Old Temples of Kandy - 3 :
Embekke Devale
(Kandy, Sri Lanka)

When descending from Lankatilake Viharaya to the south, Embecca Devale appears in the scenery of country. It seemed to have been built by the king Vicramabahu V at the Gampola dynasty in the latter half of the 14th century. Originally, it had been the meeting space, and later it was changed into the buddhist temple where the Kataragama deity was enshrined back.

The visitor passes the gate and advances towards to the shrine in the front, while seeing the warehouse with high floor in the left hand. Since the axis of approach from the gate to the shrine that is planned in the diagonal is similar to that of Japanese architecture, I might feel the sense of intimacy.

A long and slender architecture like the platform at the station is Drummer 's Hall, and the main shrine and Dancing Hall adjoin to the backside of this hall. Drummer 's Hall on the platform is an open space in which perimeter part the pillars of two rows stand without the wall and fittings. The simplicity that the wooden pillar, beam, rafter and low eaves compose also made recall the Japan architecture with the same character.

However, the impression changes if standing on the inside. It is as if the topos of Sri Lanka, where the story exists like the small living thing here and there, had been architecturized. The rich wood carving on the pillar or the beam whispers the story. I felt this shrine closer than other solemn buddhist temple of the stone make or the brick make. It would be related to that it had not been constructed as an authentic temple?

The intersection of the pillar and the beam is decorated with the lotus flower that looks like having the structural meanings, and the reliefs are carved in a part of the beam. But, the most remarkable wood carvings are reliefs given to the middle of the pillar. Four sides of each pillar have the relief of square form with different motif at the height of person's eyes. The total number of those reliefs is 514. The motif is various, for example, the animal such as the swan, eagle, horse, or lion, or the woman who was born from the ivy, people having a spree, wrestling men or mermaid. A part of relief seems to have been brought from the assembly hall of the king that had been a deserted house.

In Sri Lanka, there are other architectures in which the middle part of pillar is emphasized by four side's panel and is decorated by reliefs. But, within those, Enbekke Devale is a special example that the pillars with reliefs that are carved exquisitely stands with high density in the small and simple space with nothing. It seems to be one of origins of Sri Lankan architecture. Although it was difficult to find the religious theme in the motifs, would those have a role of the charm that showed the sacred area ?

To Japanese Version

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About 1 hours by car from downtown Kandy.



Buddhist Monastic Architecture in Sri Lanka (A. Senneviratna + Benjamin Polk, Abhinav Publications, 1992)

2007.11 Photos and text in Japanese version

2008.11 Photos in English version
2017.09 Change of photos and English text

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Embekke Devale (14th century)

Photo by Daigo Ishii