Holy Pilgrimage - Hindu temples in Sri Lanka-1

Holy Pilgrimage  - Hindu temples in Sri Lanka

Ariyalai Siddhivinayakar Temple, Sri Lanka

Ariyalai Sithivinayakar Temple or Sithivinayakar Kovil is an ancient temple located about 100 metres (330 ft) west of A9 Road, around 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) from Jaffna Town. This was rehabilitated by Advocate Arulampalam circa 1918. This temple was visited by Mahama Gandi, Yogar Swami, Kunrakudi Adakal.
This temple land are being used as Sri Parvadhi Vidyasalai (School), Market, Agrarian Centre, Sidda Medicine centre, Now defunct Multipurpose Cooperative Society, Handloom center and Preschool.

Ati Konanayakar Temple, Sri Lanka

Ati Konanayakar or Aathi Koneswaram (Tamil ஆதிகோணநாயகர் கோயில் அல்லது ஆதிகோணேஸ்வரம்) is a regionally important Hindu temple in Tampalakamam village in the Trincomalee District of Sri Lanka, a predominantly Buddhist country. The name of the temple in Tamil means the "temple of the original lord of Koneswaram". It is situated 24 kilometers (15 mi) from the port town of Trincomalee. The temple was constructed during the 17th century as a successor to the Koneswaram temple (Temple of Thousand Pillars) that was destroyed by Portuguese colonials in 1622.
Of the original temple, only the main sanctum sanctorum remains, all other buildings are of newer construction. The Gopuram or main entrance tower was added in 1953 and it is one of the tallest in the region. The temple is built of stone and is surrounded by two enclosed path ways. The presiding deity is Siva but there are important cults associated with the veneration of Pattini Amman and Kathirkamaswami accommodated within the main premises as well. The temple also has minor shrines to Pillaiyar, Navagraha, Murukan, Valli and Tevayani.
The temple celebrates daily services stipulated according to Agamic scriptures along with an elaborate annual festival that involves Tamil Hindus living in the general area of Trincomalee district. There are also festivals that pertain to Pattini Amman and Kathirkamaswami. As part of the Sri Lankan civil war, in the 1980s and 90's the village was depopulated and the temple abandoned. Since 2004 residents of the village have returned and the temple has been restored.


Ati Konanayakar temple is situated in the village of Tampalakamam that was part of the medieval semi-independent feudal division called Tampalakamam Pattu. Prior to the arrival of Portuguese in 1622 and then Dutch colonial overloads in 1656, leaders of the Tampalakamam Pattu and others around it were independent rulers sometimes subject to Jaffna kingdom or Kandyan kingdom. Tampalakamam is surrounded by lush paddy fields and was a prosperous settlement. The presiding deity is known as Ati Konanayakar and the consort as Hamsagamanambikai, another name for Mother goddess Amman). These names are reminiscent of the original presiding deity of the Koneswaram temple, Konesar and Annam Mennatai. The idol of the presiding deity is dated to the later Chola period (1070-1279 CE) and the consort to that of early Chola period based on the composition of metals and styles  (See picture here and here.) The temple’s name and the separate shrine to Ati Konanaykar allude to the tradition that this temple was built to accommodate the idols that were saved from the destruction of the Temple of Thousand Pillars in Tricomalee by the Portuguese colonial officers.
According to Tirukonasala Puranam a Tamil chronicle written during the period of Kandyan kingdom's ascendance in the general area of Tampalakamam Pattu, the temple was built with the help of Kandyan King Rajasingha II (1630–1689) after the loss of Koneswaram temple in the Tricomalee town.  The idols that were saved from the destroyed temple were moved from place to place and eventually located in a secure territory under the Kandyan jurisdiction. According to the chronicle Vara rasasinkam identified with Rajasinghe II by historians such as S. Pathmanathan, also provided for the upkeep of the temple by allocating land to the temple in perpetuity and revenue distribution from local taxes. Another Tamil text of interest is Konesar Kalvettu. It is written from a point of view legitimizing the claims of the new temple, that is Ati Konnanayakar, to the traditions, revenue and services rendered to the destroyed Koneswaram temple. Authorship of the text is attributed to one Kavirasa Varotayan and it was written after the new temple was established.
According to the Tirukonasal Puranam, Rajasingha II directed the local feudal lords to maintain the temple and its administration. These traditions were maintained by the local Vanniar chiefs of the Tampalakamam Pattu division during the ensuing period. The prevalence of this tradition as a successor temple to the original temple destroyed by the Portuguese was recorded by the Dutch colonial governor of Trincomalee, Van Senden in 1786. He recorded the physical status of the idols that were from the original Koneswaram temple.  Residents of Tampalakamam Patuu made requests to the Dutch colonials to follow the traditions of allocating a portion of the revenue generated from paddy cultivation of rice to the maintenance of the temple. A similar request was also made to the British colonial governor Alexander Johnston by the Vanniyar lords of the Tampalakamam Pattu, after the British had captured the island in 1815.
As a substitute temple to the original Koneswaram temple that was destroyed, tradition has endowed Ati Konanayakar with all privileges that was enjoyed by the previous temple. This includes the association of Hindus from various parts of Trincomalee district its festival organization to the assimilation of all local non-Saiva cults within the temple premises. During the Kandyan and later Dutch colonial period the Tamapalakamam temple also enjoyed revenue from the land that was given to it via royal endowments. During the British colonial period the temple came under the control of private ownership. The temple’s private trustees were removed and in 1945 it became the responsibility of locally elected board. The Gopuram or gate tower was added in 1953. It is one of the largest towers in the region and is of five stories high.[1]

Temple layout

The temple has as its main components, Garbhagriha or sanctum sanctorum, most probably the only original building left over from the days when the temple was established. There are number of halls called as mantapam, such as arta mantapam, maka mantapam, snapana mantapam and stampa mantapam where the flag of the temple is erected. The entrance tower or iracakopuram is of recent addition and was added in 1953. the smaller structures have been renovated or reconstructed from time to time since the inception of the temple in the 17th century. The temple, which is of stone construction is surrounded by a circumambulatory enclosed by a brick wall beyond which there is an outer street.

Rituals and festivals

The rituals and daily worship at the temple is conducted according to Hindu religious scripts called Makutakamam. Worship is conducted three times daily and on special occasions such as Thaipongal, Thaipusam and Tamil New Year day.[2] The annual festival has peculiar features unique to this temple. The tradition allocates various functions to be performed by members of the public from the surrounding country side. The Pulavanar or bard who sings songs comes from the village of Sampur. The craftsman who has to paint the temple flag that is hoisted during the festival comes from Killiveddy. The chief priest known as Kappukattiyar comes from the Kattukulampattu area in Muttur.
The temple also assimilates the cult of Pattini, a local mother goddess who is also popular amongst the majority Sinhalese population of the rest of the island nation as well. The idol of Pattini is kept at Tampalakamam temple and taken to its place of veneration in Palampottaru and devotees from Trincomalee town also come in procession to the place of worship at the same time. After the ceremonies the idol is returned to the Ati Konanaykar temple premises.
Another important festival is the one associated with Kathirkamaswami. He is the lord of the temple located in Kataragama and is venerated by both Sinhalese and Tamils of Sri Lanka as a form of Murugan. His festival is a combination of prescribed Hindu ritual Agamic texts and as well as non-Agamic rituals. During this festival a casket is placed in a sacred couch and taken around the outer courtyard in a procession. Many devotees participate in this festival and perform kavadi.
Another unique festival associated with the temple is called Tirukulattu velvi which is sacrificial offering made to a man made irrigation reservoir known as a water tank. According to tradition, this festival was organized during legendary king Kullakottan in the original Koneswaram temple and was directed at the Kantalai Tank. During the festival local agriculturalists would congregate at the Kantalai Tank and offer boiled rice along with areca nut and betel leaves to the idols

Choleeswaram temple, Sri Lanka

Choleeswaram temple is a 10th-century Chola Dynasty Solesvara temple built in honour of emperor Raja Raja Chola I in Peraru, Kantalai, Trincomalee District. Inscriptions found at the ruins of this temple relate to its establishment and connection to Trincomalee's ancient Koneswaram temple. It is made in Dravidian architecture of the Chola period.

Kataragama temple, Sri Lanka

Kataragamam temple (Sinhala: කතරගම, Tamil: கதிர்காமம் Katirkāmam) in Kataragama, Sri Lanka, is a Hindu and Buddhist temple complex dedicated to Skanda-Murukan also known as Kataragama deviyo. It is one of the few religious sites in Sri Lanka that is venerated by the majority Sinhala Buddhists, minority Hindu Tamils, Muslims and the indigenous Vedda people.  It is a collection of modest shrines, of which the one dedicated to Skanda-Murukan, also known as Kataragama deviyo, is the most important. For most of the past millennia, it was a jungle shrine very difficult to access; today it is accessible by an all-weather road. Almost all the shrines— and the nearby Kiri Vehera— are managed by Buddhists, apart from shrines dedicated to Tevayani, Shiva (Siva) and the Muslim mosque. Up until the 1940s a majority of the pilgrims were Tamil Hindus from Sri Lanka and South India, who undertook an arduous pilgrimage on foot. Since then most pilgrims tend to be Sinhala Buddhists, and cult of Kataragama deviyo has become the most popular amongst the Sinhalese people.
A number of legends and myths are associated with the deity and the location, differing by religion, ethnic affiliation and time. These legends are changing with the deities' burgeoning popularity with Buddhists, as the Buddhist ritual specialists and clergy try to accommodate the deity within Buddhist ideals of non-theism. With the change in devotees, the mode of worship and festivals has changed from that of Hindu orientation to one that accommodates Buddhist rituals and theology. It is difficult to reconstruct the factual history of the place and the reason for its popularity amongst Sri Lankans and Indians based on legends and available archeological and literary evidence alone, although the place seems to have a venerable history. The lack of clear historic records and resultant legends and myths fuel the conflict between Buddhists and Hindus as to the ownership and the mode of worship at Kataragama.
The priests of the temple are known as Kapuralas and are believed to be descended from indigenous Vedda people. Veddas, too, have a claim on the temple, a nearby mountain peak and locality through a number of legends. There is a Muslim mosque and a few tombs of Muslim pious men buried nearby. The temple complex is also connected to other similar temples in the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka dedicated to Murukan which are along the path of pilgrimage from Jaffna in the north to Kataragama in the south of the island; Arunagirinathar traversed this pilgrimage route in the 1400s.  The vicinity of the temple complex is used for secretive practices of sorcery and cursing peculiar to Sri Lanka. The entire temple complex was declared a holy place by the government of Sri Lanka in the 1950s; since then political leaders have contributed for its maintenance and upkeep.


Origin theories

There are number of theories as to the origin of the shrine. According to Heinz Bechert  and Paul Younger  the mode of veneration and rituals connected with Kataragama deviyo is a survival of indigenous Vedda mode of veneration that preceded the arrival of Buddhist and Indo-Aryan cultural influences from North India in Sri Lanka in the last centuries BCE, although Hindus, Buddhists and even Muslims have tried to co-opt the deity, rituals and the shrine. But according to S. Pathmanathan,  the original Kataragama shrine was established as an adjunct guardian deity shrine to Skanda-Kumara within a Buddhist temple complex. This particular shrine then became idealized as the very spot where Valli met Murukan amongst local Tamils and Sinhalese, and Kataragama deviyo subsumed the identity of Skanda-Kumara and became a deity on his own right with rituals and pilgrimage. According to Pathmanathan, it happened after the 13th century CE when Murukan became popular amongst Tamils and before the 15th century CE when the poet Arunagirinathar identified the very location as a sacred spo

Hindu legends

According to Hindus and some Buddhist texts, the main shrine is dedicated to Kartikeya (also known as Murukan in Tamil sources). Kartikeya, also known as Kumara, Skanda, Saravanabhava, Visakha or Mahasena, is a god of war. Rulers such as Kushanas and Yaudheyas had his likeness minted in coins that they issued in the last centuries BCE. The deity's popularity has waned in North India but has survived in South India. In South India, he became known as Subrahmaniya and was eventually fused with another local god of war known as Murukan among Tamils.  Murukan is known independently from Cankam literature dated from 2nd century BCE to 6th century CE.  Along the way number of legends were woven about the deity’s birth, accomplishments, and marriages including one to a tribal princess known amongst Tamil and Sinhalese sources as Valli. Skanda Purana written in Sanskrit in the 7th or 8th century CE is the primary corpus of all literature about him.  A Tamil rendition of Skanda Purana, known as Kandha Puranam written in the 14th century CE, also expands on legends of Valli meeting Murukan. Kandha Puranam plays an important role amongst Sri Lankan Tamils than Tamils from India, who hardly know it.
In Sri Lanka the Sinhala Buddhists also worshiped Kartikeya as Kumaradevio or Skanda-Kumara since at least the 4th century CE if not earlier.  Skanda-Kumara was known as one of the guardian deities until the 14th century, invoked to protect the island; they are accommodated within the non-theistic Buddhist religion.  During the 11th and 12th century CE, the worship of Skanda-Kumara was documented even among the royal family.  At some point in the past Skanda-Kumara was identified with the deity in Kataragama shrine, also known as Kataragama deviyo and Kataragama deviyo, became one of the guardian deities of Sri Lanka.  Numerous legends have sprung about Kataragama deviyo, some of which try to find an independent origin for Katargamadevio from the Hindu roots of Skanda-Kumara.


The festivals and daily rituals do not adhere to standard Hindu Agamic or Buddhist rituals. It follows what Paul Younger calls as ancient Vedda traditions of worship. Although since the medieval period Hindus, Buddhists and even Muslims have tried to co-opt the temple, deity and its worship as their own, the rituals maintained by the native priests are still intact.  The main festival known in Sinhalese as Esela Perehera. It is celebrated during the months of July and August. About 45 days before the festival begins, the priests go into the forest and find two forked branches of a sacred tree. The branches are then immersed in the local river and kept at the shrines dedicated to Kataragama deviyo and Vali. When the main festival begins, the Yantra representing the deity is retrieved from its storage location, paraded through a street on top of an elephant, and carried to the Valli shrine. After two hours it is returned. On the last day of the festival the Yantra is left overnight at the Valli shrine and brought back to the main shrine. The priests conduct the rituals in silence, covering their mouths with white cloth. Associated with the main festival is fire walking arranged by a master of the ritual. Hundreds of devotees participate in fire walking, yet others participate in ecstatic dance forms called Kavadi and body piercing. Many of the pilgrims exhibit signs of being possessed

Ketheeswaram temple, Sri Lanka

Ketheeswaram temple (Tamil: திருக்கேதீஸ்வரம் Tirukkētīsvaram) is an ancient Hindu temple in Mannar, Northern Province Sri Lanka. Overlooking the ancient period Tamil port towns of Manthai and Kudiramalai, the temple has lay in ruins, been restored, renovated and enlarged by various royals and devotees throughout its history. Tirukkētīsvaram is one of five Ishvarams dedicated to the Hindu deity Shiva and is venerated by Shaivas throughout the continent. Throughout its history, the temple has been administered and frequented by Sri Lankan Hindu Tamils. Its famous tank, the Palavi tank, is of ancient antiquity and was restored from the ruins. Tirukkētīsvaram is one of the 275 Paadal Petra Sthalams of Shiva glorified in the poems of the Tevaram.
Literary and inscriptional evidence of the post classical period (300BC-1500AD) attests to the upkeep of the temple during the ancient period by kings of the Pallava, Pandyan Dynasty and Chola dynasties who contributed to its development up to the late 16th century. In 1575, Tirukkētīsvaram was largely destroyed by Portuguese colonials, with Pujas terminating at the shrine in 1589. Following an appeal by Arumuka Navalar in 1872, the temple was rebuilt at its original site in 1903.

The ancient shrine of Lord Kethu — Thiruketheeswaram — in Sri Lanka, which has an interesting history dating back to several centuries, is now being restored to its original glory

THIRUKETHEESWARAM IS an ancient temple in Manthottamam, in Mannar District, about seven miles north of the Mannar Town. According to legend, it was at this ancient temple that Kethu Bhagavan worshipped Lord Easwaram (Shiva). Hence the shrine acquired the name of Thiruketheeswaram.
According to scholar and historian, Paul E. Peiris, "... long before the arrival of Vijaya (6th century B.C.), there were five Eeswarams of Siva in Sri Lanka — Thiruketheeswaram near Mahathitha, Munneswaram dominating Salamatte (Chillaw), pearl fishery Thondeswaram near Dondra, Thirukoneswaram near the great Bay of Kottiyar (Trincomalee) and Naguleswaram near Kankesantural".
In 1887 Hugh Neville, another well-known researcher, spoke about the city of Manthoddam as follows: "A renowned shrine grew into repute there, dedicated to one Supreme God symbolised by a single tone, and in later times restored from ruins by Vijaya, a Saivite. The temple was known as Thiru — Ketu — Iswaram."

This temple dedicated to the worship of the Supreme God Siva has been the most venerated for centuries and the holy waters of the Palavi Tank by its side are venerated in the sacred hymns of two great Saivite saints, Thirugnana Sambandhar and Sundarar, who lived in the 7th and 8th Centuries respectively.
This great temple was completely destroyed by the Portuguese in the 16th Century and the stones from here were used to build the Fort at Mannar, the churches and also the Hammershield Fort at Kayts.

Arumuga Navalar who was responsible for the renaissance of Saivism in Sri Lanka in the 19th Century made Hindus realise that they were duty bound to rebuild this historic temple. Following his appeal made in 1872, the exact location of the destroyed temple was traced in 1894 and some restoration work was done in the early part of the 20th Century.
In fact a small temple was re-consecrated in June 1903. The central shrine was reconstructed and re-consecrated around 1921. It was then that the Talaimannar Railway Line was constructed. It is said that with the passage of time the management of the temple passed into the hands of the Nattukottai Chettiars of Colombo who maintained the temple for a few years.
However it was in October 1948 that an intensive agitation resulted in the formation of the Thiruketheeswaram Temple Restoration Society, which renovated the temple and performed Kumbhabishekam in August 1952.
The reconstruction of the temple, so as to restore it to its original glory, was planned by the Restoration Society with the advice of savants and stapathis learned in the art of temple construction according to the Sastras, and the foundation for it was laid on November 28, 1953. The Nattukottai Chettiars formally entrusted the temple to the Thiruketheeswaram Temple Restoration Society in 1956. The Kumbhabishekam of the renovated temple was held on October 31, 1960. It was the first phase of reconstruction.
The Thiruketheeswaram Temple Restoration Society did further renovation and another Kumbhabhishekam was held on July 4, 1976.
The work for the next phase with granite work commenced at the School of Architecture and Sculpture in Mahabalipuram (Maamallapuram), near Chennai, in South India. While these preparations were in progress the Sri Lankan Army took over the temple and its environs in August 1990 and continued to occupy the same for several years. Although they have left the temple premises their occupation of its environs is a cause of concern for the Restoration Society, which has been urging the Government to remove the Armed Forces completely from the scene and declare the temple and its surroundings a sacred area.
There have been umpteen incidents that reveal the divine grace of the Lord granting the wishes of devotees and this is the right place of worship for those with Kethu dosham (problems caused by planet Kethu).
The Thiruketheeswaram Temple Restoration Society representing the Hindus of Sri Lanka has accelerated the pace of the restoration work and plans to have the Maha Kumbhabishekam in April/May 2003. Several millions of rupees are required to restore the temple to its original glory. It is the duty of religious minded people to generously assist the Thiruketheeswaram Temple Restoration Society in the task.


Mythical stories related to the Indian epic Ramayana recount that Mandothari, the wife of King Ravana was from Manthai and that Mayan, the father of Mandothari and the King of Manthai built the ancient Temple of Thiruketheeswaram to worship Shiva. According to one Hindu legend, Maharishi Bhrigu worshipped Shiva at this shrine. Another tradition holds that the Hindu planetary god Ketu worshipped Shiva at the shrine, thus creating the shrine's name "Ketheeswaram". Another legend is found in the Skanda Purana, an ancient work in Sanskrit, the antiquity of which is unknown. It consists of 2500 verses grouped into 27 Chapters and had been handed down in accordance with the traditional custom as oral discourses by the Guru to his disciples in this case by Sootha Munivar to the Naimisaraniya Munivars. Three Chapters of the Skanda Purana which have been given the title Dhakshana Kailasa Manmiam deal with historical events in ancient Ceylon. The first chapter narrates about the Puranas in general and the splendour that was of ancient Ceylon; the second chapter relates about the celebrated places of religious importance in Ceylon and the story of "Thiruketheeswaram". In this chapter is narrated the incident of how, at one time long ago, the God of Wind (Vayu) uprooted the three towers of the great mountain Maha Meru in order to keep off Athichedan — who fought against him, obstructing the great mountain with thousands of adorned summits resembling serpents’ heads — and deposited one of these towers at Thiruketheeswaram. The Lord established Himself there, at Thiruketheeswaram. According to the Manmiam, Thiruketheeswaram along with Koneswaram are two of the nine most sacred sthalams of the Hindus. The other seven are in India

Koneswaram temple, Sri Lanka

Koneswaram temple of Trincomalee (Tamil: திருக் கோணேச்சரம் கோயில்) or Thirukonamalai Konesar Temple - The Temple of the Thousand Pillars and Dakshina-Then Kailasam is a classical-medieval Hindu temple complex in Trincomalee, a Hindu religious pilgrimage centre in Eastern Province, Sri Lanka. Built significantly during the reign of the early Cholas and the Five Dravidians of the Early Pandyan Kingdom atop Konesar Malai, a promontory overlooking Trincomalee District, Gokarna bay and the Indian Ocean, its Pallava, Chola, Pandyan and Jaffna design reflect a continual Tamil Saivite influence in the Vannimai region from the classical period. The monument contains its main shrine to Shiva in the form Kona-Eiswara, shortened to Konesar and is a major place for Hindu pilgrimage, labelled the "Rome of the Gentiles/Pagans of the Orient". Connected at the mouth of the Mahavilli Ganga River to the footprint of Shiva at Sivan Oli Padam Malai at the river’s source, the temple symbolically crowns the flow of the Ganges River from Shiva’s head of Mount Kailash to his feet.
Developed from 205 BC, the original kovil combined key features to form its basic Dravidian temple plan, such as its thousand pillared hall – “Aayiram Kaal Mandapam” – and the Jagati expanded by King Elara Manu Needhi Cholan. Regarded as the greatest building of its age for its architecture, elaborate sculptural bas-relief ornamentation adorned a black granite megalith while its multiple gold plated gopuram towers were expanded in the medieval period. One of three major Hindu shrines on the promontory with a colossal gopuram tower, it stood distinctly on the cape’s highest eminence. The journey for pilgrims in the town begins at the opening of Konesar Road and follows a path through courtyard shrines of the compound to the deities Bhadrakali, Ganesh, Vishnu Thirumal, Surya, Raavana, Ambal-Shakti, Murukan and Shiva who presides at the promontory’s height. The annual Koneswaram Temple Ther Thiruvilah festival involves the Bhadrakali temple of Trincomalee, the Pavanasam Theertham at the preserved Papanasuchunai holy well and the proximal Back Bay Sea (Theertham Karatkarai) surrounding Konesar Malai.
The complex was destroyed in colonial religious attacks between 1622 and 1624 and a fort was built at the site from its debris. A 1632 built temple located away from the city houses some of its original idols. Worldwide interest was renewed following the discovery of its underwater and land ruins, sculptures and Chola bronzes by archaeologists and Arthur C. Clarke. It has been preserved through restorations, most recently in the 1950s. Granted ownership of villages in its floruit to form the Trincomalee District, Trincomalee village is located on the cape isthmus within the compounds. The modern temple has been a source of conflict between the majority Sinhalese and minority Tamils due to its position in a geostrategically important area. Revenue from the temple provides services and food to local residents.
Koneswaram has many strong historical associations. The shrine is described in the Vayu Purana, the Konesar Kalvettu and Tevaram hymns by Sambandhar and Sundarar as a Paadal Petra Sthalam along with its west coast counterpart Ketheeswaram temple, Mannar, it is the birthplace of Patanjali, the compiler of the Yoga Sutras and was praised for its tradition by Arunagirinathar upon his visit. The Dakshina Kailasa Puranam and Manmiam works note it as Dakshina/Then Kailasam (Mount Kailash of the South) for its longitudinal position and pre-eminence, it lies directly east of Kudiramalai west coast Hindu port town, while it is the easternmost shrine of the five ancient Iswarams of Shiva on the island. Mentioned as a widely popular bay temple of the island in the Mahabharata, Ramayana and Yalpana Vaipava Malai, the Mattakallappu Manmiam confirms its sacred status for all Hindus. Kachiyappa Sivachariar’s Kanda Puranam compares the temple to Thillai Chidambaram Temple and Mount Kailash in Saivite esteem. Konesar Malai may have been the site where Yoga originated; some scholars have suggested that the worship of the almighty god Eiswara on the promontory is the most ancient form of worship existing

Deities of the complex

In line with custom of Tamil Hindu temple compounds, the complex houses shrines to several deities. Koneswaram is the easternmost shrine of the 5 ancient Iswarams of Lord Shiva on the island, the others being Naguleswaram (Keerimalai), Thiruketheeswaram (Mannar), Munneswaram (Chilaw) and Tenavaram (Tevan Thurai).  Koneswaram has attracted thousands of pilgrims from across Asia, its Shiva shrine mentioned in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata written from 400-100 BCE describe at length its attraction to pilgrims from many countries and from 600 — 660, it has been glorified as one of 275 Shiva Sthalams, or holy Shiva dwellings on the continent in Tevaram.  Swami Rock is heralded as a Shiva Upa Peetha (base) of Lanka in the Sivacharita, a Sanskrit work in praise of Shiva, and subsequent manuscripts of the Pithanirnaya (Maha Piitha Nirupana) as a general Sakta Peetha of Lanka with a temple of the compounds dedicated to the female deity Indraksi Devi and a male deity Raksasesvara - a reference to Ravana. Kullakottan reconstructed the Three Pagodas of Thirukonamalai, the other two dedicated to Vishnu-Thirumal and that of the Mother-Goddess (Tirukkamakkottam - a consort of Shiva) on the promontory over a far greater area than at present.  This latter temple to the goddess - Ambal/Uma/Shakti/Shankari Devi - was one of the 18 Maha Shakthi Peethas, those Shakti Peethas consecrated to the goddess which are mentioned in the Ashta Dasa Shakthi Peetha Stotram by the Hindu philosopher Adi Shankara (788 — 820).  The Vishnu-Thirumal temple was likely the first temple encountered on the promontory - and is mentioned in Oud en Nieuw Oost-Indiën written in 1726 by François Valentijn.  The temple closest to the sea end was likely that dedicated to the goddess, where the current reconstructed Shiva temple stands. Smaller shrines within the complex to Ganesh, Durga, Murukan, Agastya, and the Navagraha including the sun god Surya would have been customary near the main shrine in the centre to Shiva - the Murukan shrine is hailed at large in the Thiruppugazh series of Arunagirinathar  The temple to Bhadrakali is located further along in the complex inland along Konesar Road, benefitted from Rajendra Chola I.  The Kali temple is mentioned in the book Birds of Prey (1997) by Wilbur Smith, set in the 1660s. The Thirukonasala Mahatyam, describing the origins of the world, Lanka and Koneswaram based on puranic legends is now lost. The historical literature Mattakallappu Manmiam (Batticaloa Manmiyam) that chronicles the history of Tamil settlement in Batticaloa, follows the Dakshina Kailasa Puranam and Dakshina Kailasa Manmiam in describing Koneswaram as one of the nine most important and sacred sites in the world for all Hindus.


The Koneswaram temple is well known for its celebration of the traditional Ther chariot festival, the Navaratri and Sivarathri functions. The Ther Chariot Festival lasts for twenty two days in April and focuses on preparing the deities and the community for Puthandu, the Tamil New Year. Navaratri lasts for nine days and is dedicated to various aspects of the presiding goddess, whereas Sivarathri is dedicated to Siva. Devotees visit the temple to attend the daily pujas and make their offerings. Booths are erected outside for the sale of food, drink, brassware, pottery, cloth and holy images. These functions primarily attract Hindus to the temple.
The main Thirukoneswaram Ther Thiruvilah Festival, the twenty two day annual chariot festival begins with the hoisting of the temple Nandi flag. This is followed by temple processions of Lord Konesar and his consort Mathumai Ambal, installed and pulled in an ornate chariot temple car while deities Pillayar and Murugan with his two consorts Valli and Theivayanai are taken ahead in two other decorated chariots. This is conducted throughout Trincomalee district, and follows Kulakottan's stone scriptures detailing how Hindus in Tamil villages like Sambaltivu, lands which historically belonged to the temple, are entitled to hold poojahs as their Upayam during the annual festival period. Until April 1624 the Koneswaram Ther Festival occurred around Puthandu in April annually with five chariots and this tradition was reintroduced in April 2003, three hundred and seventy nine years later.[  The water-cutting Theertham Thiruvilah festival (holy bath) takes place annually in the centuries old Papanasachunai holy well (Papanasam Theertham) on Swami Rock during the Ther festival period. The deity and other holy artifacts are bathed in the water of the well in the complex's sacred precincts. Devotees are sprayed with the holy water following the Theertham.  The Theppath Thiruvilah Boat Festival consists of Lord Konesar and goddess Mathumai Ambal taken in a boat around the temple from Swami Rock via the Back Bay Sea to the Dutch Bay Sea. Religious discourses and cultural items take place throughout the night before Puthandu at the Dutch Bay Sea beach. Thereafter the deities are taken to the temple early morning the next day on Puthandu by road through the Fort Frederick entrance. The Trincomalee Bhadrakali Amman Temple and other Hindu temples have held their water-cutting Theertham festivals in the Back Bay Sea (Theertha Kadatkarai) for several centuries.  The Koneswaram Poongavanam Festival - the Temple Garden Festival is held during this twenty two day festival period.
An annual three day procession follows Maha Sivarathri Day, observed every year since 1951 following the rediscovery of the bronze idols in 1950. Occurring in three stages, on each day of the festival, the images of the chief deity Konesar, the presiding consort goddess Mathumai Amman, Ganesh and Murugan are brought from Swami Rock to the entrance of Fort Fredrick in decorated Ther temple cars before being paraded through the whole Periyakadai of the Trincomalee town. The chariot cars are pulled by devotees through a decorated route while singing hymns. Devotees hold Poorna kumbham outside their houses along the route and worship as the procession moves. On the second day of the festival there is a procession to the Pathirakalai Ambal Temple where the images are kept for the evening. On the final day of the festival, the large chariots are pulled back to Koneswaram along a route through Trincomalee, accompanied by traditional Nadeswaram and Thavil musicians.

According to one Hindu legend, Shiva at Koneswaram was worshipped by Indra, king of the gods.
King Ravana of the epic Ramayana and his mother are believed to have worshiped Lord Shiva in the sacred lingam form at Koneswaram circa 2000 BCE; the cleft of Swami Rock is attributed to Ravana's great strength.  According to this tradition, his father-in-law Maya built the Ketheeswaram temple in Mannar. Ravana is believed to have brought the swayambhu lingam in the temple to Koneswaram, one of 69 such lingams he carried from Mount Kailash.
With the legend of the smiling infant, James Emerson Tennent describes "one of the most graceful" of the Tamil legends connected to the Temple of the Thousand Columns atop Swami Rock. An oracle had declared that over the dominions of one of the kings of the Deccan impended a great peril which could only be averted by the sacrifice of his infant daughter, who was committed to the sea on an ark of sandalwood, eventually reaching the island, just south of Trincomalee at a place that in the mid 19th century was still called Pannoa (smiling infant). After being adopted by the king of the district, she succeeded over his dominions. Meanwhile the Hindu prince Kullakottan, having ascertained from the Puranas that the rock of Trincomalee was the holy fragment Koneiswara parwatia of the golden mountain of Meru, hurled there during a conflict between gods, arrived at Swami Rock and constructed a temple of Shiva. The princess, hearing of his arrival, initially dispatched an army to expel him, but ended up marrying the prince to end the war, and later attached vast rice fields of Thampalakamam and built the great Kantalai tank to endow the temple and irrigate the surrounding plain. Upon her death, the prince shut himself inside the pagoda of Swami rock, and was later found translated into a golden lotus on the Shiva altar.
The Dakshina Kailasa Manmiam, a chronicle on the history of the temple, notes that the Sage Agastya proceeded from Vetharaniam in South India to the Parameswara Shiva temple at Tirukarasai — now in ruins — on the bank of the Mavilli Kankai before worshipping at Koneswaram; from there he went to Maha Tuvaddapuri to worship Lord Ketheeswarar and finally settled down on the Podiya Hills.
Dutch legends connected with the Hindu pillar from the ruins on Swami Rock concern an inscription found engraved on the reerected monument dated to 1687. The inscription reads: "Tot gedaghtenis van Fran- cina van Reede, lofr. van Mydregt, dezen A° 1687 M April opgeregt", or in English : " This has been erected on the 24th April 1687 to commemorate Francina van Reede, Lady of the Manor of Mydrecht". The Dutch Governor of Ceylon Gustaaf Willem van Imhoff mentions the pillar in his diaries of 1738, visiting "Pagoodsberg" or "Pagoda Hill" on a trip from Jaffna to Trincomalee to meet Vanniar chiefs in the region. There he notes on his visit on 31 May, the "name of Francina van Reede, daughter of the late Commissaris Generaal van Reede was found cut on a shaft, with the year 1687, which shows that she too came as far as this. Nothing else worth mentioning...". The girl's father was Hendrik van Rheede, commander of Jaffna during Dutch Ceylon, and sailed from Trincomalee to Point Pedro on the 23 April 1687. Historian Jonathan Forbes writing in 1810 in his book Eleven Years in Ceylon describes the pillar as a memorial to Francina's suicide, having flung herself off the edge of the cliff into the sea having seen her lover, a young Dutch officer to whom she was betrothed, sail away to Holland. Some historians describe this story as a conflation with practices that Queyroz claimed occurred with pilgrims at the site as idol worshiping sailors venerated the site from the sea. Historical records from closer to the period indicate Francina van Reede remarried in 1694. Writers describe the intentions of the person who re-erected the old Hindu pillar and carved the inscription on it as being to commemorate Francina having climbed the crag to wave goodbye to her father as he sailed past, and a token of human affection. Ravana's Cleft is also known as Lover's Leap in reference to this legend.
Another tradition holds that during his rule in 113 CE, King Gajabahu I marched from his southern strongholds to the Konesar Kovil with the intention of demolishing it and converting it to a Buddhist temple. When nearing the Kantalai tank, he is believed to have been miraculously cured of his blindness by a Hindu, and henceforth converted to Hinduism. The tank is said to be named on this account Kandalai meaning "eye grows" in Tamil.

Om Tat Sat

(My humble  salutations to the great devotees ,  wikisources  and Pilgrimage tourist guide for the collection )


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