© 2023 Dr Margaret Sheppard

Deities Hierarchy Ceremonies Sakra Guardians Twelve Deities

Devol-deviyo Legends

There are various versions of the origin legend associated with Devol-diviyo. The first is as follows:

Three merchants had set sail from Southern India with the intention of trading in Sri Lanka but were caught in a terrible tempest so they tried to land at the first safe place which was near Deondra in the far South. However the Deity Pattini who controlled the area, refused them permission to disembark.

So they continued further along the coast and managed to reach land but quickly saw that the area was unsuitable for settlement. They then continued to sail West but were shipwrecked in another tempest and only three of them managed to swim ashore, the rest of the sailors were drowned and all the trade goods were lost in the tempestuous seas .

Where they had reached the shore was at Seenigama just North of modern day Hikkaduva. However Pattini controlled this area as well. She ordered a high fence of seven layers of fire to be erected to prevent them from going inland from the beach. But these men were skilled in mantra (spells) and knew the magic to overcome these fiery barriers. They trampled the fence down and quenched the fire and they resolved to settle there permanently. Their names were: Gini-Kurumbiira, Devol- Kurumbiira, and Vahala-kurumbiira. Pattini was very angry at the failure of her defences to stop their incursion into her territories.

These three men were experienced in the use of many magic spells, for instance they knew how to transform potsherds into money. This enabled them to buy food and so they were able to survive. Then, two of them moved South to settle in Panguru and Deondra, while the third, Devol-Kumbiira, remained at Seenigama and married locally a girl named Sinigamana. He continued making money out of potsherds and also began to convert sand into sugar which he was able to sell to the local population. Now and then he also stole coconuts which he then re-sold, but one day he was caught and had to flee to Veragoda where he married again and had two children.

Here he continued to support  himself by changing sand into sugar; but one day one of his children saw him doing this and told his mother. Devol was so angry he killed the child. However the people heard about his gifts and skill in the use of mantra and sorcery and started to revere him and treat him as a Deity. They renamed him Devol-deviyo.

When he died a shrine was built on the spot where he had lived and supplicants regularly brought offerings to this shrine.

At Veragoda there is a very ancient tree believed to have been  planted by Devol-deviyo himself. It stands  near this shrine. Later, the shrine priest instituted a ceremony in honour of Devol-deviyo, called the devol-madua which was performed in cases of epidemics. During this ritual, the legend of Devol-deviyo was enacted by dances and music, offerings to Devol-deviyo were made during this ceremony during which the supplicants entreated him to stop the spreading of the plagues.

Of his other two former companions who had survived the tempest and had settled further  South,  Gini-Kurumbiira became a sanniya-yakka (a demon). Vahala-Kumbiira became Bandahara-deviyo, and is still venerated having  his own shrine near Deondra. As part of the Pattini ceremony a special dance featuring them is sometimes performed. (See section on Pattini Ceremony - Entrancement.)

Another version of the  Devol-deviyo legend is that he  had originally been a merchant in South India. He sailed to Sri Lanka to trade but was shipwrecked. However  Sakra, the Lord of the Deities, decided to save him from drowning by sending a raft made of seven stones which enabled him to reach safety on the western coast of  Sri Lanka.

He first travelled inland to  Saman-ta-kiita parvataya (i.e. Sri Pada/Adams Peak) intending to settle there, but he was refused permission by Saman the local Deity. So he returned to his raft of stones and sailed round the southern point of Sri Lanka finally landing near Deodara. But here Upuylvan (Vishnu) objected to his staying, so he continued to Kataragama, but  Kataragama also refused settlement permission.  He continued to Ahangama (near Weligama) where Isvara had his shrine. Isvara also refused to allow him to remain, as also at Koggala where Maha-deviyo refused  him permission to settle.

At Unawatuna, near Galle, the Deity Ganapathi sent him away;  as did Vatameta-deviyo  at Gintota, nor did he fare any better at Udugalpitiya where Makala-Nagaraja, the king of the snakes, resided, and at Deondra for a second time he was again denied refuge by Upulvan (Vishnu) whose shrine was located there.

Finally he arrived at Seenigama, near Hikkaduva, the home of Pattini. She had already seen the strange vessel from afar and welcomed him. Many other Deities had assembled there, thirty-three thousand in all. They were all gathered to greet the newcomer as they had heard of his skills in magic and mantra. Pattini stood in front of the rest and stretched out her arms. In her left hand she held one of her golden bracelets, in her right, a ring set with precious stones. She wore a red gown which also covered her head. When the stranger set foot on land, Pattini asked him from where he had come and what his intentions were. After relating his  many adventures to the assembled Deities, he told them he had come to trade, but that he was also experienced in mantra and in all kinds of sorcery. He stated that he knew how to transform sand into rice and several other transformations. This interested Pattini so much that she insisted on an immediate demonstration of his skills and stated that on the demonstration she would base her decision on whether she would permit his permanent settlement.

So, he at once began to perform transforming sand into rice. Pattini was very pleased with this skill but then gave him a further task telling him that if he performed it she would allow him to settle. She ordered seven enormous fences of fire to be erected, each one sixteen miles high  and 16 miles long. She told him to tear these down , eat the fire and trample them underfoot.  He accepted the challenge and stated  that this would be an easy task.

He then “ate” the fire, trampled it under his feet so that the flames were extinguished, and danced about on the remains until there was nothing more to be seen of it and  the spot was absolutely cool. When he had finished, he stood before Pattini, and all the other Deities surrounded him,complimenting him on his great skills. Then, Dohala stepped forward and announced that so skilful a man should be honoured and invited him to join them as a Deity. He would  then have a place in their  ceremonies, (the gam-madua, the pam-madua, the devol-madua, etc.) Whenever one of these ceremonies was to be performed, he should be present and have his share of the offerings.

The whole assembly agreed with this proposal. They gave him the name Devol-deviyo and appointed seven demons to serve him and to carry out his orders. He was given their Warrant to punish humans who were guilty of an offence. The names of these seven demons are:

Andun-Kurumbara, Sandun-Kurumbara, Puspa-Kurumbara, Vata-Kurumbara, Kalu-Kurumbara, Tota-Kurumbara, and Gini-Kurumbiira.


Devol-deviyo is perhaps the most feared of the twelve Deities and attributed with inflicting the most punitive of punishments. His main shrine is at Seenigama just North of Hikkaduwa although there are shrines to him all over Sri Lanka.

Like the majority of the Deities he originates from Southern India.  Some legends associated with him are enacted and sung  by the Tovil dancers during  Pattini and exorcism ceremonies (see sections on Pattini and Tovil  Ceremonies).

(Image from Sri Lanka’s “Sunday Observer”)

Yet another version of the legend is that Devol Deviyo was one of the seven sons of King Ramasinghe of India . The king had to send the seven brothers away to safety as the Yaksha tribe was troubling the kingdom. Each brother was provided with a ship. Devol Deviyo was known to be a skilful and talented naval officer and was thus known as Neelamani. His ship was made of pure gold. The brothers engaged in trade for some time but as the seven ships entered Sri Lankan waters, they were caught in a tremendous storm and all the ships were destroyed and the trade goods lost to the deep.  Devol Deviyo prayed for strength to reach land. Sakra saw this through his sixth sense. He created a large rock in the sea for Devol Deviyo to cling onto, and entrusted the Deity of the Great Seas, Manimekala, to ensure he reached land safely. The survivors travelled all around the island but were unable to disembark at any point as there were resident guardian Deities for these regions already.

Devol Deviyo finally arrived at Seenigama,  where at first the resident Deities refused him permission to land. However, he convinced them by explaining that  Pattini, who was the Deity of Seenigama at that time, was his sister from a previous birth. He had to prove himself by passing the many tests that they set for him - the high fences of fire etc.

From that day forth,  Pattini stipulated that Neelamani would be known as Devol Deviyo and would be the Deity of Seenigama and that she would make Nawagamuwa her realm instead.

The islet is supposed to be  the rock that provided safe passage to Devol Deviyo and is said to have moved over time to its present location.

Devol-Deviyo’s island temple at Seenigama, north of Hikkaduwa. According to legend this island where the main shrine is located, is the raft of the seven stones which Sakra sent to bring him safely to land. This temple can only be reached by swimming out to it or by boat so there is a temple with his shrine on the opposite mainland. (See section on Temple Pilgrimages.) It is believed that a shrine has been located on the islet from very ancient times.

Pilgrims flock to both the land and island temples to make offerings to Devol-deviyo and make their requests. The shrine  on the islet is the place where those who have experienced injustice, appeal to Devol-Deviyo to assist them and to right the wrongs against them. It is believed that puja at this shrine is particularly successful in effecting the restoration of stolen goods and the punishment of the thief.

These legends about Devol-diviyo are enacted and sung at the Pattini Ceremonies and the part of the legend where he arrives at Seenigama from the ship wreck and has to “eat” and trample the enormous fires to gain entry, is enacted in the Fire Walking/Trampling parts of the the Ceremony - Gini- Pagima (see section on  this part of the ceremony in Pattini Ceremonies section).

Images from Temple paintings showing the arrival of Devol-deviyo in SriLanka. In the left hand one Sakra is rescuing him and his companions from drowning during the tempest that wrecked their boat and trade goods.