Maha Vishnu Devalaya
On to the North-West of the palace, in front of the “Natha Devale“ is the “Vishnu Devalya” popularly a the “Maha Devale”. This is one of the Hatara Devale in the Kandy, the other three being the Natha, Kataragama and Patini. These four Devalayas have a long association with the Royal Palace ( Maha Vasala) and the Temple of Tooth Relic (Sri Dalada Maligawa) and has been venerated by Buddhists and Hindus alike from the inception.
Different historical documents have called this deity and the Devale by different names. Robert Knox, the English Prisoner has called the deity in this devale “Aluth Nuwara Deiyo”. According to legend the “Aluth Nuwara Deviyo” was brought to Aluth Nuwara in Kegalle District from Devinuwara in Matara. This deity was called “Upulvan Deiyo” (deity with a colour of a lotus). Later this deity in Aluth Nuwara was known as “Vishnu”. The 15th century “Paravi Sandeshaya”, a poetical work describes the deity at Devinuwara, Matara as a destroyer of Asura. Thus it can believed that this same deity is also “Rama” of the great Indian Epic “Ramayana”. Interestingly “Ehelapola Varnanawa”, a poetical work done in the 19th century calls this shrine at Kandy, “The Rama Devale”. It is also interesting to note that this devale has had in possesion a cloth painting depicting the Battle of Rama and Rawana.
“According to Mahavansa, The great chronicle of Sri Lanka, It was “Upulvan Deiyo” thus Vishnu that was selected as the guardian to protect the land of Sri Lanka and Buddhism within it at the time of Buddha’s passing away.
“When the Guide of the World, having accomplished the salvation of the whole world and having reached the utmost stage of blissful rest, was lying on the bed of his nibbana; in the midst of the great assembly of gods, he, the great sage, the greatest of those who have speech, spoke to Sakka’ who stood there near him: `Vijaya, son of king Sihabahu, is come to Lanka from the country of Lala, together with seven hundred followers. In Lanka, O lord of gods, will my religion be established, therefore carefully protect him with his followers and Lanka.
When the lord of gods heard the words of the Buddha he from respect handed over the guardianship of Lanka to the god who is in colour like the lotus.
According to beliefs, Vishnu is a future Buddha after Natha. Therefore Vishnu always has had a high ranking within the deities worshipped by the Sri Lankans. During the Kandyan Era the the Kings “Abisheka Mangallaya” or the Coronation Ceremony was held at this Maha Devale.
The origin of Vishnu Devalya or the shrine of Vishnu is unclear. This is a long building with a storied sanctum at the end. In front the sanctum is a long hall called “dig-ge”. This hall is for dancers and who carry out puja for the deity. Today it is used by the devotees to pray. This building complex is entered through a two storeyed Vahalkada (entrance doorway), to an open hall with timber columns in the middle terrace, a beautifully carved stone flight of steps and the drumming hall. On the upper terrace is another small shrine, the God Dedimunda’s Shrine and a large Bo-tree.