Yatinuwara Dodanwala Esala Perahera
by N. C. K. Aluvihare
The The Sunday Island (Colombo) 7 September 2003
Yatinuwara Dodanwala Esala annual Perahera of the Natha Devale begins soon after the Kandy Esala Perahera is over. Dodanwala Devale is situated in the Kandy district, Yatinuwara Medapalatha, half a mile from Peradeniya. Proceed towards the Kandy Colombo road, the turn off at Kiribathkumbura junction. From here, proceed two miles and you come to a beautiful village, Dodanwala, which has a enchanting river running on either side with the breeze of the fluttering paddy field. As you pass this enchanting environment, you come to a panoramic sight. Never, is there any other place so beautiful! Large old massive Na trees with the fragrant Na mal scent. Tender red na leaves. This is compared by ancient people to ladies beautiful lips. This certainly gives a ray of sunshine to one who, is always with a heavy heart. Up to the Devale premises, you see on either side, only these large trees, which darkens this entire area. If you are to go to this Devale alone, fear not; you are sure to get a shiver down your spine as one will feel a mystic atmosphere, until you reach the Devale. The normal breadth will be back, only when you once reach the land of the gods.
This Dodanwala Devale from the past was famous for many miraculous happenings. Nearby there had been the famous Walawwa - "Diyakelinawala Walawwa." The Kumaryhami and the "Bandara Hamuduruwo" of this family has had seven (7) sons and one daughter. It has been the daily ritual for the sons to have a daily bath at the Diyakelinawala-(hole). One such day, they had never returned after their daily bath. The anxious mother had gone to the Diyakelinawala to see if the children had finished bathing. The mother had been surprised to see, the Thupotiya and other dresses of the sons but not her dear sons. Then she had cried and yelled "My sons, My sons" not a trace. She had heard some one say a" Do not worry - your seven sons have been embossed to the Dodanwala Devale". The wailing mother related this to her husband.
The little Kovil started too, with a similar mystic episode - A very pious farmer had once cut a branch of a iron wood tree (NA) to take home for cooking. He could not believe his eyes for he saw red blood oozing from the sapling that he cut. Amazed, had fallen into a trance. Then he had heard some invisible voice warning him, never to cut Na trees or branches. Never to use this as fire wood and had instructed him to erect a small kovil there to keep it clean and never fail to light a lamp in the name of God Natha. He dedicated this plot of land to the Natha God and erected a small kovil. Daily people had come to this kovil to meet Nahamy to get various auspicious times. There after he was named Nahamy.
The third interesting historical unbelievable episode too happened here. King Rajasingha after losing the war had not returned to Kandy on the usual Kandy, Kadugannawa Road. Instead, he with his army used the ancient road to Kandy - through Balana Siyambalagoda Dodanwala, passing Na hamy's Kovil on his palanquin. On reaching the Dodanwala Kovil of Na hamy's premises the palanquin bearers had humbly requested the king to alight from the palanquin and walk past this kovil and offer a "Padura" to the God Nathas as this was the custom observed by all who walked pass this place. The king furious of this request refused to walk past this as he thought that this insignificant, Kovil is of no value. The haughty king had then remarked that although he was defeated in war he still remains to be the king of Sri Lanka and that he will never get down and walk past this kovil nor offer "paduru." No sooner had he uttered those undesirable words the cross bar of this palanquin had snapped and he was compelled to get down. Shivering within, he sat on a stone under a large Na tree, which still stands at the Devale premises.
He next ordered that Na hamy be brought to his presence. Then had said to Na hamy in a very harsh voice . "Now show me the wonderful powers of your God Natha - tell him to mend my snapped bar. If your prayer is not answered, you shall die here today. If you are able to prove the truth of Natha God at Dodanwala, then I shall help you to make this Kovil a famous Dewale. Lands will be given for Rajakariya and an annual perahera, will be held every year. All my jewelley shall be offered to this Dewale".
At these "words Na Hamy was impressed at the same time had a fear of death as he knew who the king was, if he failed to comply with the request.!
He humbly bowed down, recited the Ithipiso gatha. Then he had yelled in a very loud voice and prayed to God Natha to mend the broken palanquin bar to enable the king to proceed his journey to Kandy. He also prayed that his life be saved. His voice of prayer was heard in all villages in the vicinity and the spectators were numberless. His loud speaker voice, dimmed. He looked up within worshipping hands fear of death shivering within he softly spoke to the palanquin bearers to remove the white scarf that was wrapped round the broken cross bar. When it was removed, every body was really surprised, to see the well mended cross bar.
This was in perfect order. Not even a trace of the broken place was visible.
Shocked at this mystic happening the king had next ordered the Kapurala (Na hamy) to bring some oil to light a few pahanas. With shivering hands, as there was no oil he had brought some water. He had poured this water and it lit to the surprise of the onlookers. They too could not believe their eyes. The oil lamps burning at the feet of the Muni, gave light to the entire sacred ground of the God Natha's Kovil. This was another miracle.
The Esala Dodanwala Perahera starts with the kap planting ceremony. At -the auspicious time a sapling from the Esala tree is taken and wrapped with saffron washed white cloth. This is then placed in the inner chamber of the Devale. The perahera commences. Next begins the Kumbal Perahera and continues for seven days. After the first six days of Kumbal the Randoli Perahera begins in all its splendor, grander than the previous nights. The Randoli is taken on the longer route. With more dancers, more torch beares, pantheru, kulu natum, kavadi. The grandest of all are the elephants. The Basnayaka Nilame majestically dressed in his colorful majestic Mul Anduma walking stately like a king of Sri Lanka. (Mr. Manendra Keppetipola - from Dodantale Walawwa, Mawanella).
The last perahera reaches up to the Ritta ge (...) This is a small tall construction, colour washed in white, situated on the margin of the devale land and of the God's home - Diyakelinawala Walawwa Watta. The Kapurala dressed in spotless white walks up to this building with the big tusker in front. He starts to chant the Coal Mura This is the history of the 7 (Seven) Devale Gods taken from this ancient walawwa and the beginning of the Kovil and perahera. This ancient walawwa still stands with a beautiful glory past. Still well maintained with ancient furniture and brass ware and also a beautiful garden with old trees. This Walawwa is over 35O years old. Even King Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe had visited this place. This Walawwa had been famous for astrology and wedakama (Ayurveda medicine). The king after experiencing all this mystic power of the God's of this Kovil overjoyed, was compelled to fulfil his promises. His jewellery, crown, and mended palnquin were all donated to the Devale. At present the Kandy museum has a replica of the crown.
Coming back to the perahera after the Randoli perahera is over the water cutting ceremony ends the day perahera. This pageant ends leaving behind the dull and mystic Dodanwala village. So ends the story of the mystic history of a Devala. Today too, people in distress go to this devale to get blessings and come satisfied with their prayers answered.
During the Perahera season Gammadu (...) is in flow from all parts of Yatinuwara. Food is all prepared at the devale premises. After offering to the gods, this sacred food of (...) 7 trays has to be sent to this old Walawwa as gratitude.
This article first appeared in The Sunday Island of 7 September 2003.