As soon as we heard the name of Embekka, first thing that comes to our mind is the finest wood carvings of ancient Sri Lanka. Embekka Katharagama Dewalaya is date back to 1370 A.D. to the time of Wikramabahu III was ruling the country in kingdom of Gampola. It is situated in Embekka village in Kandy district (Close to Pilimatalawa).
Embekka dewalaya can be reached in many different paths, but the most commonly used one by visitors is the one from Pilimathalawa passing Gadoladeniya and Lankathilaka temples. The route is from Colombo - Kandy road -> Abilmeegama -> Gadoladeniya ->Daulagala -> Buwalikada (Notice the archiological department signboard on right-hand side when reaching Buwalikada) -> Embekka.
There is a legion behind the origin of Embekka Katharagama Dewalaya, it says a drummer(බෙර වාදකයා) who lived in Rangama (රංගම - a village close to Embekka) with some kind of a skin disease has been to Ruhunu Katharagama Dewalaya (රුහුණු කතරගම දේවාලය) in Katharagama and prayed Katharagama God to cure it. Miraculously the disease was cured and since then this person has been to Katharagama to play drums at the thewawa (තේවාව) yearly. However, when he is getting older it has been difficult for him to travel all the way from Rangama to Kataragama for rituals. He has slept in the Devala, thinking of whether he will be able to come for the rituals next year. When he was on sleep, Kataragama god has appeared in his dream and told him to go back to home, soon he will signed from a tree for the drummer to do his rituals somewhere close to his village. The drummer went home and one day he heard that a lumberjack has cut a Kaduru (කදුරු) tree and it has started to flow blood from there. He hurried there and told the others who came there about the sign he has got in his dreams and started to do rituals there.
The land where the tree was situated was belonged to a garden own by quine Henakada Bisobandara(හෙන කද බිසොබණ්ඩාර) who was wife of king Wirakamabu III (වික්රමබාහු III). When king heard about the devalaya, he visited it and when he tried to return on his palanquin, carriers could not pick it up no matter how hard they tried. The king who has got an idea about the power of god in Embekka Dewalaya has donate the palanquin - which is decorated by ivory and painted in silver - to devalaya and it is still there in the Devalaya. Thereafter king has donated villages and other things to carry on rituals done for the Dewalaya and assign duties to people who were doing rituals including the drummer.
There is an annual perahara in Embekka dewalaya which starts with Kap situweema. This perahara consists of five Athul Perahara (ඇතුල් පෙරහර), five Kubal Perahara (කුබල් පෙරහර) and five Randoli perahara(රන්දෝලි පෙරහර). At the end of Randoli perahara Diya kapeema (දිය කැපීම) festival is carried out at Kahatapitiya(කහටපිටිය) in Gampola.
Stone carvings on pillars of Rikta House
There are eight buildings belongs to Embekka Dewalaya. From them Riktageya/Ambalama (රික්ටා ගෙය/අම්බලම) and throne (සිංහාසනය) is situated outside of the Dewala premises. Wahalkada(වාහල්කඩ), Maha dewalaya(මහා දේවාලය), palle dewalaya(පල්ලේ දේවාලය) muluthangeya(මුළුතැන්ගෙය - Kitchen), Wee Atuwa(වී අටුව) and Image House(බුදු ගෙය) are situated inside dewala premises.
The Riktaageya is on Embekka - Boowalikada (බූවැලිකඩ) road close to a paddy field. Unlike the dewalaya this building is made up with stone pillars and they are also having some interesting carvings which are almost like those we found in Embekka Maha Dewalaya. This building has lost it's roof and the carvings are decaying due to expose to different weather conditions.
The throne is said to be about 100 meters away from Wahalkada on a rock formation, unfortunately we didn't know about it at the time we visit there. It is said that king used to sit in this place and watched dewala perahara.
On the left-hand side after passing wahalkada, one can find two buildings made on wooden pillers. They are the Wee Athu use to store rice from paddy fields belongs to dewalaya. They are one each for Maha dewalaya and palle dewalaya. Adjoining these buildings and behind them is the kitchen building which is used to prepare danaya.
Most important building found in the premises is the Maha Dewalaya which has almost all the wooden carvings renown for Embekka. Mahadewalaya consists of several parts. They are, Hewisi Maduwa/Diggeya (හේවිසි මඩුව\ දිග්ගෙය), Sadunkudama(සදුන්කුඩම), Antharalaya/Mada Diggeya(අන්තරාලය/මද දිග්ගෙය), Pirith Kiyana Geya(පිරිත් කියන ගෙය), Wadasitina Maligawa/Garbawimanaya(වැඩසිටින මාලිගාව/ගර්බවිමනය). The long part front of Maha dewalaya is known as Diggeya which has 32 squire wooden pillars each has four unique carvings in each side. These carving are famous and been used by the government to represent various things. Apart from those four main carvings there are other carvings on wooden beams used in the roof as well as wooden pins and pillar tops. All together there are 514 carvings found in Maha Dewalaya and it is the most important building in the premises. Another important architectural specimen found in Diggeya is the way rafters are tied using single wooden pin just like what we see in an umbrella. This is a unique piece of work known as "Madol Kurupawa" (මඩොල් කුරුපාව) can only be seen at Embekka dewalaya.
බිනර මල - Binara mala carving on the roof
Carvings on wooden pillars and beams
Different carvings on pillars
Rituals carried out in Diggeya\Hewisi Maduwa
Madol Kurupawa\ Kanimadala
Sarapendiya carvings of a mythical bird
Mallawapora & Nalagana Carvings
Second shrine house known as Palle Dewalaya (පල්ලේ දේවාලය) has been constructed by orders of King Rajadi Rajasinghe (රාජාධි රාජසිංහ) and also known as dewatha bandara dewalaya(දේවතා බණ්ඩාර දේවාලය).
Stores and the Kitchen
Ritual known as "Muluthan Poojawa" - මුළුතැන් පූජාව must be done to Maha Dewalaya and Palle dewalaya. There is a kitchen in dewala premises for the preparation of Muluthan Poojawa. There are two rise stores (වී අටු) to store rise used to prepare Poojawa. These stores are created using Tampita (ටැම්පිට) architecture which is creating building on pillars using them as the foundation. In some cases these pillars are stones while in stores found in Embekka dewalaya they have used huge wooden pillars. Walls of these buildings are made of clay and the roof is covered with squire tiles (පෙති උළු). Rise produced in paddy fields belongs to dewalaya are stored here and issued monthly to prepare Muluthan Poojawa.
Reference: එතිහාසික ඇම්බැක්ක ශ්රී කතරගම මහා දේවාලය - එම්. ඒ. සිරිල් මල්ලවාරච්චි
Ancient Embekka Sri Kataragama Maha Dewalaya by M. A. Siril Mallawarachchi