Sunday, August 1, 2010



God Murukan:

Sivasubramaniya Swamy Kovil
Kandiah Neelakandan

'To reject the necessity of temples is to reject the necessity of God, religion and earthly existence"

(Mahatma Gandhi.)

Everyday we feel the necessity of Temples for all of us. One such temple is Arulmihu Sivasubramaniya Swamy Kovil, a sacred institution of worship with a long history going back to 1822.

The colourful chariot

This shrine was established by Periyathamby and others on a land. It was owned by . Periyathamby at Dam Street, Colombo. Sri Ranajee Maha Raajee officiated as the Priest.

Manickam Pandaram was helping him by conducting religious classes for children. This Shrine was known as a Pilgrims' Temple because devotees who congregated at the Temple to worship were largely travelers, including those proceeding to Kataragama from the North and the other parts of the Island.

According to records it was also a place of worship for many Service Officers and men who travelled through Colombo from India to Africa for combat in the Boer War.

It will be pertinent to mention that the pilgrimage to Kataragama from various parts of the Island through Colombo City paved the way for establishment of a number of Shrines for Skanda in Colombo which also served as Hindu pilgrims' rests.

The late Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam, a statesman and writer has written extensively on Hinduism and particularly on Kataragama. And the worship of Skanda or Murugan or Subramanian as the Lord was addressed by devotees. Interested readers are requested to read him in his articles and books.

A relevant paragraph from Arunachalam:

"It was already held in high esteem in the third century before Christ, and is one of the sixteen places said to have been sanctified by Gautama Buddha sitting in each in meditation.

The Mahavamsa (XIX. 54), in enumerating those who welcomed the arrival at Anuradhapura of the Sacred Bodhi-tree from Buddha-Gaya in charge of Sanghamitta, the saintly daughter of the Indian Emperor Asoka, gives the first place after the King of Ceylon to the nobles of Kajaragama, as Kataragama was then called.

It was privileged to receive a sapling of which an alleged descendant still stands in the temple court.

About a third of a mile off is the Buddhist shrine of Kiri Vihare, said to have been founded by King Mahnaga of Mahagama, cir. 300 B.C."

God Muruga
He has also written on the worship of Skanda or Murukan... I quote:

"More often the Tamils call him by the pure Tamil name Murukan, 'the tender child'. He is represented in legend, statuary and painting as a beautiful child or youth. The priests worship him with elaborate rites and ceremonies; the rustic with meal and blood offerings, the aboriginal Vedda invokes him also with dances in the primitive manner of the woods. The philosopher meditates on him in silence, adoring him as the Supreme God, Subramanya - the all pervading spirit of the universe, the Essence from which all things are evolved, by which they are sustained and into which they are involved - who in gracious pity for humanity takes form sometimes as the youthful God of Wisdom, God of war when wicked Titans (Asuras) have to be destroyed, sometimes as the holy child Muruka, type of perennial tender beauty, always and everywhere at the service of his devotees."

Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam was an ardent devotee of Lord Muruga has rendered in English some of the ancient verses. Due to exigencies of space I am leaving out those passages.

Front view of the Kovil

The Scholar also recalls the memory of 'Pada Yathra' (pilgrimage by foot) in the following manner:-

"It is possible now to travel from Colombo comfortably by train to Matara and by motor to Hambantota and Tissamaharama. The last stage of about 11 miles beyond Tissamaharama is over a difficult forest-tract and an unbridged river, the Menik Ganga, which in flood time has to be swum across there being no boats. In the thirties of last century, when good roads wee scarce even in Colombo, my grandmother walked barefoot the whole way to Kataragama and back in fulfillment of a vow for the recovery from illness of her child, the future Sir Muttu Coomara Swamy. The hardships then endured are such as are yearly borne with cheerfulness by thousands traveling on foot along the jungle tracts of the Northern, Eastern and Uva provinces and from India. Nearly all are convinced of the god's ever present grace and protection and have spiritual experiences to tell or other notable boons, recoveries from illness, help under trials and dangers, warding off of calamities. I once asked an elderly woman who had journeyed alone through the forest for days and nights if she had no fear of wild elephants and bears. She said she saw many, but none molested her. "How could they? The Lord was at my side."

"He is regarded as in his essence formless and beyond speech and thought, but assuming forms to suit the needs of his votaries and accepting their worship in

Whatever form, if only heartfelt. This is indeed the normal Hindu attitude in religious matters and accounts for its infinite tolerance. All regions are ways, short or long, to god. "The nameless, formless one we will call and worship by a thousand names in chant and dance," the Psalmist Manikkavacakar cries. God, under whatever name or form sought, comes forward to meet the seeker and help his progress onwards through forms suitable to his development.

"They who worship other gods with faith and devotion, they also worship me," it is declared in the Bhagavad Gita (IX, 21).

The merit claimed for the Hindu religious system is that it provides spiritual food and help for the soul in every stage of its development; hence it is significantly called the Ladder Way (Sopana Marga)."

"Muruka would thus appear to be a deity in whom were amalgamated many legends and traditions, many aspects of religion and modes of worship, primitive and advanced, and to embody the Hindu ideal of God immanent in all things and manifesting himself wherever sought with love.

"Muruka means tender age and beauty and is often represented as the type of perennial youth, sometimes as quite a child."

Thirupuhal describes the part played by each of the Almighty's six faces and each of His twelve arms, showing that this form was a personification of various divine aspects and powers. Please read what Sir Arunachalam has said from his writings.

The following account of Shri Yogaswami's pilgrimage to Kataragama remains typical even today:

"Subsequently about the middle of 1910, Swami left on a solitary sojourn by foot along the Island's coastal belt eastward, and met many ascetics on the way.

He moved freely with certain Muslim Sufi saints, Buddhist monks, and Veddah chiefs. He communed with Murugan in Kathirkamam, the Holy of Holies skirted by the Manica Ganga .....from 1910, he had taken solitary long distance pilgrimages to Tiruketheswaram, and on to Wattapalai and Koneswaram at Trincomalee, and skirting the east coast by the foot path, he had spent his recluse days at Sittankudi, Batticaloa and Tirukkovil. Many a time, he had related incidents when he trekked the Vedda tracts of Moneragala and Bibile to reach the abode of Murugan at Kathirkamam, skirted by the Manica Ganga and the seven hills of Kathiramalai."

The Government acquired the property on which the Kovil stood. and made a sum of Stg. £ 500.00 available to Shri Arunasalam Ponnambalam Mudaliyar who was the father of Sir Pon Arunachalm in or about 1867 to construct a new temple for Shri Sivasubramaniya Swami at another site in Colombo. Thus this Temple came to be constructed at Kew Road, Slave Island in 1870 by Shri Arunasalam Ponnambalam Mudaliyar and it was dedicated as 'Kathiresan Kovil', Slave Island.

1902 Sir Pon Ramanathan (Sir Arunachalam's brother) remodeled, enlarged and reconstructed the Temple and named it Shri Sivasubramaniya Swamy Kovil. This Temple was also under the same management as that of Shri Ponnambaleswara Temple in Kochchikade.

In 1942 a Board of Trustees was constituted to manage this Temple and M .S. Thiruvilangam was the Managing Trustee and Chairman of the Board.

Although a proposal was made in 1962 to renovate the temple the actual work commenced later under the Board of Trustees chaired by V. N. Kanagasabai... K Thiyagarajah functioned as the Secretary.

With the reconstruction 'parivara moorthy shirines' including Shri vinayagar Shri Nadarajaprruman with Shri Sivagami Amman Shri Mahavishnu, Shri Vairavar Navaragraham Saneeswarar have also been consecrated, and poojahs take place according to Saivaite Agamas Conventions and rituals. Having completed the renovation with a grand structure (except for the Raja Gopuram), a Maha Kumbabishekam (consecration) was held on March 31, 1975.

In 1995, an 82 feet tall Rajagopuram (with two manigopurams) were constructed giving a magnificent structural appearance for this sacred Kovil which is a haven of solace for thousands of devotees of Lord Murugan.

Thirukkopura Thiruppani Sabhai headed by Sinnathurai Dhanabalaa with the hardworking Secretary, K Balasubramaniam is always commended for this noble service.

The ACHC (All Ceylon Hindu Congress) Headquarters is near this Kovil. We completed the other structures of this Kovil. Its location in the heart of the City attracts almost all the tourists to this Kovil.

The observance of Skanthasashdi annually for 6 days is another important feature of this Kovil's annual calendar.

Annual Festival
The Annual Festival is held regularly in this Kovil, commencing with the 'Kodi Ettam' and concluding with the 'Theertham'. The THER Festival takes place on the day before Theertham and this year it takes place on Wednesday August 04, 2010.

'Kodi Ettam' (Flag hoisting) represents the soul's attempt to ascend to 'moksham'. The 'Ther' (Chariot) is a symbol of universe and the 4 wheels mean 'INQUIRE, INVESTIGATE, ANALYSE and STUDY'.

"As in South India, Murukan has been and still continues to be the favourite deity of the Tamils living in Ilankai. The ideas, beliefs and practices associated with the worship of Murukan constitute an integral part of the Hindu religious tradition in the island. The shrines dedicated for the worship of Murukan are numerous and one could hardly come across a village or town inhabited by Saivite Tamils where temples dedicated for his worship are not to be found."

The 'Thangathther' (Golden Chariot) of this Kovil was constructed and floated on August 09, !998 and a committee chaired by Thirukumar Nadesan would be blessed by Lord Murugan for having this 21 feet tall (with a golden umbrella) Ther, adding a holy significance and veneration of this 188 years old Kovil.

A number of dedicated 'Thondars' led by K. Balasubramaniam stood by Nadesan and made use of his talents and resources to accomplish this.

Nadesan still continues to ensure the Golden Chariot Festival takes place in a grand scale as a real devotee of Lord Murugan for which he has the blessings of His Almighty, Skanda.

He believes, "Engum Murugan Ellam Murugan Yathum Murugan" (meaning 'He resides everywhere - He is in everything - He is everything').

This is the ardent belief of every worshipper of this Kovil. When these devotees recite 'Arohara Arohara' at the time the Golden Chariot starts rolling on the street, everyone could know (not merely knowingly - could really feel) their faith in Lord Murugan who with His six faces and two consorts appear on the chariot to bless His devotees.

Note: I have extensively quoted Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam for the reason that I find his rendering in English of the concept explaining Lord Murugan are elucidating.

The writer is the General Secretary, All Ceylon Hindu Congress -Interim Managers of the Kovil


Panadura Hindu Kovil Resurrected
T V Perera

Picture by Manjula Gamaariya

The Maha Kumbabhishekam festival of the Aralmigu Sri Skandasamy kovil of Panadura commenced on July 12 and concluded on July 31, 2010 in grand style, with the poojas held daily at 6.00 a m and 6.00 p m and observed meticulously, for the first time in 30 years.

The kovil which is situated on a one-acre block of land in the centre of the Panadura town, which is a predominently Buddhist area, had suffered damages in the 1983 racial riots but under the concept of the Mahinda Chinthanaya, former Minister P. Radhakrishnan directed the Board of Hindu Cultural Affairs to effect restoration, for which a sum of Rs 40 lakhs was allocated by the Government.

Shrines have been constructed for Gods Ganesh, Sri Kandasamy, Maha Vishnu and Siva, Godesses Pathini and Kali Amma and also for Sanishwara and Bahiwara. The sculpturing and painting of the entire kovil was performed by a team of six artists who were especially got down from India.

Picture by Manjula Gamaariya

On the invitation of the Minister of Hindu Cultural Affairs, Sivasri Mohan Sivachariya, Joint President of the Inter-Religious Organization for National Peace took over as the Chief Priest of the kovil and is assisted by several Sivachariyas, while Sivasamy Ganeshan has been appointed as manager, by the Board of Hindu Cultural Affairs and Bandu Bandaranayake.

Senior Superintendent of Police, Panadura, Sumith Edirisinghe donated the valuable statue of God Ganesh which adorns the right hand side of the entrance to the kovil and Chandra Silva, a businessman of Panadura, donated the entire requirement of the floor tiles for the kovil.

A crowd of about 5000 devotees flocked to the kovil throughout the first day of the Kumbhabishekam festivity at which Dharmaratne Herath, Secretary of the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Anura Titus, Secretary to Minister Vinayagamoorthy were the Chief Guests. Sivasri Mohan Sivachariya stated that the devotees were provided with dana and that there was no shortage of food whatsoever, as the Sinhala Buddhists of the Panadura area co-operated unstinctedly by way of food-provisions, cash contributions and undertaking of the daily poojas.

In respect of the Kodharishanam pooja which was held on the July 12, the Chief Incumbent of the Galgoda Buddhist temple donated an ox while Chief Incumbents of the surrounding temples too have supported the festivities, which will end with the statue of God Sri Kandasamy being taken around the kovil. A Vel festival has been planned for next year.


1 comment:

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