Monday, March 16, 2009



Nakuleswaram - oldest Siva Temple in Sri Lanka
Chelvatamby Maniccavasagar

Nakuleswaram is situated north of the main town of Jaffna and is close to the Port City of Kankesanturai. It is dedicated to main deity in Saivism Lord Siva and is one of the five ancient Sivan temples in the island.

In fact, it is situated near a mineral water spring called Keerimalai reputed for its curative properties. There is also a cave complex nearby believed to have been used for meditation by a mythical sage called Nagula Muni.

A local myth states that a Pandiyan Princess named Maruthapura Veeravalli built the nearby Maviddapuram Murukan temple after she was cured by the Keerimalai Springs.

Hence, the entire temple complex seems to have been built around the cave and the curative springs indicate a pre-historic origin for the shrine.

In Tamil word Keeri and its sanskrit equivalent Nagulam means a Mangoose. The antiquity in this temple can be evidence by its mention in many Indian religions treatises such as Dakshina Kailasa Puranam and Skanda Puranam indicating that it was a pilgrimage centre for South Indian Hindus.

Some traditions relating to the origins of Nakuleswaram were recorded in the Yalpana Vaipavamalai. During the 18th century when the Yalpana Vaipavamalai was written, there was no temple at Keerimalai.

The old temple at the site had been destroyed by the Portuguese. But memories of that temple had persisted in the minds of the people and the site where it had stood was venerated as a sacred one. Though this temple was destroyed in 1621, the local, Brahmin priests are said to have hidden the main idols before fleeing the temple. After a gap of 400 years in 1894 local Hindus under the guidance of Sri La Sri Arumuganavalar built the present temple.

At Nakuleswaram, the daily rituals and festivals are conducted according to the prescriptions of Agamas. Activities at the temple commence during the early hours of morning with Thirupallieli elichi and worship accompanied with rituals are conducted six times daily.

The annual festival at this temple is conducted in the month of February and it ends with the Water Cutting Ceremony on the day of Maha Sivarathri. The annual festival at the Amman Shrine is celebrated in the latter part of the month of March. Large number of pilgrims congregate at the temple premises during the festival season.

In this temple Kandapuranam Periyapuranam and Nakulalaya Puranam are recited. In the Nakulalaya Puranam the legends pertaining to Keerimalai have been recorded in elaborate form.

Indeed, Nakuleswaram at Keerimalai is one of the oldest temples of Lord Shiva in Sri Lanka. As a centre of the Hindu religious tradition it has played a key role in the development and sustenance of the ideology and practice of Saivism with a local flavour in the Jaffna Peninsula.


Hindu Gods - Lord Vishnu
Thilaka V. Vijayaratnam

Vishnu represents another aspect of the Supreme Reality that preserves and sustains the universe. In His hands He carries His weapons - the conch (sanku), mace (kathayutham) and discus (chakra). In the fourth hand He holds a lotus. With a crown, earings (kundala), a malai (garland) of flowers and a gem around the neck. His body is blue.

He wears yellow clothes. This is how the image of Lord Krishna is presented in Hindu Mythology. While Parvathy is also of dark complexion, green-like nature, Mythology refers to Lord Vishnu and Goddess Parvathy as Brother and Sister.

The conch shell He holds in the lower right hand is the symbol of the five elements. In the upper right hand is the discus which shines like the sun. It is the symbol of the mind.

The lotus He carries in the upper left hand is symbolic of the casual power of illusion from which arises the Universe. The mace held in the lower left hand is the symbol of primeval knowledge.

Lord Vishnu is shown in the standing position or reclining on the five headed snake (Aadishesa), with its hood open over the head of Lord Vishnu. Deities with four or more arms indicate their omnipresence, omnipotence, their limitless power.

The conch shell is named Panchasanya and it is the fountain that evolves the five elements namely water, fire, air, earth and space also known as Pancha Poothangal. The Chakra indicates that Lord Vishnu uses this weapon to protect His devotees from evil.

The Lotus is the symbol of purity. The Kathayutham (Mace) represents the elemental force from which all mental and physical powers are derived. The snake depicts the mind and the five heads - the desires and passions of an individual. The blue colour - the infinite expansion of the sky, and the ocean. He therefore pervades the entire Universe. In Puranic Mythology, the legend of His Avatar (incarnation) is considered to be of great importance.

Lord Vishnu tells Arjuna in Bhagavath Geetha “Whenever, wherever there is a decline in dharma and adharma dominates, I descend myself.” Thus whenever, wherever atrocities are committed and Dharma suffers, the Lord takes an Avatar in some form to protect the trusting devotee.

Lord Vishnu took ten such incarnations. First three in animal form - the fish, the tortoise and wildboar then half man half animal (Narasimha), the rest all in human form. Atrocities are committed due to ignorance - ego. Lord Vishnu took these Avatars to destroy the demons of ego and save His devotees. In a way these incarnations are evolutionary in nature - from aquatic life to human life.

Avatar 1 - Fish (Machcha Avatar)

A puranic story tells of a king called Manu, also known as Sathyviradan, who took a handful of water to perform some rites. Along with the water was a tiny fish. He let go the fish into the water and scooped up another handful of water. The fish was in it too. This even was repeated many times and the king was surprised. The fish spoke to him, “O! merciful king, save me and I will help you.”

He put the fish in a bowl in his home. When he returned after performing the rites, he saw the fish has grown and has filled the entire vessel.

It requested the king to put it in another place. He put the fish in a tank. Again the fish grew and the tank was not enough for it. When the fish asked him to change the place, he took it and put it in a pond. The fish grew too big for the pond. So, the king put it in a river.

There too the fish grew to gigantic proportions, that he took it and left it in the ocean. The fish grew to a monstrous size.

One day Manu went to see the fish. The fish told him, “Very soon there will be a deluge. You make a boat big enough to accommodate your family and to help further creation, take different kinds of plants - each of a kind and animals. I’ll protect and save the boat.” Likewise the deluge of the era took place.

Even mountains went under water. Lord Vishnu in the form of the fish saved Manu with the plants and animals.

This legend is almost like the Biblical story of Noah’s Ark. During the deluge Lord Brahman, God of creations kept the Vedas under His head and was sleeping. At that time He could not perform His function of creation.

At that time, two Asura brothers called Hayakareevan and Somagan robbed the Vedas from Brahma and hid in the bottom of the ocean. After the floods subsided Brahma searched for the Vedas to start his function of creation and He complained to Lord Vishnu who was in the form of the fish about it.

Vishnu went deep inside the ocean and after destroying the Asuras recovered the Vedas and told Brahma to make use of the king and family and the other beings, He saved to perform His (Brahma’s) function of creation.

Thus ends the legend of the 1st Avatar - one of fish of Lord Vishnu.



A glimpse of Hindu mythology
K.S. Sivakumaran

Mythology is linked with Religion. By itself mythology is part of literature whether it is in Greek Civilization or any civilization. On this page the correspondents all write and link their expositions with Hindu mythology.

This may be of interest to non-Hindus to understand this great religion. May I also retell some mythological stories for the uninitiated readers to read at least fascinating stories?

Let’s take the case of Ahalya a constant referral in Thamil literature including contemporary Thamil Short Stories.

Ahalya was a very beautiful woman who Brahma created first before any other woman. There was a Rishi by the name Gautama. Brahma gave Ahalya to Gautama. Those days a Rishi could have a spouse.

Who was a Rishi? He was an inspired poet or sage. The hymns of the Vedas were revealed to these Rishis.

We must know something about Indra also. He is someone like the Greek God Zeus. Indra was the head of the Indraloka. He liked women as Zeus. His weapon as Zeus’ was thunderbolt. There are many other interesting stories about him. But we shall stop with that and go back to Ahalya.

Indra wanted to have Ahalya. He succeeded in molesting her without her knowing that it was Indra who masqueraded as Gautama. But Indra suffered for his adultery. Zeus like Lord Siva had a third eye on his forehead. He was cursed to have his body all filled with the female genitals.

Gautama realizing that his wife had been seduced cursed her to be invisible and made her a stone figure. Long years later she regained her natural state as a result of Rama’s (of Ramayana fame) feet touching the stoned body of Ahalya. Ahalya then went back to Gautama who accepted her.

One of the finest early short story writers in Thamil - Puthumai Piththan (Viruthasalam) has written a remarkable story of the mythical character Ahalya. A Lankan dramatist the late E. Ratnam has also interpreted the mythology from another angle.

We learn that the name Akalya means darkness.

In ‘Mahabaratha’, the other twin epic in Indian Literature, Indra is the father of one of the five Pandavas- the warrior Arjuna. Each of the five brothers plus Karnan were fathered by six different Devas and mothered by one person- Kunthi Devi. Karnan fought on the side of Duriyodanan as a gratitude to the latter for accepting him as his peer although it was believed that Karnan was the son of charioteer. But in fact Karnan was of royal birth brought up by the charioteer. Kunti Devi out of fear in bearing Karnan as an unmarried young woman put the infant in a basket and set sail on the river.

The charioteer picked up the child and looked after him is another story.

Karnan had a powerful arrow (Nagasthra) that could kill Arjuna in the war between the Paandavas and Duriodanan and his 100 brothers.

But Indra to save Arjuna begged Karnan at the battlefield to give his last of his dharma when Karnan was to die. Because of the trick initiated by Krishna (Lord Vishnu), Karnan was deceived and thus the life of Arjuna was saved.

There we see mythology is linked with literature and implicitly religion.

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