Gadaladeniya temple, Lankathilaka temple and Embekke temple are three temples dedicated to the teaching of Buddha. These are some of the most important places for tourist, who visit the city of Kandy during their Sri Lanka road trip. These three temples are considered as 3 major important Buddhist temples with historical background. These tri temples can be easily added to a Kandy one day tour starting from beach resorts on the south-west coast such as Bentota beach or Colombo. Temple can also be easily added to Sri Lanka tour packages which include Kandy. Usually, most Sri Lanka tour packages include Pinnawala elephant orphanage and these tri temples are located within easy reach of Pinnawala elephant orphanage.
Pinnawala elephant orphanage, Peradeniya botanical garden, the temple of the tooth relic are very important and most visited sites in Kandy, but emebekke, Gadaladeniya and Lankatilaka are easily overlooked by most visitors due to its unpopularity. The temples believed to be originated during the Gampola period. The temples showcase the highly advanced construction methods of the ancient craftsmen of Sri Lanka. Furthermore, the temples are decorated with intricate floral designs and wood carvings. Especially the Embekke Devala is considered as a masterpiece of Ancient artisans.
Gadaladeniya temple is located in the South-West direction of Peradeniya Botanical Garden. The distance to the temple about 10 km from Kandy city and can be reached easily by bus or taxi. Temple is located on a small natural hill made of granite stones, the temple is surrounded by a small hamlet.
The construction of Gadaladeniya goes back to the Gampola period and must have constructed during the reign of the first king of Gampola Bhuwaneka Bahu 4 (1341-1351). Even though the information about the constructions of the temple is not known to anyone, there are many theories regarding the beginning of the temple. It is believed that the construction was patronage by a village headman or a general of the king’s army or a rich person from the area. Some people believe that the construction was carried out under the patronage of Silavansa Dharmakeerthi thera (a popular monk).
According to the stone inscription nearby, the temple was designed by a monk, whose identity is unknown. The monk supposes to have gathered the knowledge of architecture in Amarawathi (Central Indien) and he has introduced some Indian elements to the construction such as frescoes of elephants and Ganas. The temple is made of stones and differs from the other temples in the vicinity such as Lanktilaka and Embekke.
Lankathilaka is another temple from the same era of Gadaladeniya temple and located about 3 km south of Gadaladeniya. The constructions of Lankatilaka temple was completed in 1344. Lankathilaka and Gadaladeniya both temples are supposed to be built by the same craftsman. The temple is constructed on a slightly elevated platform that is surrounded by a breathtaking landscape with small hills and thick vegetation. There are 2 inscriptions at the site created by King Bhuwanekabahu 4 (1341-1351) and King Vikramabahu 3 (1357-1374).
Lankathilaka temple is in a circular form and the central part of the building contains the important sacred objects. There is a statue of Maitreya Buddha (future Buddha) in the shrine alone with statues of Vishnu, Ganesh, and Vibhishana. With figures of important gods of Hinduism and Buddha statue shows the co-existence of both major religions in one place. The main reason for both religions to be practised in one place considered being the Buddhist king and Hindu queen. It is believed that the temple was consisting of a Buddha statue at the beginning. Hindu god figures were added in a later period and they were located around the outer wall of the shrine room in the middle of the temple. With the time passed on the Hinduism became popular and more and more people started to venerate the Hindu Gods. The outer wall encircling the Hindu statues was added with the increasing popularity of Hinduism in the country. Lankathilaka Temple houses some of the best religious paintings of ancient Sri Lanka. The paintings were added in the 17th century AD.
Embekke is another most visited tourist attraction in Kandy and it is a masterpiece of wood carving of ancient artisans. Embekke is situated further 2 kilometres down the road from Lankathilaka and it also dating back to 14th century AD. One major difference of Embekke against the other two temples is being the material used for the building of the temple. The temple is completely built of wood including the roof. The temple is more like an open hall and the roof is built on Gammalu wooden pillars. Embekke had been used as the audience hall of the king during the Gampola period. Archaeologist believed that theory to be true, while this architecture mainly used during the Gampola period in the island.
The temple is dedicated to the God Kataragama and well known as Udunuwara Kataragama Devala or Devata Bandara Devala. The temple is nestled among the beautiful countryside dominated by paddy fields, patches of forests and mountains. The temple is just 7 km from the A1 main road and about 20 km from Kandy city. Embekke is one of the major attractions in the Kandyan district.
Today the temple shows some of the most valuable wood carvings of Sri Lanka. Wood is extensively used for the construction of the temple. Temple divided into four important parts namely Garbha, Sanctum, Dancing Halls, and drummer’s hall. The drummer’s hall is an open area with a protective roof. The roof is built on finely carved wooden pillars; these ornate pillars show some of the most exquisite wood carvings of ancient Sri Lanka. According to the historical information, some of the woodworks at the temple are from an abandoned royal palace in Gampola.
This is the ideal place to see the typical Sri Lankan designs such as mother & child, the swan, and double-headed eagle. Some of the other intricating designs include bacchanalian figure, a wrestling pair, dancers, soldiers, women in the graceful movement and floral designs. The rafters, beams, columns, brackets doorways, doors and windows all are decorated with beautiful designs.
There are 128 designs in the dancing hall, 256 floral designs, 64 lotus flower designs on the brackets. There are 30 designs on beams while the numbers of designs on crossbars are 36. The total number of designs is 514.
How to get there
Galdadeniya temple, Lankthilaka temple, and Embekke temple can be easily reached by bus, unfortunately, trains are not available on this route. One can get the bus from the main bus station in Kandy near the clock tower or a Kandy bound bus from Colombo fort. Second option to get a taxi to get there. One can even hire a TUK TUK to get there but it cannot be recommended if you start the journey from Colombo. If you start your journey from Colombo Or Kandy it is extremely recommended to have a private taxi with a local driver. It saves your time and enables you to have a comfortable journey.
One can even consider taking a walk from the Kandy-Colombo main road (Gaddaldeniya junction) to these temples. It can be a very enjoyable walk because it will be a scenic walk through the small villages, rice fields, coconut plantations, hills, escapements etc. The first temple on the way is Gadaladeniya temple and it is located about 1 km from the main road.
Pilimathalawe is the closest major of these temples and one need to turn to Gaddaldeniya road at Gadaladeniya junction (first turn to right after Pilimathalawe junction) just after Pilimathalawe town. The distance from Colombo to Gaddaldeniya junction is 107 km and the distance to Gaddaldeniya junction form Kandy is 13 km.
It is only 1 km to Gadaladeniya temple from the Gaddaldeniya junction (Colombo-Kandy main road). The distance from Gadaladeniya temple to Lankathilaka vihara is about 3 kilometres on Gadaldeniya-Pilamathalawe main road. While it is just 2 kilometres on the same route to the Embekke Devala from Lankathilaka temple.