Maduwanwela Mudalinalage Aramaya
- Architectural Marvel of the Maduwanwela Dissawa Era -
The spirit of the doughty Dissawe extended to his sprawling Nindagams. He is remembered even today for his proud independence and how he never bowed down to the white rulers (the Government Agents) of his domain. This great man was called Jamis William Maduwanwela Dissawe.
Nestling in the lap of the awe-inspiring mountain frontier of the Kolonne valley is his medieval castle-like walauwa that originally had 141 spacious living rooms and 12 ‘meda midulas’ (inner courtyards). Maduwanwela Dissawe was fondly called 'Kalu Kumaraya' (Black Prince) by the people because of a bitter altercation he had with a German prince, where he made the latter eat humble pie.
Maduwanwela Dissawe died in 1930 and his grand walauwa now lies in shambles. His only crippled daughter Kumarihami also passed away after his death.
The walauwa was bequeathed to the Mollamure family. In 1979, as the edifice was crumbling it was brought under the umbrella of the Department of Archaeology as a protected monument. A curator was appointed and tourists both local and foreign flocked there to marvel at its architecture, even though all those commodious rooms and meda midulas were being reduced to the barest minimum. The Archaeological Department officials have accomplished a Herculean task with dedication to restore this decrepit mansion.
The history of Maduwanwela walauwa dates back to the Kandyan period of King Vimala-Dharmasuriya II (1687-1707 A.D). Maduwanwela Dissawe's earliest ancestor who lived at this walauwa was Maduwanwela Mohottala.
Maduwanwela walauwa is accessible via Embilipitiya along the Panamure- Kolonne-Rakwana highway about 15 miles away.
It can be reached from Colombo along the Ratnapura - Pelmadulla - Embilipitiya - Nonagama highway. Visitors can turn off at Madampe junction deviating to Rakwana - Kolonne (even to Deniyaya), where the distance to Maduwanwela walauwa is about 35 miles.
Coming down the dynasty of Maduwanwelas from the Kandyan period of reigning kings like Vimala Dharmasuriya II who ruled in the 17th century, there is a Tempita Viharaya within easy reach of the Maduwanwela walauwa off the main road to Kolonne, two km away.
Tempita Vihara is aptly named after the Mudaliyars (Mudali) Dissawes who reigned supreme in the wilderness of Maduwanwela, as Maduwanwela Mudalinalage Aramaya. It had been a tradition of the past Dissawes to develop and maintain it well. Lands were gifted to the temple, while the tank overlooking the Tempita Vihara was built by Maduwanwela Dissawe.
Of Kandyan architecture, it has an image house (Pilimage) standing on dwarf stone pillars on a wooden platform with walls of wattle and daub and a thatched roof with flat tiles (Pethaliulu). 'Tem' here means some sort of a pillar, while 'pita' means on its outer surface, which houses the image house which has statues of the Buddha and other deities. The murals are adorned with lotus petals in full bloom, tendrils with foliage and depict several Jataka stories. The ceilings are also embellished with elaborate paintings of lotus flowers and other foliage.
These Iri reka or Iri chitra - line drawings are rare and unique, and date back to the 16th Century to the time of King Vimala Dharmasuriya's reign in the Kandyan Kingdom.
Among the Iri reka drawn on the front walls of the Tempita Vihara, the most bizarre figures are those supposed to be of a demon (yakka/yakshaya), an incarnation of Hoonium Yakka. It has a hideous face with its mouth wide open, holding a pig in its mouth! In one figure, it has 10 hands, five on each side, holding elephants by their trunks, human beings by their hair and other symbolic armaments. In one figure, the yakka is mounted on a pig (or so it appears), while in another it is mounted on an elephant. The lion figures have tails tugged up and are standing on their hind legs, while holding in their front paws a creeper with foliage. Cobras are coiled around the necks and hands in clusters.
The paste for the painting is taken from the soot (deli) of the cloth wicks of coconut oil lamps and the residual burnt up oil. These were drawn with the aid of a pointed piece of charcoal with an attached handle. There is a short flight of wooden steps to reach the entrance of the Tempita Vihara.
The priests’ Avasa (residency) is also a relic of the past dating back to the 16th Century. It had been the abode of Buddhist priests then too and is well maintained to this day. It is filled with elegant furniture made of ebony and satin wood (Burutha) and antiques like globular glass hanging oil lamps. A well preserved beautifully carved armchair with oval arms has at the back a metal plate with lettering on it, to say it was manufactured by Don Carolis Furniture Dealers in 1860 A.D.
All these items of furniture and other artefacts had been the property of Maduwanwela walauwa, later gifted by Maduwanwela Dissawe to this Mudilindarmaya during his life time.
For some time in the past the Tempita Vihara was in a dilapidated state. Fortunately in the recent past the Department of Archaeology has taken constructive and meaningful steps to restore the faded line drawings and the Tempita Vihara. Its Viharadipathi is Ven. Kelle Devananda Himi Thera, who holds the office of Hony. Secretary of the Sasana Arakshaka Sabawa.
by Gamini Punchihewa
Maduwanwela Wallauwa: The Legacy of a Realm - Sunday Observer, 8 October 2006
February 13, 2007