Asked where to see the best instances of classical Sri Lankan woodcarvings from the Kandy period, the answer has to be Ambekke Devalaya (also spelt Embekke Devale or Embekka Devalaya). The wooden hall in front of the main shrine deicated to Lord Kataragama (alias Murugan alias Skanda) is younger than the inner sanctum, which is from the Gampola period (14th century), built by the King Vikramabahu III. The wood of the front hall is said to have come from the audience hall of the abandoned royal palace in Gampola. The hall now famous for the wood carvings at its pillars is a so-called Digge, which translates to drummers hall. It was in a Digge that dancing rituals were performed. The splendid wood carvings depict typical scenes of later Kandyan art and also some extraordinary sujets such as a Portuguese soldier on a horse. The Ambekke Devalaya is a combined Hindu and Buddhist shrine, with a separate shrine dedicated to Lord Buddha. The small village of Ambekke surrounding the temple is still famous for woodcarving manufacturing. Day-excursions from Kandy usually combine a visit of Embekke with detours to the nearby Gampola-period temples of Lankatilaka and Gadaladeniya.
Nuwan Chinthaka Gajanayaka