Embekke Devalaya

Built during the 14th Century Gampola period, the Embekke Davalaya is a one of a kind Buddhist temple in Kandy, due its unique woodcraft architecture, backstory and magnificent art that it possesses. Dedicated to ‘Lord Murugan’, also known as ‘Katharagama Deviyo’ (the Hindu God of War), the Embekke Devalaya proves to be an idyllic setting for the history lover, looking to understand the ancient culture and also proves to be ideal destination for the art lover, as its capital pillars are a treat to the eyes.

Best Known For

  • Anyone who visits the temple often has their eyes fixated on the exquisitely crafted wooden pillars that support the roofs of the Hevisi Mandapaya (Drummer’s Hall) and the Digge (Dance Hall). Depicting stories, deities and everyday lives of the society of the time, the Embekke Devalaya’s wooden ornate pillars have been known throughout the world as one of the finest preserved wood carvings.

Interesting Facts

  • The Embekke Devalaya’s construction begins during the reign of King Vickramabahu III, during the 14th Century, a time of great cultural significance on the island.
  • The reason for the construction of such a temple is believed to be due to divine intervention.
  • The story goes that King Vickramabahu III’s consort, Henakanda Biso Bandara woke up from a strange dream in which Kataragama Deviyo appeared and asked her to construct a temple in his honour.
  • When it was found out that a drummer, called Rangama, had the same dream, the king immediately decided to construct the temple for the deity.
  • Although the temple is dedicated to Lord Murugan, a local deity called Devatha Bandara is worshipped too.
  • The temple was built in 3 sections; the Sanctum of Garagha, the Hevisi Mandapaya and the Digge.
  • The Sanctum of Garagha is the inner sanctum of the temple where the main deity’s depiction and statues are situated.
  • The Digge or ‘Dancing Hall’ is quite a small section that is built by using intricately crafted wooden pillars. During the days of old, the hall played host to many spectacular dance performances.
  • However, it is the Hevisi Mandapaya or ‘Drummer’s Hall’ that has gained worldwide acclaim due to its bigger structure and the use of more intricately crafted wooden pillars.
  • It is evident that there have been reparations done by the kings that followed, due to the all wooden structure’s exposure and vulnerability to the elements.
  • Up until the present day, the Devalaya still sports its unique 14th Century woodcraft, resulting in UNESCO stating the temple to be a monument that possesses the finest ancient woodcarvings in the world.
  • Some of the more popular woodcarvings that are depicted on its pillars are the Hansa Puttuwa (entwined swans), double headed eagles, entwined rope designs, a mother breast feeding a child, a soldier fighting on horseback, female dancing figures and wrestlers to name but a few.
  • The significance of the structure still resonates today and is a symbol of Sri Lanka’s independence, as the Independence Memorial Hall, located in Colombo 7, was built by mirroring the famed Drummer’s Hall, complete with similarly carved pillars too. Therefore, making it all the more intriguing for the history buff and the art lover to revel in.

Times, Seasons and Tips

  • The Buddhist temple in Kandy is open daily for visitation, from 8.00am to 6.00pm, however, the best time to visit the ancient temple is during the afternoon or evenings, since you can explore the complex with more ease.
  • There is no season as such for visiting the historical venue, as it is open throughout the year.
  • It is a place of worship, therefore it is imperative that you dress accordingly and respect the traditions enforced by the temple.
  • It is natural that many a traveller would be drawn to the ‘Hevisi Manadapaya’ or ‘Drummer’s Hall’ due to its unique woodcarvings, however, please view them in a manner that would not cause any damage, as it is priceless works of art.
  • Please refrain from bringing any polythene or any other pollutants.
  • As always bring your camera along, so you can click away at the exquisite works of art.

The Embekke Devalaya has long been a major cultural monument of Sri Lanka, so much so that it now even signifies the country’s independence too. Coupled with a unique architecture and beautifully preserved pieces of art in the form of the intricately crafted wooden pillars, the temple is a ‘must visit’ monument for the history buff and art lover.

Title image by: KNOWSL The information displayed is provided by Embekke Devalaya

Location info



LKR 300
Locals - Free of Charge

Tickets At

Guided Tour

Tourslanka Vacations


Culture and Heritage

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