Holy Pilgrimage - Hindu temples in Sri Lanka
Munneswaram temple, Sri Lanka
The temple complex is a collection of five temples, including a Buddhist temple. The central temple dedicated to Shiva (Siva) is the most prestigious and biggest, and is popular amongst Hindus. The other temples are dedicated to Ganesha, Ayyanayake and Kali. The Kali temple is also popular with Buddhists and Roman Catholics who frequent the complex. Post-19th century, most of the devotees of all temples in the complex belong to the majority Sinhala Buddhist ethnic group; the temples, excluding the Ayyanayake and the Buddhist temple, are administered by families belonging to the minority Hindu Tamils.
The temple is located in Munneswaram, a village with mixed Sinhala and Tamil population situated in the historic Demala Pattuva ("Tamil division") region in the Puttalam District. The main Shiva temple owns extensive property in the surrounding villages, ownership of which was affirmed when the region was part of the medieval Kotte Kingdom. The temple was destroyed twice by the Portuguese colonial officers, who handed over the properties to the Jesuits. Although the Jesuits built a Catholic chapel over the temple foundation, locals reconstructed the temple both times. Due to religious and demographic change after the late 18th century, most surrounding villages and towns are not directly associated with the temple administration and maintenance. However, the villages of Maradankulama and Udappu are associated with organizing the main temple festival.
The main festivals celebrated at the temple include Navarathri and Sivarathri. The former is a nine-day long festival in honour of the presiding Goddess, while the latter is an overnight observation in honour of Lord Shiva. In addition to these two Hindu festivals, the temple has a festival of its own, the Munneswaram festival, a four-week long event attended by Hindus, Buddhists, Catholics, and Muslims.
The temple has historically been associated with the nearby pearling and fishing town of Chilaw, as well as the landed gentry of the surrounding villages who provided the resources to maintain the temple. Proximity to the trading routes and to the port provided an opportunity for transmission of ideas and people from India to Sri Lanka. The Pattuva has many temples dedicated to the higher echelons of Hindu or Buddhist deities, and to village guardian deities such Ayyanar or Ayyanayake, Viramunda, Kadavara and Bandara. Anthropologist Rohan Bastin speculates that the main Siva temple was once a minor shrine dedicated to village guardian deity Munisvaran that was transformed into a major Siva temple due to royal patronage. The temple was already an established temple by the 11th century CE, as it had issued coins by then. The temple began under the patronage of Pattuva chiefs and was probably constructed during the early part of the 10th century CE. A ferry transported traders, pilgrims and chroniclers such as Ibn Battuta from Tenavaram temple, Tevan Thurai to the Chera and Chola kingdoms of Tamilakam, stopping at Puttalam of the Jaffna kingdom and sailing the Gulf of Mannar during the 14th century CE
The Siva temple is historically attested in grants and in local literature. The Kali temple is a popular sorcery and cursing shrine associated with animal sacrifices and spirit possession. Spirit possession of devotees was noted by the Jesuit priests who left behind records of it in the 16th century. The temple dedicated to the Sinhala deity Ayyanayake (Aiyyanar to the Tamils) is administered by a local Sinhalese family. The Buddhist temple Pushparamaya Vihara is a post-19th century CE addition. The Ganesha temple, located to the south west of the main temple is the newest amongst the Hindu temples and was built during the early 19th century by artisans from South India.
Munneswaram, along with Koneswaram (Trincomalee), Naguleswaram (Keerimalai), Thiruketheeshwaram (Mannar) and Rameswaram (India), forms the five ancient temples (Ishwarams) dedicated to Shiva in the region including Sri Lanka.
MythsMost of the myths associated with the temple are not dated and vary with the different religious and ethnic groups as well. One set of myths deals with the creation of the temple, and the other deals with various reconstruction efforts. For the Hindu Tamils, the Munneswaram temple is primarily a Siva temple. According to a Tamil legend, the temple is situated at a place where king Rama of Ayodhya (in India), the hero of the epic Ramayana, prayed to Siva after his war with the demon-king Ravana of Lanka (identified with Sri Lanka). For Sinhala Buddhists who hail from outside of Pattuva, Munneswaram is primarily a goddess temple, currently associated with Kali, and also a popular place of sorcery. Sinhalese myths say that Munneswaram is the place where the deity Kali landed from India. The legend further postulates that another Sinhalese female deity, Pattini, prevented Kali from devouring human beings and made her settle down in Munneswaram.
Another myth current amongst Tamils says that the temple was renovated by a legendary Chola king, Kullakotan. According to that myth, the king, who was afflicted with an incurable skin disease, was cured after taking a bath in the ruined temple’s holy pond. Following the miracle, the king went on to renovate the temple and created a community of temple caretakers to maintain the temple. The equivalent myth amongst the Sinhalese people indicates that the diseased king was Rajasinghe or Bhuvanekabahu and the king prayed to the presiding goddess who cured him of his affliction. There were at least two kings called Rajasinghe in Sri Lanka, and both of them were involved in the actual renovations of the temple, and at least seven kings named Bhuvanekabahu, thereby making it difficult to identify the right king
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. On the penultimate day of the festival there is a procession, when the image of the goddess is placed upon a huge wooden chariot and pulled around the temple by devotees. On the final day of the festival, two large chariots are drawn by the devotees to the Deduru oya, a local river for the thirtham ("holy bath") ceremony when the images are dipped into the river. At the same time thousands of devotees also jump into the river. After the holy bath, the procession goes back to the temple along a route through Chilaw, accompanied by traditional Nadeswaram and Thavil musicians. The procession then passes the Ayyanayake and Kali temples prior to entering the main temple
Naguleswaram temple, Sri Lanka
Keerimalai is 50 feet above sea level, and situated west of Palaly. The fresh water comes from an underground spring source. Hindus flock in large numbers on “Aadi Amaavaasai” day which falls during the Tamil month of “Aadi”, to carry out rituals for their forefathers and take a divine dip in the natural springs. These rituals are usually carried out by men. “Keerimalai” is particularly famous for this festival.
EtymologyKeeri in Tamil and Nagula in Sanskrit mean Mongoose. Keeri-malai in Tamil means Mongoose-Hill. The temple is situated adjacent to the mineral water springs. The legendary sage Nagula Muni, shrunk by age and austerity while meditating at a cave in Keerimalai was likened to mongeese that frequented the area. The sage bathed in the springs and was cured of his mongoose face. In gratitude, Nagula Muni constructed a small shrine and worshipped the Lingam enshrined there. This became known as the Thirutambaleswaram Kovil of Keerimalai and also the Naguleswaram Kovil of Keerimalai alluding to the sage.
ChronologyThe Pandyan princess Maruthapura Veeravalli built the nearby Mavidapuram Murukan temple after she was cured by the Keerimalai springs.
Mentioned in PuranamsThe temple is referenced in religious treatises such as Dakshina Kailasa Puranam and Skanda Puranam.
Destruction by the PortugueseAfter 1620 ACE it was destroyed by Portuguese colonialists. The final destruction was recorded in 1621 ACE. The local brahmin priests are said to have hid the main icons before fleeing the temple.
ReconstructionAfter a gap of almost 400 years in 1894 ACE, local Sri Lankan Tamil Hindu people of under the urging of Hindu reformer Arumuka Navalar came together and built the present temple. However the temple was destroyed by fire in 1918 and had to be rebuilt.
Mahakumbhabhishekam in 2012On Monday, February 06, 2012, the reconstruction of the temple had been complete and under the authority of the chief priest, Sivasri Naguleswara Kurukkal, the Mahakumbhabhishekam took place. It was a monumental event with thousands of devotees who came to pray and receive blessings.
Nainativu Nagapooshani Amman Temple, Sri Lanka
Nainativu Nagapooshani Amman Temple (Tamil: நயினாதீவு நாகபூசணி அம்மன் கோயில்) is an ancient and historic Hindu temple located amidst the Palk Strait on the island of Nainativu, Sri Lanka. It is dedicated to Parvati who is known as Nagapooshani or Bhuvaneswari and her consort, Shiva who is named here as Nayinaar. The temple's fame is accredited to Adi Shankaracharya, a 9th century Hindu philosopher, for identifying it as one of the prominent 64 Shakti Peethams in Shakti Peetha Stotram and its mention in the Brahmanda Purana. The temple complex houses four gopurams (gateway towers) ranging from 20–25 feet in height, to the tallest being the eastern Raja Raja Gopuram soaring at 108 feet high. The temple is a significant symbol for the Tamil people, and has been mentioned since antiquity in Tamil literature, such as Manimekalai and Kundalakesi. The present structure was built during 1720 to 1790 after the ancient structure was destroyed by the Portuguese in 1620. The temple attracts around 1000 visitors a day, and approximately 5000 visitors during festivals. The annual 16 day Mahostavam (Thiruvizha) festival celebrated during the Tamil month of Aani (June/July) - attracts over 100,000 pilgrims. There is an estimated 10,000 sculptures in this newly renovated temple.
LegendThe Nagapooshani Amman Temple is believed to be originally established by Lord Indra while seeking alleviation from the curse of Gautama Maharishi. The Sanskrit epic Mahabharata records that Lord Indra was overcome by his sexual desires for Ahalya, the wife of Gautama Maharishi. Indra disguised himself as the saint and proceeded to seduce and make love to Ahalya. When the saint came to know, he cursed Indra to have a thousand marks resembling the yoni (female reproductive organ) all over his body. Indra was ridiculed and referred to as Sa-yoni. Unable to face the humiliation, he went into exile to the island of Manidweepa (Nainativu). There, he is believed to have created, consecrated and worshipped the moolasthana murti of the Goddess to atone for his sins. The Queen of the Universe, Bhuvaneswari Amman, satisfied with Indra's utmost devotion, repentance and remorse appeared before him and transformed they yonis on his body into eyes. She then took on the name of "Indrakshi" (Indra Eyed). Another legend states that, many centuries later, a cobra (Nagam) was swimming across the sea towards Nainativu from the nearby island of Puliyantivu with a lotus flower in its mouth, for the worship of Bhuvaneswari Amman (who had already been consecrated by Indra). An eagle (Garuda) spotted the cobra and attempted to attack it and kill it. Fearing harm from the eagle, the cobra wound itself around a rock (referred to in Tamil as; Paambu Sutriya Kal “the Rock around which the Snake wound itself”) in the sea about half a kilometer from the Nainativu coast, and the eagle stood on another rock (Garudan Kal “the Rock of the Eagle”) some distance away. A merchant by the name of Maanikan from the Chola kingdom; who was himself a devotee of Sri Bhuvaneswari Amman, was sailing across the Palk Strait to trade with the ancient Naka Nadu noticed the eagle and the cobra perched upon said rocks. He pleaded with the eagle to let the cobra go on its way without any harm. The eagle agreed with one condition that the merchant should construct a beautiful temple for Sri Bhuvaneswari Amman on the island of Nainativu and that he shall propagate her worship in the form of Sri Nagapooshani Amman for universal peace, prosperity and humanity. He agreed and built a beautiful temple accordingly. The eagle took three dips into the ocean to atone for its sins against the Nagas in the Mahabharata, and hence, the Garuda and Naga resolved their longstanding feuds.
Shakti PeethamThe Shakti Peethas (Sanskrit: शक्ति पीठ, Tamil: சக்தி பீடம்) are places of worship consecrated to the Goddess Shakti, Parvati, Dakshayani, or Durga, the female principal of Hinduism and the main deity of the Shakta sect. They are sprinkled throughout the Indian subcontinent. Shakti is the goddess of power and is the complete incarnation of Adi Parashakti. The Brahmanda Purana, one of the major eighteen Puranas, mentions the 64 Shakti Peethas of Goddess Parvati in the Indian subcontinent including present day India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Another text which gives a listing of these shrines, is the Shakti Peetha Stotram, written by Adi Shankara, the 9th century Vedic philosopher.
She has three chief manifestations;
1. Durga - goddess of strength and valour,
2. Mahakali - goddess of destruction of evil, and
3. Tripura Sundari - goddess of benevolence.
Sometime after Lord Brahma commenced the process of creating the universe, he grew weak due to the sheer task before him. He sought the help of Lord Shiva and offered a yagya (fire ritual) to please the supreme divinity. Lord Shiva pleased with his offerings, appeared before him and sacrificed his shakti (energy) to assist Lord Brahma in the task of completing the creation of the universe. Lord Brahma thankful for the compassion Lord Shiva bestowed upon him, vowed that one day his shakti would be given back to him. Therefore, Dakshin (son of Brahma) performed several yagyas to obtain Shiva's shakti as his daughter in the form of Dakshayani. It was then decided that Dakshayani would be brought into the material world with the purpose of getting married to Shiva.
In bidding the Goddess to take human birth, Brahma's design was that she should please Shiva with humble devotions and wed him. It was natural that Dakshayani, even as a child, adored the tales and legends associated with Shiva and grew up an ardent devotee. As Dakshayani grew to womanhood, the idea of marrying anyone else, as intended by her father, became anathema to her. Every proposal from valiant and rich kings made her crave evermore the ascetic of Kailasa, the God of Gods, who bestowed all on this world and himself foreswore all. Dakshin acts, both justified and unjustified, to wean Dakshayani away from Lord Shiva, to protect his egoistic stand that Lord Shiva doesn't confirm to the "worldly" principles that he is so fond of. However, Dakshayani just cannot forget Lord Shiva nor can she live without him.
To win the regard of the ascetic Shiva, Dakshayani forsook the luxuries of her father's palace and retired to a forest, there to devote herself to austerities and the worship of Shiva. So rigorous were her penances that she gradually renounced food itself, at one stage subsisting on one bilva leaf a day, and then giving up even that nourishment; this particular abstinence earned her the sobriquet Aparnā. Her prayers finally bore fruit when, after testing her resolve, Shiva finally acceded to her wishes and consented to make her his bride.
An ecstatic Dakshayani returned to her father's home to await her bridegroom, but found her father less than elated by the turn of events. The wedding was however held in due course, and Dakshayani (henceforth called Gauri) made her home with Shiva in Kailasa. Dakshin, depicted in legend as an arrogant king, did not get on with his renunciative son-in-law and cut his daughter away from her natal family.
Dakshin's arroganceHence one day, in Satya Yuga, Dakshin performed a grand yagna with a desire to take revenge on Lord Shiva. Dakshin was angry because his daughter Dakshayani also known as Sati had married the "yogi" Lord Shiva against his wish. Dakshin invited all the deities to the yagna except for Shiva and Gauri. The fact that she was not invited did not deter Gauri from attending the yagna. Wanting to visit her parents, relatives and childhood friends, Gauri sought to rationalize this omission. She reasoned within herself that her parents had neglected to make a formal invitation to them only because, as family, such formality was unnecessary; certainly, she needed no invitation to visit her own mother and would go anyway. She had expressed her desire to attend to Shiva who had tried his best to dissuade her from going. Shiva eventually allowed her to go escorted by ganas and bid her provoke no incident.
Self-immolationGauri was received coldly by her father. Gauri, being an uninvited guest, was not given any respect. Furthermore, Dakshin began to insult Shiva. Gauri was unable to bear her father's insults toward her husband, had a heated argument about the virtues (and alleged lack thereof) of Shiva. Every passing moment made it clearer to Gauri that her father was entirely incapable of appreciating the many excellent qualities of her husband - the supreme divinity of the universe. The realization then came to Gauri that this abuse was being heaped on Shiva only because he had wed her; she was the cause of this dishonour to her husband. She was consumed by rage against her father and loathing for his mentality. Calling up a prayer that she may, in a future birth, be born the daughter of a father whom she could respect, Gauri invoked her yogic powers and immolated herself.
Shiva's rageShiva sensed this catastrophe, and his rage was incomparable. He created Virabhadra and Bhadrakali, two ferocious creatures who wreaked havoc and mayhem on the scene of the horrific incident. Two temples on the island of Nainativu propagate the worship of these energies - namely Nainai Virabhadra Temple and Nainai Kali Amman Temple. Nearly all those present were indiscriminately felled overnight. Dakshin himself was decapitated.
According to some traditions, it is believed that an angry Shiva performed the fearsome and awe-inspiring Tandava dance with Gauri's charred body on his shoulders. During this dance, Gaurī's body came apart and the pieces fell at different places on earth. According to another version, Shiva placed Gauri's body on his shoulder and ran about the world, crazed with grief. The Gods called upon the Lord Vishnu to restore Shiva to normalcy and calm. Vishnu, used his Sudarshana Chakra to dismember Gauri's lifeless body, following which Shiva regained his equanimity. Both versions state that Gauri's body was thus dismembered into 64 pieces which fell on earth at various places. These 64 holy places, known as Shakti Peethas,. Some of these places, like the Nainativu Nagapooshani Amman Temple, have become major centers of pilgrimage as they are held by the Goddess-oriented Shakta sect to be particularly holy.
After the night of horror, Shiva, the all-forgiving, restored all those who were slain to life and granted them his blessings. Even the abusive and culpable Dakshin was restored both his life and his kingship. His decapitated head was substituted for that of a goat. Having learned his lesson, Dakshin spent his remaining years as a devotee of Shiva.
Silambu OrnamentNainativu Nagapooshani Amman Temple is believed to be where the silambu (anklets) of Gauri had fallen. Anklets have been given immense importance in the worship of Shakti since time and memorial. This ornament is also referred to in the famous Tamil epic Silapathikaram - where the story begins and ends with an anklet.
GopuramsNainativu Sri Nagapooshani Amman Temple has four decorative and colourful gopurams
WorshipThere are close to 15 priests in the temple who perform the pooja (rituals) during festivals and on a daily basis. Like all other Shiva temples of Tamilakam, the priests belong to the Shivaite Adishaivas, a Brahmin sub-caste. The priests live in a closed area North-East of the temple. The temple has a six time pooja schedule everyday, each comprising four rituals namely abhisheka (sacred bath), alangaram (decoration), naivedyam (food offering) and deepa aradanai (waving of lamps) for both Sri Nagapooshani (Bhuvaneswari) Amman and Sri Nayinaar Swami. Thepooja(worship) ceremonies are held amidst music with nadaswaram (pipe instrument) and tavil (percussion instrument), religious instructions in the Vedas by priests and prostration by worshippers in front of the temple mast. The temple street plans form a giant mandala (holy circle pattern) whose sacred properties are believed to be activated during the mass clockwise cicumambulations of the central temple.
FestivalsThe most important festival associated with the temple is the 16 day long Mahostavam (Thiruvizha) that is celebrated in annually in the Tamil month of Aani (June/July). During this period, there are a number of events including the Swarna Ratholsavam ("Manja Thiruvizha"; golden chariot festival), Ratholsavam ("Ther Thiruvizha"; chariot festival) and Poongavanam ("Theppa Thiruvizha"; float festival). Major Hindu festivals like Navratri and Shivratri attract thousands of devotees. Like most Shakti temples in Tamilakam, the Fridays during the Tamil months of Aadi (July–August) and Thai (January - February) are given special importance at this temple. Aadi Pooram, the day Parvati is said to have attained puberty, and become a mother to all her her devotees is marked in grand manner at this temple.
PilgrimageThe pilgrimage to this temple can be made throughout the year. However, the most popular time to visit the temple is during the 16 day long Mahostavam (Thiruvizha festival) that is celebrated in annually in the Tamil month of Aani (June/July).
DirectionsTake any local bus heading to Kurikaadduvaan from Jaffna, and then take a short ferry to Nainativu Island.
Nallur Kandaswamy temple, Sri Lanka
Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil or Nallur Murugan Kovil (Tamil: நல்லூர் கந்தசுவாமி கோவில்) is one of the most significant Hindu temples in the Jaffna District of Northern Province, Sri Lanka. It stands in the town of Nallur. The presiding deity is Lord Murugan in the form of the holy Vel. The idol of the Nallur Devi or goddess was gifted to the temple in the 10th century CE by the Chola queen Sembiyan Mahadevi, in the style of Sembian bronzes.
OriginsThe Nallur Kandaswamy Temple was founded in 948. According to the Yalpana Vaipava Malai, the temple was developed at the site in the 13th century by Puvenaya Vaku, a minister to the Jaffna King Kalinga Magha. Sapumal Kumaraya (also known as Chempaha Perumal in Tamil), who ruled the Jaffna kingdom on behalf of the Kotte kingdom is credited with either building or renovating the third Nallur Kandaswamy temple. Nallur served as the capital of the Jaffna kings, with the royal palace situated very close to the temple. Nallur was built with four entrances with gates. There were two main roadways and four temples at the four gateways.
The rebuilt temples that exist now do not match their original locations which instead are occupied by churches erected by the Portuguese. The center of the city was Muthirai Santhai (market place) and was surrounded by a square fortification around it. There were courtly buildings for the kings, Brahmin priests, soldiers and other service providers. The old Nallur Kandaswamy temple functioned as a defensive fort with high walls. In general, the city was laid out like the traditional temple town according to Hindu traditions. Cankilian Thoppu, the facade of the palace of King Cankili II, can still be found in Nallur. The third temple was destroyed by the Portuguese Catholic colonial Phillippe de Oliveira in 1624 CE.
Current templeThe fourth and the present temple was constructed in 1749 A.D. during the benign Dutch colonial era by Krishna Suba Iyer and Ragunatha Maapaana Mudaliyar in the 'Kurukkal Valavu', which is the original temple premises.
Initially the temple was built using bricks and stones and had a cadjaned roof. The original shrine had only two main halls and didn't have a clock tower, surrounding courtyard, enclosing wall, or any ornately carved towers or gopuram.
The first clock tower was erected in 1899, and the main hall where the vel or lance of the deity resides was re-furbished using rocks in 1902. The first enclosing wall was erected in 1909. Likewise, the temple has been gradually renovated from time to time with contributions from the general public. In 1964, the 'Vasantha Mandapam' or grand hall was renovated to have the present look and feel.
The temple has the main entrance facing the east. It has an ornately carved five-story tower or gopuram in the Dravidian architecture style at the main entrance.
In the surrounding inner yard, it has shrines for Lords Ganesh, Vairavar, Sun and Sandana Gopala. In the southern part of this temple, the holy pond and Thandayudhapaani shrine dedicated to another aspect of Lord Muruga can be seen. In the northern side there is a big holy garden.
An underground locked cellar of the temple was found to contain several Chola bronzes from the 10th century gifted to the shrine.
FestivalsThe temple hosts the annual festival which begins with the hoisting of the flag – the Kodiyetram. The cloth for hoisting is obtained ceremonially from the Saddanathar Temple in the neighbourhood. This temple was patronized by Ariyachakravarthi – a king of Jaffna.
The festival is spread over a period of twenty five days during which various Yāgams Abishekams and special poojas are conducted. The major religious festivals people flock to witness are the Manjam, Thirukkarthikai, Kailasavahanam, Velvimanam, Thandayuthepani,Sapparam and Ther. The Ther Thiruvila (chariot festival) the most popular of all events is a very colourful ceremony and commences at the auspicious hour – the Brahma muhurtham. The glamorously dressed Lord Murugan is brought out and placed on an elaborately designed silver throne. The huge and heavy chariot carrying the statue of God Murugan is paraded along the streets of Nallur. The chariot pulled by a rope of thousands of devotees, rich and poor, old and young stand shoulder to shoulder in pulling it giving God Murugan the opportunity to witness the sincerity and purity of the devotees.
Pathirakali Amman Temple, Sri Lanka
Made in classical Dravidian architecture, the Kovil is located just beyond the Konesar Road Esplanade before the entrance to Konamamalai (Swami Rock). Proximal to the ancient Koneswaram temple, both ancient temples share functions during the Ther Thiruvillah Festival period and the Back Bay Sea (Theertham Karatkarai).
Pathirakali Amman temple has attracted pilgrims from before the 11th century CE. King Rajendra Chola I expanded the shrine significantly during his reign, an inscription he left detailing this is displayed on the premises.
The temple is mentioned in the book Birds of Prey (1997) by Wilbur Smith, set in the 1660s.
Saddanathar Kovil, Sri Lanka
Saddanathar Kovil is a Hindu Temple and located in Nallur, Jaffna, Sri Lanka. This is an ancient temple and built in Sangiliyan Kingdom
Seetha Amman Temple, Sri Lanka
Seetha Amman Temple is located approximately 1 kilometer from Hakgala Botanical Garden.The temple is located in the village called “Seetha Eliya”. This place is believed to be the place where Sitha held captive by the king Ravana in the Lanka of the epic, Ramayana
The Seetha Amman Temple Trust decided some two years ago to build a Sita temple at a spot believed to be the exact place where Sita was held captive by the demon-king Ravana in the Lanka of the epic, Ramayana. Myth has it that Sita, the wife of King Rama , was imprisoned in the Ashoka forests of the region. The temple trustees believe that this is no myth and that Sita's imprisonment at this spot is a historical fact.
Realising the tourism potential of such a temple, the Sri Lankan Ministry of Tourism plans to make it the centre of a sacred site cum pilgrim complex. It earmarked 12.8 hectares around the temple for further development. The move was held up following strong objections by Buddhist organisations and environmental groups. Both sections have their reasons to oppose the temple, but they agree that there is little historical basis to the story of Sita's imprisonment in these forests.
The president of the Seetha Amman Trust and Central Province Minister for Tourism, V. Radha Krishnan, however offered the following as evidence that Sita once stayed in these parts: the concentration of Ashoka trees - various versions of the Ramayana sta te that Sita's home in Lanka was inside a thick Ashoka forest (Ashoka Vana) - and the discovery about a century ago of three idols, one of which was that of Sita. It is believed that the idols have been worshipped at this spot for centuries. There is als o a belief that Ravana's palace existed somewhere in the vicinity. Clearly, this "evidence" can hardly stand up to any test of historical validation.
This correspondent visited the region demarcated for the "Sita Eliya" project as it is now known. The temple complex is situated approximately 5 km from the Nuwara Eliya town on the road to Kandy. The two new temples exist on a quarter-acre strip of land . One temple is dedicated to Sita, and the other to Hanuman. The Sita temple looks like any modern-day temple with a multi-coloured dome filled with mythological figures. Three new statues - of Rama, Sita and Laxman - have been installed in the new structure. On the side closer to the river bank is a small shrine with the three darkened idols which were found a century ago.
"There is a rock on the opposite bank where Sita sat and meditated. Also this Ashoka forest is a clear indication that she came here when she was brought to Lanka," said G.T. Prabhakaran, who is in charge of the temple. There is also a belief that at a p articular point in the stream, the water has no taste. "This is the spot she cursed. You cannot drink the water. Drink it further downstream," one temple worker said. Temple workers are keen to show visitors the spot where Sita bathed, the stone she sat on, and where she prayed. Beliefs here are evidently strong and devotees are convinced that this episode of the Ramayana epic did indeed take place here.
Most places of worship in Sri Lanka (as in India) have legends, beliefs and myths associated with them. These in fact lend a special charm to such places. It is when attempts are made, often with an underlying political agenda, to give legends the stamp of history, that problems and controversies arise. This seems to be happening in the case of the Sita Eliya project.
In fact, many historians of ancient India and Ceylon are of the view that the Lanka of the Ramayana lay no further south than the Vindhyas, and that the geographical position of Sri Lanka as reflected in the Ramayana was an interpolation made after trade routes with the island were opened. Indeed, the historicity of this site was denied by a leading Sri Lankan archaeologist. S.U. Deraniyagala, Director-General of the Archeological Department of Sri Lanka, said: "These are all new- fangled ideas which have the potential to create all sorts of divisions among people." He believes that the issue is "best left alone". He pointed out that there is no scientific or historical evidence to indicate that this area is connected to the Ramayana.
Sri Muthu Vinayagar Kovil, Sri Lanka
Om Tat Sat
(My humble salutations to the great devotees , wikisources and Pilgrimage tourist guide for the collection )