The Kandyan king, Kirti Sri Rajasinghe (1747-1780) was a great patron of the arts. It was during his time that some of the best paintings in upcountry temples were created. Among them, the Degaldoruwa Raja Maha Vihara paintings stand out. Degaldoruwa is just a few miles away from Kandy close to Kundasale and is well worth a visit to get an idea of the Kandyan style of paintings. Incidentally, the temples which received the patronage of the king came to be known as ‘Raja Maha Viharas’ and to this day they are identified as such. So when you next see a name board of a temple with the wording ‘Raja Maha Vihara’, that means the king had given lands and other valuables to that temple.
While the Degaldoruwa
paintings were started by King Kirti Sri Rajasinghe, the king had died before they were completed. It was during the reign of his younger brother, King Rajadhi Rajasinghe, who succeeded him, that they were completed. After the work was done, the king had handed it over to Moratota Dhammarakhkhita Nayaka Thera, who was his teacher. Popularly known as Moratota Hamuduruwo, he was a very learned monk.
Four ‘Sittara’ painters are credited with the Degaldoruwa paintings. Among them, Devendra Mulachari is regarded as the leader. Devaragampola Silvattenne Unnanase was the best known out of them. ‘Silvat Unananses’ were those who had become monks but not received higher ordination or ‘upasampada’. In addition to Degaldoruwa , he has also drawn the paintings at Ridi Vihara. Hiriyale Naide and Nilagama Patabendi are the other two painters.
The origin of this temple is rooted deeply in folklore. The two large rock boulders fused together at the temple has been been opened in the past with gap between. One day a villager has gone through the gap to see what lies between to find a heap of golden sickles lying hidden at the gap. He has taken one of the sickles gone to his field, used it and replaced it in the evening on his way home. This continued to for sometime each day with him replacing the golden sickle after work.