Hirigal Devalaya at Koggala | Sunday Observer

Hirigal Devalaya at Koggala

19 September, 2021

Koggala is the village where the late novelist Martin Wickramasinghe who rendered an incomparable service to Sri Lankan literature, was born and many of the incidents associated with it are mentioned in his own books.

Many of his books such as Gamperaliya Madoldoowa and Upan Daa Sita were based on the lifestyle of the people living in and around Koggala at that time.

One of the chapters of his novel Gamperaliya mentions a Devalaya called Hirigal Devalaya which has been worshiped by the people of the area since ancient times.

During the Second World War, a large part of this Devalaya was removed as it obstructed the construction work of the Koggala airstrip.

Today, only a temple and a dagoba can be seen there and this article is about that historic Devalaya and some of the highlights associated with it.


Hirigal Devalaya is a temple located on a rocky outcrop adjacent to the Koggala airstrip near the Habaraduwa suburb on the Galle-Matara Main Road.

Situated very close to the sea on one side and bordering the Koggala Lagoon on the other, this Devalaya is also known as, Hirugal Devalaya and Devalaya Goda Pansala.

Although this area is commonly known as Koggala today, in ancient times Koggala was an area with many sub villages. The Hirigal Devalaya is located in the village called Malalagama and the present Koggala airstrip is located in the area where the said village was located.

In examining the history of this Devalaya, it is believed to be connected with the ancient Rama-Ravana story. The proximity of the Rumassala mountain range to Koggala is believed to have contributed to this belief.

According to those legends, the South, by that time, was ruled by a king named ‘Samana’ and it is said that King Rawana bestowed various privileges to the former.

The people of the area believe that there are three inscriptions made by King Samana in the Koggala Lagoon and the logo found on one of them is said to be the emblem of King Samana.

It is also believed that after the death of King Samana, the people of the area offered deities to him.

Koggala was one of the places where the Seenigama Devol God and his entourage tried to land in the country and wherever they tried to land, they were obstructed by the gods who were at their respective places. Accordingly, it is said that the God who obstructed the group at Koggala was the god ‘Hirigal Bandara’.

According to sources, this Devalaya is believed to have been dedicated to the sun.

In the book named Hela Avurudu Wata written by the late author Arisen Ahubudu, the sun rises on this place between March 21 and April 13.

For this reason, it is possible that the worship of the sun has been associated with this place since ancient times. Various legends claim that there were four ancient places in Sri Lanka dedicated to the worship of the sun and that various rituals were performed in those places.

No matter what the concept of God was associated with this Devalaya, the people of Koggala and the surrounding area were of the opinion that this place was so powerful that they came to this Devalaya to plead when they were in trouble, to avenge the theft when it was unjust (to ask God to punish the culprits).

A temple was established at this place in the late 18th or early 19th century and was initiated by a bhikkhu named Thalarambe Dhammakkhanda. At that time this temple was also known as Hirigal Devalagodalle Temple and Thalaramaya.

Ven. Madihe Siri Sumiththa Thera, who became the Chief Incumbent of this temple after him, is a bhikkhu who rendered a great literary service. He has authored a number of books on poetry such as Kawminirandama, Samudga Jataka, Sutanu Jataka, Munigunaladhankaraya, Maha Umanda Kava, Dalada Puda and Daham Gataya. In the premises of this temple, a Buddhist shrine room is also located and in it are some ancient paintings.

World War II

World War II was one of the main factors contributing to the destruction of the Hirugal Devalaya, which had been worshiped by the villagers for centuries.

As the heat of World War II intensified, the then British Government issued a special order on March 24, 1942, capturing the entire village of Koggala within 24 hours as a precautionary measure.

Accordingly, all the villagers had to evacuate the area and soon their houses were demolished and an army camp and airstrip were built.

In addition the Koggala Oya was used for landing aquatic aircraft. The rock on which the Hirugal Devalaya was located was an obstacle for them in the construction of the airstrip and it was therefore removed.

The broken granite was used for building the airstrip and the Hirigal Devalaya, which had been preserved for centuries, was destroyed.

After the destruction of the Hirigal Devalaya which was spread over an area of two acres, today only the Buddhist shrine room and the dagoba of the Devagiri Vihara are located on that rock.

Although the Hirigal Devalaya is no more there at present, there are two devalayas inside the temple dedicated to Vishnu and Kataragama deities on the left and another two dedicated to Devol and Patthini deities on the right. The locals also hold the Esala Festival in August annually in this premises and it is also visited by local and foreign tourists.