© 2023 Dr Margaret Sheppard

Deities Hierarchy Ceremonies Sakra Guardians Twelve Deities


The Shrine to Dadimunda at Kataragama Temple stands at the foot of the steps to the Buddhist Temple. As cocks are associated with this Deity, people bring their cocks to the trees next to this Shrine - strangely these cocks do not seem to fight each other but live in harmony!

Buddhist pilgrims presenting offerings at the Shrine via the Shrine Guardian.

Yet another legend relates he was a superhuman called Devaka Bandara, who was the Chief General of the Sri Lankan King Wickramasinghe. When Davaka Bandara died, he was deified becoming the Deity Dadimunda.

He is also known as Dedimunda Deviyo and Dedimunda Dewatha Bandara. He is considered as a guardian Deity of the Buddhist religion. Supplicants to his Shrines believe that he is able to heal life threatening illnesses, bad epidemics and demonic possession. Barren women also pray to him to be blessed with children.

There are several legends about Dadimunda’s origins. One relates that  he landed at Dondra in South Sri Lanka having sailed from South India and from there went to Alutnuvara in the Kegalle District, where he constructed a temple that became his “earthly abode”. This is his chief shrine and an annual festival is held there in his honour.

According to another story Dadimunda was born in the Talagiri mountains. His father was a Demon chief called Pūrnaka and his mother was the Naga queen Erandathi. He was said to be a grandson of Vesamuni, the King of all the Demons. Thus his ancestry connects him to both Demon sand Nāgas.

There is also a legend that he was a general under Upulvan (Vishnu) and because of this connection to Upulvan, at the main Upulvan shrines, a shrine dedicated to Dadimunda  is found to one side (e.g. at Dondra and Kandy Temples, etc.). Another interesting legend relates that he was the only Deity who did not run away in fear at the time of Bodhisatta Siddhattha's struggle with  the evil Mara  who with his vast army, tried to prevent the the Lord Buddha receiving the Enlightenment. All the other Deities ran away in great terror from Mara and his wicked demons, but Dadimunda, alone remained fearless as the Bodhisatta's only guardian.  He had been appointed to this task  to protect Buddha by the Deity Versamuni. The main Deities then presented him with a Warrant as a Guardian of the Buddhist religion.

Yet another legend relates how he survived being shipwrecked whilst returning to Sri Lanka and performing a great miracle by restoring from their cremated ashes a pregnant Queen and her unborn child - the child was then named Dapulu, meaning born from the ashes.

Images of Dadimunda  typically portray him dressed like a Kandyan chief with a sceptre/walking stick - that had been used to fight Mara.  His Kandyan costume denotes his guardianship of especially the Kandyan area where he became particularly popular during the 17th and 18th centuries during the time when Kandyan Kings ruled Sri Lanka. Pilgrims visit his main Shrine at Kegalle especially on Wednesdays and Saturdays (Kemmura Days) to make offerings, requests and vows to Dadimunda via the Shrine Guardian.

Dadimunda, having demon parentage, is considered  a Yakka-deviyo (between a Deity and a Demon). He does not himself inflict punishments on miscreants but the Deities have assigned him a retinue of special demons to do this on his behalf.

Typically he is shown dressed in royal Kandyan costume holding a sceptre and often with a cock.