The Marvellous Wood Carvings at the Embekke Devalaya
The Marvellous Wood Carvings at the Embekke Devalaya

Sri Lanka, this little pearl that lies amidst the Indian Ocean, provides a huge space to secure the history, culture, and traditions of the country. Every inch of the land contains some monument or a site that adds value to that part while making the island a tourist paradise as a whole. It is not that it gives importance to one religion, one culture, or one tradition, but showcases the diversity in every aspect, which is something very unique to Sri Lanka. If we take a map of this tiny island, we can find dozens of landmarks of such places that preserve the proud history of the country. Among them, Embekke Devalaya which stands within the vicinity of the Kandy district holds a significant position. So, why not? Let us get to know about this place in detail, through this read!

What is Embekke Devalaya?

Embekke Devalaya is a place that preserves history, historical artifacts, and architectural knowledge of late kings in ancient Ceylon. It says that this is a creation that belongs to the Gampola period, dedicated to a deity called ‘Kataragama Deviyo’. Keeping all these facts aside, this Devalaya is most known for its presence of woodcarvings, pillars, and other structures. Continue reading to know about the significant aspects of this marvel!

History of Embekke Devalaya

The creation of this artistic place dates back to the period of King Parakramabahu the Great, who was one of the greatest kings that ruled this country. During his reign, he worked to combine the two religions, Buddhism and Hinduism, which are two major religions in Sri Lanka. Hence, as per history, the King built this Embekke Devalaya to conjoin both these traditions. Thus, this shrine stands as the epitome of the best of both religions.

Significant Aspects of the Embekke Devalaya

This temple itself consists of four parts. First of all, there resides the main shrine with two giant pillars. Those are famous as ‘Eka-palli’ in the Sinhala language. These are attractive and beautiful with their coverings that include stylized animals and flowers.

Next, there is a shrine, with the name ‘Kuttam Pokuna’. It consists of Dravidian-style carvings. The coverings of elephants, yalis, and other figures simply prove to the world the perfect talents of the finest wood-carvers in Sri Lanka.

Thirdly, there is the ‘Bodhi Pooja’ temple where one can see a beautiful Bodhi Tree planted under it. Lastly, there is a shrine with the name ‘Sardun Sandi’ located in the center of the Devalaya with a massive rock in front of it. These four were built by King Parakramabahu the Great. However, this was enlarged by his son (King Vira Parakramabahu) who ruled for about nine years.

Carvings and Woodwork

Embekke Devalaya belongs to one of those few places where one can find the unique carvings and woodwork of ancestors of Sri Lanka. Besides, these woodworks are certainly some of the best in the world, and even UNESCO has proved this fact.

However, the structure of the temple consists of three sections. The first is the Sanctum of Garagha, the inner sanctum where the god’s sculptures are kept. The Dance Hall or Digge, which represents the king’s consort Henakanda Bandara is the next. It was the place for dancing events during the monarchs’ reign. The Drummers’ Hall, which represents the drummer Rangama and was previously the site of musical events, is the final section.

It is mainly certain wood carvings that offer elegance to the whole premises. Among them, the wooden capital pillars play a major role. They are in a variety of shapes, and the Sri Lankan artists have expertly carved them into these fascinating wood sculptures. The bottom square is octagonal and carved. However, the top square ends with a leaf emerging from the square.

Best Masterpieces among the Wood Carvings

The pillar top or Pecada is home to some intricate yet one-of-a-kind woodcarvings. On several beams, rafters, doorways, and doors, there are also artistic wood carvings. For instance, Hansa Puttuwa (entwined swans), double-headed eagles, entwined rope designs, a mother breastfeeding child, a soldier fighting on horseback, female dancing figures, wrestlers, women emanating from a vein, a bird with the human figure, and a combination of elephant-bull and a combination of elephant-lion are among the best masterpieces on the capital pillars.

Among all these amazing carvings, the elephant-bull carving and the elephant with its elongated trunk, which is mystically materialized, get the most attention. It has a magical content, where the two figures appear separately covering a part of one. 

The rafters on the ceiling of the Embekke Devale include some ingenious reveal of marvels of ancient carpentry. One of the finest instances of vintage carpentry skill is the ‘Madol Kurupuwa’. This Madol Kurupuwa is a wooden pin that keeps 26 rafters together at the top end of the roof of the dancing hall of Embekke Temple.

Altogether there are 514 excellent carvings, including 125 series of ornaments, 256 liyawel, 64 varieties of lotus designs, 30 artistic patterns on timber, and roof members. Through these depictions, it is clear that everything is at its finest at the Embekke Temple to amaze both foreign and local visitors. Hence, it is worth having a visit to Embekke since it is a paradise of historical masterpieces of architecture and art.


Apart from these mesmerizing carvings and artistic facts, this place is popular for its ruins as well. There are some ruins with a set of stone pillars around a mile away from the temple. The pillar carvings are identical to those found in the Embekke temple. History reveals that these pillars previously had the support of a timber roof. Yet, they have become remains since fallen into disrepair. Once again for history and art lovers, both the Embekke Temple and the nearby ruins are worth seeing.


Embekke Devalaya is situated 8 miles away from Kandy in an area called Daulagala. Precisely, it belongs to Medapalata Korale of Udunuwara in the Kandy district. This was first built as a resting place to provide shelter for the pilgrims who attended long journeys in ancient Sri Lanka. With the time procession, it has become a sacred place dedicated to a particular God in Hindu beliefs. Still, it is a mandatory stop for the travelers who go and forth between Kandy to Colombo.

How to Arrive at Embekke Temple?

Since this is situated on Kandy-Colombo road, one has to go along this road and take a turn to the right from Pilimathalawa junction in order to reach the destination in Daulagala. This is not very far from Kandy, just 5km away from Peradeniya town. En route to Embekke Temple, one will also encounter two other important temples; Gadaladeniya Raja Maha Vidyalaya and Lankathilaka Viharaya. So, the delight of visiting Embekke Devalaya will certainly be magnified if you visit those two attractions as well!

The Bottom Line

Beyond a doubt, the Embekke Devalaya is one of the most significant cultural attractions on this island. The fine wood carvings there are certainly some of the best in the world and are worth observing with your own eyes. So, if you’re ever planning a visit to Kandy, the scenic mountain town of Sri Lanka, this is a must-visit. Visit Emebekke Devalaya, and amuse yourself with the delicacy of Sri Lankan arts and crafts. Happy and Safe Travelling!