitors that the divine deities entrusted to protect our country are still taking care of this sacred land.

Situated on the southernmost tip of our island, the Devundara shrine has legends associated with it older than any recorded history of the land. The shrine found today is associated with the deity Upulvan or Uppalavanna –the dark skinned deity. Many Hindus identify this dark skinned deity as Lord Vishnu, one of the most powerful gods in their cosmos. To the Sinhalese, the deity represents the guardian of the land, handed the noble task by Lord Buddha.

The Devundara area is also colloquially called ‘Devinuwara’ which literally translates to mean the ‘land of the gods’. The legends associated with lord Skanda or Katharagama Deviyo also mentions this area as the abode of the deity.

The recorded history of the region dates back to the 7th century. It is believed that in 667 A.D, King Dapulla who ruled from Anuradhapura was involved in several new constructions in the city of Devinuwara. The current shrine at Devundara would not do justice to its former glory.

According to Portuguese historians here stood one of the most magnificent monuments of architecture in the whole of Lanka. Before the Portuguese plundered the treasures of Devinuwara the shrine was said to have had a golden roof and countless treasures such as gold silver and gems. However this splendid edifice was destroyed by the colonialists in their unquenchable quest for wealth. The town also called Devinuwara was once was a thriving metropolis where international trade took place.

In one of the most important inscriptions ever found in Sri Lanka, a Chinese admiral records the many lavish donations he made to the shrine at Devundara. This inscription - now known as the tri-lingual slab since it contains its message in Chinese, Persian and Tamil - is also is a fabulous example of the interaction which took place between international traders in the early 15th century.

The Chinese Admiral Ching Ho who was renowned for his travels across the globe is said to have landed in Devundara in the early part of the 15th century and observed the magnificent shrine dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Before setting sail on his voyage, the admiral is said to have lavishly donated treasures to the shrine soliciting divine favours from the deity.

After the devastation of the holy shrine by the Portuguese in the 16th century, the temple at Devundara has been rebuilt. However, the reconstruction has not been able to restore the shrine to its former splendour. A few remains still offer a glimpse in to the magnificent architecture which adorned the shrine. Even after the destruction by the Portuguese, there still remain stone pillars which once supported the shrine. Also at the entrance to the deity’s abode is a stone arch way with remarkable craftsmanship. Inside the shrine too there are several stone sculptures which were spared by the vandals. Some of these depict mythical creatures associated with Hindu beliefs. Situated just six miles from Matara on the main road to Tangalle, the shrine is a popular destination for tourists and pilgrims alike.

The whole area however comes alive in the month of July when a grand Perehera is held in the honour of the deity.

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