Thursday, March 24, 2011
Flag hoisting and water cutting ceremony:
Koneswaram temple: sacred place of worship
By Chelvatamby - Maniccavasagar
The flag hoisting ceremony of Koneswaram Temple at Trincomalee commenced on March 19 and the water-cutting ceremony will take place on April 5 in the sea.
Annual festival at Koneswaram Temple
Among the various monuments of Hindu antiquity found in Sri Lanka, the Koneswaram Hindu Temple is one of the three principal places of worship dedicated to Lord Shiva. In fact, the Thiruketheswaram in Mannar and Munneswaram in Chilaw are the other two temples of equal repute.
The Koneswaram temple, as a sacred place of Hindu worship of the ancient past, would have remained in its original form, up to the present day, had not the Portuguese caused it to be razed to the ground, to procure building materials for their new fortification which they built on the rocky promontory by the cliff and overlooking the deep sea.
The Dutch who drew away the Portuguese in 1658, demolished the old Fort and in its place built a bigger one acclaimed as the most magnificent Fort. Further, with the evacuation of the Dutch, it was handed over to the British on August 26, 1795, which they named Fort Frederick in honour of Frederick, the Duke of York (1763-1827), who established the “Royal Military Asylum” in England in 1801, for the sons of the English servicemen.
Indeed, there is a legendary story about the Koneswaram Temple that a Portuguese soldier had once entered the Sanctum Sanatorium (Shrine Room) and defiled it by his presence, as he was drunk and carrying a piece of roasted beef in his hand. The wrath of the God having befallen on the man for his profanatory conduct in desecrating the Holy Place, he has fallen accidentally into the sea below and got drowned.
It is said that the dead soldier’s apparition could still be seen by everyone when the priest after the “Pooja” hold his torch over the edge of the precipice as and when night falls.
Furthermore, the saga of this historic Hindu Temple is said to have been described in a Tamil poem written by one Kaviraja an erudite scholar of ancient Sri Lanka. In the days of old, a king named “Manu Neethi” “Kanda Cholan” learnt about the wonders of Trincomalee and had come over to Sri Lanka from India on a pilgrimage as he was a great devotee of Lord Shiva. Later, his son named Kulakoddu Maharajah, having learnt about the holy place from his father had come to Trincomalee with the idea of building a Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva.
After having built the Temple, the Maha Rajah found much difficulty in obtaining rice and other food items from South India for the daily use by the Temple staff. He prayed for Divine help and he got the rains. To preserve the rain water he took steps to build a tank to irrigate the paddy fields. In fact, he wanted to look after the Temple as well as to cultivate the fields.
After a few years Maha Rajah left for South India and having reached the village “Marukur”, he managed to get seven families of the “Vellala Caste” to come to Sri Lanka and settle down in Trincomalee.
As they volunteered to come, they received preferential treatment from the Maha Rajah. They were granted lands to be held as hereditary possessions. They were also entrusted with the care of the Temple treasury, the regulations of income and expenditure, holding of festivals and celebrations concerning the Temple and the presentation of silk vestments to the priests. When it was found that more servants than available were needed to manage the temple, the Maha Rajah, by compulsory means brought an additional 20 families from “Karaikkadu” in South India.
They too were settled down in the same manner and to be assistance to the families already in the service of the Temple.
To the new arrivals were assigned the task of offering of flowers at the shrine, washing and cleaning of the sacrificial implements, husking of paddy, smearing the floor of the Temple with cow-dung, singing and playing the musical instruments, hoisting and lowering of the Temple flag, preparing the essence of sandalwood, cleaning and polishing the brass and silver utensils, polishing the ornaments and all other works pertaining to the Temple within or without.
Five men selected from the families settled down were dignified with the title “High Priests” of the Temple. They were called “Pandarattas”. Again Maha Rajah went to South India and came with a nobleman in the name of Poopalan.
Poopalan was appointed as Governor of Trincomalee with full powers and all facilities to administer the place by maintaining law and order. He was also authorized to punish offenders by the imposition of fines or imprisonment in chains or even execution at his sole discretion with no provision to appeal. He was also asked to maintain his authority inviolate and at the same time to win the good will and confidence of the people. Even the officiating priests of the temple were given strict instructions that they should at specified times make oblations of rice mixed with curd to the Gods. According to the Hindu tradition Lord Shiva is the creator.
He is often sculptured as “Nataraja” performing cosmic dance in the Thandava style. The God Shiva’s consort is ‘Parvathi”. The divine vehicle of Lord Shiva is the Sacred Bull known as “Nanthy”. Lord Shiva in human form is believed to have selected Benares in India as his abode on earth. His celestial abode is in the Himalayas and it is known as “Kailasa”.
Unlike other Gods of the Hindu Pantheon, Lord Shiva possesses “Three Eyes” and this additional eye is placed between the two eyes and in the centre of the forehead. By looking through it, Lord Shiva is supposed to destroy or annihilate anything he wished to happen. In fact, on April 24, 1687, a young and beautiful Dutch Lady by the name “Francina Van Rheede” committed suicide in revengeful despair by jumping from a height of 600 feet very close to the Temple and was dashed against the huge rock below and a monument was erected in her name.
Six session of worship are conducted daily at Koneswaram Temple and Sivarathri festival is conducted with solemnity on an elaborate scale.
Hence, let us pray to Lord Shiva at Koneswaram Temple and receive His Divine Blessings.
Understanding some aspects of Hinduism
K S Sivakumaran
There are many Lankans belonging to different communities who show willingness and desire to understand the salient features of Hinduism. Since most of the works relating to the philosophy and religious aspects of Hinduism in general and Saivaism in particular are in the Thamil language, those not familiar with Thamil are interested in reading about Hinduism at least in English.
Hence we make an attempt to give information on that religion as we understand it in these columns. We also refer to readers of books written in English on the subject.
One such book was published a decade ago and its title is - An Introduction to Religion and Philosophy – Thevaaram and Thivviyaprapantham authored by a research scholar Dr R Vijayalakshmy and published by the International Institute of Tamil Studies at C P t Campus, Taramani, Chennai 609 113.
The author in her introduction spells out the content of the book:
“The book deals with the following important aspects of Tevaram and Thivviyapirapantham: their composers, the sacred shrines, at which these compositions were sung by them and the philosophical concepts underlying them. There are two types of readers whom this companion addresses: one is the lay reader with a religious purpose and the other is the scholar who wishes to study thee texts in depth in order to carryout research studies.”
Readers might like to know what Thevaaram and Thivviyaprapantham mean. They were devotional songs sung by Naayanmmaars (Saiva Saints).Thevaaram means a garland of divine songs. Saivites worship Lord Siva as the primary God.
Thivya Prabantham means devotional songs sung by Aalvaars (Vaishnava Saints). Vaishnavites worship Lord Vishnu as their main deity.
The author says that the influence of the non-Vedic religions like Jainism, and Buddhism as at its peak during the medieval period (post-Sangam period). That is during the Pallava period in South Indian History. The Bhakthi Cult or Movement spread through out Thamilnadu. It also enriched the Thamil language and literature.
What is Bhakthi? It is generally understood as the deep attachment of a devotee to God. The root is a Sanskrit word Bhaj with the suffix says the author and adds: “This word can mean participation, separation, experience, loyalty, faithfulness, practice, reverence, love and devotion.”
We learn that between the seventh century AD and the 10th century AD, Jainism and Buddhism existed in Thamilnadu but dwindled with the rise of the Bhakthi Movement particularly in the seventh century AD.
It is interesting to know from the author that: “The Aalvaars and Nayanmaars came from all four varnas and belonged to various castes. By virtue of their devotion to their chosen deity, either Siva or Vishnu, they were all deemed equal. Very few of them belonged to the socially dominant Brahmin caste. For instance, Thiruppaalvar belonged to a caste which is quite low in the social hierarchy and so did Kannappanayanar, who was a hunter. But, all distinctions of class and caste were forgotten in the great surge of Bhakti.”
From a sociological point of view the Bhakthi literature created a casteless society. “It was, in general, a mission which brought the sub-continent together as one nation in spite of local differences which were determined by the different sociological, political and economic conditions.”
I found this book extremely useful and one must congratulate scholar for her painstaking effort to produce a book of 664 pages.
We understand from Dr S Ramar Ilango, the Director of I IT S who wrote the Foreword for this book that Dr R Vijayalakshmy is a multi linguist with a command of Thamil, English, Sanskrit, Prakrit, Sinhala and German languages. She has many other higher qualifications on her research studies and obtained degrees.
I found it particularly beneficial to read her section on ”Important Saiva and Vaishnava Philosophical Terms.”
In addition there are separate Bibliographies in English and Thamil and a Special Index.
Hindus and non-Hindus that want to know and enjoy reading about Saivaism and Vaishnavism are assured of great pleasure.
A meeting and discussion was held at Gandhi Peace Centre, Kalyani Road presided by Swami Mukthananda of Ashram, Kerala, India, recently. It was attended by Bhikkhus and clergy of various religious denominations. A power point presentation was made on a special program formulated by the head of Ananda Ashram of India Swami Mukthananda on ‘How to inculcate human values in children’. N. Ramachandran and S Sunder of Anandashram were also present.
The first anniversary celebrations and awards ceremony of the Saiva Thurumurai Training Foundation, Colombo branch took place at the Vivekananda Society hall, Kotahena, Colombo 13 recently. The chief guest was Rev Seer Walaguru Mahasannithana Swamigal (India). Here the chief guest being presented a portrait of Rev Arul Thirunamasivaya Moorthigal to All Ceylon Hindu Priest Association President Rev K Wytheswarak Kurukkal, during the ceremony. Pic by : A Maduraveeran
Pupils of the religious school attached to Sri Varatharaja Perumal Kovil Kotahena, Colombo, presented a religious dance item titled ‘Mohana Krishna’, during their Maha Shivarathri Day festival celebrations at the Iyygaran Mandapam hall, Kotahena. Pic by : A Maduraveeran
Maha Shivarathri festival was celebrated at kovils and Hindu societies islandwide recently. Here the special Yagna pooja conducted by the chief priest Brammashri Ganeshan Ravindran Kurukkal at the Arulmigu Shri Samundeeswari Ammbal Devasthanam, Kadirana, Mattakkuliya, Colombo 15. Pic by : A Maduraveeran
The welcome song presented by K Aatheenan, student of the religious school affiliated to the Varatharaja Perumal Kovil Kotahena dressed as Saiva Saint Thirugnana Sampathar at their Maha Shivarathri celebration held at the Iyygaran Mandapam hall Kotahena, Colombo 13. Pic by : A Maduraveeran
Produced by Lake House Copyright © 2011 The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd.
Monday, March 21, 2011
Historical Sri Ramakrishna — I
March 18, 2011, 4:51 pm
By Martin Kämpchen
MANY years ago, I gave a lecture in Kolkata on Rabindranath Tagore’s visits to Germany in the 1920s. I described the enthusiastic response he received as well as the criticism his books and he himself had to face. Some of the criticism was due to envy, some to the strangeness of his exotic appearance, and because of the softness of his lyrical prose which these critics misjudged as weakness. After the lecture an elderly gentleman got up and said, sadly: "I am very sorry that you do not like Rabindranath." It took me a while to clarify that I was merely reporting some historical facts and had not revealed my personal likes or dislikes at all.
Another time, I was requested by a college teacher to find out the full text of the remarks the German Indologist, Paul Deussen, had made of Swami Vivekananda in his autobiography. Excerpts available in India showed omissions indicated by three dots. It took me some effort to get the book and find the quotation. The omitted sentences happened to be critical of the Swami. I wrote down the German text and added a verbatim English translation and sent both to my elderly friend. This was the last I heard of him; he cut off our relationship of many years.
These examples are typical. We in India find it difficult to distinguish between historical facts surrounding a historical figure and our own subjective attitude to such a figure. We tend to hero-worship and, in the process, to block out any traits that do not happen to conform with the venerable image we have conceived. The full facts of history are being suppressed because we refuse to accept a larger, more complex and contextual view of the figure we venerate. Whoever this figure is, he or she was part of history and thus part of the positive and negative processes and attitudes of the time. This does not detract from that person’s heroic traits. In fact, I see heroism more truly exhibited in the ability to strictly follow a chosen path by conquering the hindrances and the opposition within oneself and in society.
This penchant to idealize and thus lift a person beyond history is responsible for why many saints of India have not yet been studied as figures of history. Myth and legend are being confused with history as verifiable by genuine records.
In the 1980s, I wrote a doctoral thesis at Santiniketan comparing the life of Sri Ramakrishna with the life of Francis of Assisi, the Italian saint. It was not well accepted by some devotees of Sri Ramakrishna who argued: How is it possible to compare an avatar with a mere saint? However, cannot Sri Ramakrishna, as a man of history, be compared with Francis, as a man of history? Their common ground is their historicity as human beings. Whether or not Ramakrishna was an avatar, and whether or not I as the author believe this, must not be part of an academic debate. It is an article of faith. By the way, personally, I have every respect for my friends who worship Sri Ramakrishna as their ista debatar. But again, this is outside academics.
As regards Sri Ramakrishna, the result of this idealizing predisposition, is that research on him has led into two directions. One path is taken by his devotees, especially by the learned monks of the Ramakrishna order and its followers. Scholarly rigour, spiritual and missionary zeal will have been invested in describing and interpreting Ramakrishna’s life and translating the conversations with his disciples into English. This is hagiography, intended not only to acquaint its readers with the avatar, but also to inspire in them the love and veneration.
The second path is taken by academics who research on the historical time in which Sri Ramakrishna lived. They study him as historians, psychologists and scholars of religious studies. They are Indians, Europeans and Americans. As it always happens, some of the research is weak or slanted, even erroneous, and other works are original and brilliant. Unfortunately, most men and women of the first path reject these academic offerings wholly, the weak along with the brilliant. Probably, they consider academic research unhelpful in their spiritual quest.
I have felt grieved by this gulf in understanding and interpreting Sri Ramakrishna, feeling close to the ideals of the order, and at the same time, trying to be a true scholar. Why don’t educated worshippers of Sri Ramakrishna desire to know more and ever more about the life of their chosen ideal? Is this not a natural yearning? Why do they fear that seeing Sri Ramakrishna as a historical figure would weaken their faith in him? This fear, I assume is one motivation for rejecting historical scholarship. Speaking for myself, scholarly enquiry has not dampened my enjoyment of Sri Ramakrishna’s childlike, spiritual exuberance and his inspiring conversations. On the contrary, I have grown more appreciative of his enormous spiritual struggles after understanding the complex historical context in which he lived.
Probably the central question of this debate is: Can men and women who are not worshippers of Sri Ramakrishna truly understand him as what he is? Does it need a deep spiritual love for him to appreciate his essence? In other words, do academics miss his essence when they look at him as a figure of 19th century Kolkata middle-class society? This is an intricate question. Those who follow the first path would, I assume, reply that Sri Ramakrishna can be understood best by meditating on him, by devotedly loving him ~ not through history books. And this is the argument why they turn away from the scholarship of the historians as a waste of time.
My reaction to this is that educated persons looking at Sri Ramakrishna are obliged, by dint of their education, to gather all the facts of his spiritual and earthly journey. Such persons cannot afford to ignore the Sri Ramakrishna of history. Genuine modern education is bound to create a wish to understand an object of knowledge on all levels ~ rationally, emotionally and spiritually. Education teaches us that we are intelligent as well as spiritual beings and that we are whole only when we allow our various powers to interact with each other. We cannot but accept history as a necessary complement to our faith life.
The writer is a German scholar, based in Santiniketan
(To be concluded)
Monday, March 14, 2011
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
HINDUISM IN SL---BOOK
Avatar of Uma - God Siva’s consort
Thilaka V Wijayaratnam
A learned man called Vidyatharar had a daughter called Vidyavathy. Vidyavathy was a devotee of Goddess Uma. Vidyavathy asked her father how she could pray to Goddess Uma. He told her about Uma’s Mantra and asked her to chant it in Madurai, the favoured city of God Siva and Uma. Vidyavathy went to Madurai, observed fasts and sang songs in praise of Goddess Uma. This pleased the Goddess, and Vidyavathy beseeched her to be with her forever. Pleased with her Uma told her, “There will be born a person called Malayathuvasa Pandyan. You will be born in this city and marry him. I will then he born to you.
So it happened. Malayathuvasa Pandyan was a king well versed in Tamil and Sanskrit and ruled fairly and justly. He was married to a princess called Kanchanamalai. (who was no other than Vidyavathy reborn). They didn’t have children. So Pandyan performed a yaga to get a child. They fed the yaga fire with ghee, roasted rice and dry sticks and the rishis chanted mantras. In due course they were blessed with a beautiful daughter but the king and queen were worried to see the baby having three teats. (Biologists and rationalists may scoff at the idea, but a few months before there was a news item in the papers to say a baby girl was born with three papillae.
The king lamented at such a child saying his enemies would laugh at him. Then he heard an asariri (oracle), “O king - do not lament. Name her Thadathakai. When she confronts the person she is to marry one of the teats would disappear.”
Happy and consoled by these words, the king brought up the young child well, teaching her all forms of art including martial art. In the days of yore, kings would set out to conquer other states or even countries. Likewise Thadathakai also set out with an army and conquered many cities, states and countries. She defeated the devas and captured Lord Indra’s kingdom - Indralokam too.
The Pandya king was overjoyed at her valour. He crowned her as the ruler of his country. Soon after his soul was liberated from his body. His daughter performed the rites for him and ascended the throne. She had conquered all the worlds and only Kailas - the abode of God Siva was untouched. She however marched towards Kailas, and when god Siva’s celestial attendants confronted her, beat them all and marched forward. God Siva hearing of her prowess, mounted the white bull and came forward. On seeing Him her third teat disappeared and she knew it was God Siva who would marry her. Her minister named Sumathi, told her about the oracle, and convinced her God Siva would be her partner in life. Lord of Kailas God Siva told her to go back to Madurai.
He would come with all his retinue and marry her. The marriage took place according to Vedic rites, with Lord Vishnu handing over His sister Uma - Thadathakai - to Siva, who tied the sacred thread round her neck amidst all the pomp and pageantry of a Hindu wedding. Incidentally these rites are still followed in Hindu weddings. God Siva then assumed the name of Sundara Pandyan and ruled the world.
After the wedding was over all the people, the devas, visitors and devotees and citizens of Madurai were invited to take part of the wedding feast. Among the spectators there were two Rishis, vyakrahapathar and Pathanjali who told God Siva that they could take part of the meal only after witnessing his dance at the Golden Hall in Chithamparam. God Siva told them that Madurai is of greater significance than Chithamparam, and said He would create a Hall of Silver and perform His dance on that stage of precious jewels in the Hall of Silver (Velliampalam).
Because of the request of the two Rishis, all were witnessed the beautiful dance. The people were overjoyed and happily took part of the meal. After all had eaten, there was a heap of food left.
Uma appealed to God Siva saying, “A lot of food is left over and no one to eat. It is like the Himalayas.” There was an individual named Kundotharan standing by and God Siva told Uma to give him a fistful of rice. Thadathakai (Uma) took him to the dining area. Kundotharan gobbled the entire lot and asked for more. Uma again went to God Siva and told Him about it and said there was no more food. God Siva called for the Goddess Annapoorany and she produced mountains of food. Kundotharan ate all that with avidity and was very thirsty and ran looking for water.
He drank from ponds, tanks, wells and from all sources of water and yet couldn’t quench his thirst. He fell at the feet of God Siva and appealed for water. God Siva instructed the Ganges in his crown to flow down Maudrai city as a river (which became river Vaikai). Kundotharan joyfully drank as much water as he could till his thirst was quenched. Then he fell at God Siva’s feet and sang songs of praise and made Him happy. Having taken an avathar, God Siva as Sundara Pandyan ruled the earth.
Like the way God Murugan manifested from the third eye of God Siva, a child like God Muruga was brought forward. This avatar was named Ukkira Pandyan. When he was sixteen years of age Sundara Pandyan decided to fix a marriage for him before crowning him. He chose the daughter of a king of Manavoor.
The girl was named Kanthimathy. God Somasundarer appeared in the dream of king Somasekarar, father of Kanthimathy and told him to give his daughter in marriage to Ukkiva Pandyan. King Somasekarer was overjoyed.
The Chola and Chera kings and all beings on earth paid homage to king Sundara Pandyan. Such a king wants to make his daughter Kanthimathy as his daughter-in-law.
The auspicious day was fixed. The function was no doubt a grand one. Somasekaran took his daughter’s hands and placed them in Ukira Pandyan’s hands saying, “I of Suriya Kulam hereby give my daughter in marriage to Ukira Pandyan of Chandra Kulam.” (This ceremony is known as “Kannika thanam” - offering a young maiden.)
After a few days Sundara Pandyan (God Siva) told Ukira Pandyan, “Son, Indra and Varuna (Lord of the rains) will be your foes. Mt Meru will be arrogant. Here are three weapons.” He gave him a weapon like a boomerang to defeat Indra, a spear to dry the ocean and humble Varuna and another weapon to destroy the ego of Mt Meru.
Thereafter king Sundarer, took all His celestial attendants, Thadathakai (Uma - His consort) and entering the temple remained there as God Somasundarar.
How Varuna was humbled?
King Ukira Pandyan ruled justly and fairly. He did so many yagas according to Vedic rites. Indra became jealous of him. He called Varuna - Lord of the Rain, and told him to collect all the sources of water in the world and become one big ocean, then destroy Madurai. Varunan did likewise. When the swelling waters reached the eastern boundary, God Somasundarar appeared in Ukira Pandyan’s dream as a sithar and told him, “The swelling ocean is approaching Madurai to engulf it. Use the weapon I gave and save the land.” Ukkira Pandyan collected his ministers and reached the eastern boundary. There he saw the swelling sea. He took the spear and aimed it at the watery enemy. Immediately the ocean shrank and was reduced to just a little water that bathed the king’s feet as if to surrender. Thus he won the war against Varuna.
During the reign of Ukkira Pandyan, there was a prolonged drought in the whole of Thamil Nadu. There was a famine too. The Chola, Chera, Pandya kings went to seek advice from the rishi called Agasthiyar.
He told them the drought and subsequent famine would continue for 12 years and advised them to seek the help of Indra, Lord of Thunder. The three kings followed his advice and after having observed the Somavara Fasts were able to reach Indra Lokam. Indra welcomed them and directed them to three seats at a lower level than his. Both Chera and Chola kings sat on the seats allocated to them, while Ukkira Pandyan went up to Indra’s throne and sat there on a side.
Indra ignored him and asked the reason for their coming to him.
They said that there was no rain in their lands and that was why they came to him. Indra ordered the rains to pour in their lands only. He gave them many presents and sent them away. Indra pretended to be pleased with Ukkira Pandyan and gave him a necklace that would shrink and suffocate him. But Ukkira Pandyan wore it like a garland and sat unharmed. Indra told Ukkira Pandyan, “O Pandya from today you will be known as the one bearing the necklace.”
Pandyan ignored him and went back to Madurai. Now in Thamil Nadu the lands of the Cheras and Cholas got plenty of rain. The Pandya Nadu was experiencing the drought. One day Ukkira Pandyan went hunting to Pothiyamalai. He found four clouds including the one called Puthgalavathar over the mountains.
He captured them and put them in prison. They were servants of Indra and Indra was wild with anger. He came down and surrounded Madurai with his army.
When Ukkira Pandyan heard about it he set out with an army to face Indra’s army. While the two enemies were fighting Ukkira Pandyan sent the weapon God Siva gave him. It struck Indra’s crown and broke it into pieces. Indra got frightened and took flight. He sent a message to the king, “I will send rain to your country. Please release my clouds.
The king didn’t trust Indra knowing his treacherous ways but one of his citizens told the king that he would stand for surety and to please release the clouds. Trusting him, Ukkira Pandyan released the clouds. Thereafter there was enough rain in the Pandya kingdom too and the land prospered.
Colombo Ponnampalavaneswaram Temple:
Flag hoisting ceremony
In the history of Hinduism in Sri Lanka, the 19th century is significant as a period of constructional activities in an unprecedented scale. A large number of Hindu temples were either restored or newly constructed on some parts of the country where Hindus were settled in substantial numbers. A large number of Hindu temples were restored in the Jaffna Peninsula, Trincomalee and in the District of Batticaloa. The most notable among the newly constructed temple was Ponnampalavaneswaram at Kotahena in the city of Colombo.
In fact, in the mid-19th century a considerable number of Hindu temples had come into existence in the city of Colombo and other towns in the Southern and Central parts of the country where settlements of Hindu communities were established in consequence of political and economic developments under British rule. Further, a substantial proportion in Colombo were Hindus and among them entrepreneurs in the Business profession had a commanding influence.
Despite their diverse origins they were drawn together by religions sentiment and a deep attachment to traditional Hindu values. Those who were articulate and motivated with a deep sense of commitment for the cause of preserving and fostering Hindu culture assumed positions of leadership in mobilizing support for the establishment of Hindu Institutions, some of which have become exemplary and among them Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam was the most outstanding pioneer. His father-in-law Coomaraswamy Mudaliyar, who belonged to the first generation of Jaffna Tamils settled in Colombo and was the first Tamil representative in the Legislative Council was responsible for establishing two Hindu Temples in Colombo – the Kathiresan Temple at Gintupitty and Muttuvinayakara Temple at Chetty Street.
Ponnambalam Mudaliyar who had a deep attachment to Saivism, the religion of his ancestors, found that there was no temple dedicated for the worship of Lord Shiva in Colombo, where worship could be conducted according to Hindu custom. He initiated measures for mobilizing support for the establishment of such a temple and the response from the Merchant Community was most favourable.
The leading Merchants of the Chettiar Community who were always in the forefront in extending generous support for promoting the cause of Hinduism, were a source of inspiration to him.
A large sum was collected and from a portion of that amount a plot of land at Sea Street, which was formerly the property of Captain John Foulstone was bought on July 5, 1856. Soon the process of constructing the temple began and the architects were brought from South India for that purpose.
On the completion of the building program, the consecration ceremony was held in November 1857 and in commemoration of this event a copper plate inscription was installed in the temple. The second consecration ceremony was also conducted by Ponnambalam Mudaliyar. He was succeeded to the post of Manager by his eldest son Kumaraswamy Mudaliyar, who was responsible for conducting the third consecration ceremony in 1882. Ponnambalam Ramanathan assumed control of affairs as a manager since the death of his elder brother in 1906. Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan who had a deep understanding of Hinduism and Hindu Art and architecture had conceived the notion of replacing the existing buildings with those of stone construction.
It was also his ambition that the temple should be transformed into a monument of architectural grandeur so that it could be a lasting memorial to the religious piety and dignity of its founder. He invited specialists on Hindu architecture from South India and in consultation with them developed the plan for the building program.
Because of his commanding personality and the reputation he enjoyed in the country he was able to implement his program without impediments. As he was the eldest member of the family of the Founder and because of the immense popularity he enjoyed among the Hindu community, his authority in respect of temple affairs was unhindered.
The reconstruction of the temple as a monument in stone was a major undertaking accomplished at his own expense. Indeed, it was a unique achievement.
In modern Sri Lanka no one else had devoted his energies and resources an on undertaking of comparable magnitude. In fact, Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan was the architect of Ponnampalavaneswaram temple and his achievement should be cherished as landmark in the history of Hinduism in modern Sri Lanka.
Among the Hindu temples of Sri Lanka, Ponnampalavaneswaram Temple has consistently enjoyed a reputation that has never been surpassed by others on account of the regularity of religious services, the efficiency of its administration and the level of transparency in the interaction with the public.
At Ponnampalavaneswaram Temple worship is ritually conducted six times daily in conformity with agamic traditions.
The second session of worship is concluded with ritual offerings and worship is conducted at the main shrine.
The third session of worship is called Uchikalapooshai (worship at noon time), the fourth session of worship begins at 3.00 pm and ends before sunset. The fifth session of worship commences at 7.00 pm when Moolamoorthy is consecrated, adorned and worshiped while offerings are made. This worship is accompanied with Mangala Vathiyam. the annual festival at Ponnampalavaneswaram temple is conducted for a period of ten days. In fact, the flag hoisting ceremony commences today and ends with chariot festival in which a large number of devotees participate.
Hinduism in Sri Lanka
K S Sivakumaran
A historically supported authentic book on one of the oldest religions in the world – Hinduism – as practised in our country is by Prof S Pathmanathan. This book is in Thamil and published jointly by the All Ceylon Hindu Congress and Kumaran Book House. One wishes that the scholar writes this in English or get it translated for clarifying issues raised by some regarding the missing pages of Lankan history. Originally published in 2005, this massive book of researched material runs into 464 pages.
There are well defined six sections and 16 chapters covering the following. Early Anuradhapura period, Post Anuradhapura period, Period of Chola regime, Polonnaruwa period (Monarchs and Temples), Polonnaruwa period (Mercantile Clans and Culture) and Polonnaruwa period (Temples and Images).
The book includes publishers’ Note, foreword, index of cultural symbols, colour pictures, reference sources and an index. An added source is reference on primary sources and Books and Articles – all given in English.
When we say “Hinduism” it is a religion based on the Vedas. It includes Saivaism, Vaishnavism and Jainism. Centuries ago Saivaism was widely spread in the whole of India. It was practised in present Camboochia and Indonesia. With the advent of the Turks in India Saivaism lost it’s flavour. In the north of India Vaishnavism took roots.
Generally Lankan Thamilians are Saivaites. Buddhism came to Sri Lanka in third century AD during the reign of Emperor Asoka of India. It was Saivaism that was prevalent in Lanka before the coming of Mahinda, son of Asoka. There is close relationship between the Buddhists and Saivaists. A considerable number of people who inhabited the island were Saivaites.
Since ancient times people speaking the Thamil language came from southern India and settled down in the coastal area of Lanka. Europeans who served in Lanka during the 17th and 18th centuries have written about this in their records. The reason for this was of the fact that South India and Lanka were identified as one Trade Zone. Since early times people from Kerala and Thirunelvely in Southern India were settling in coastal areas of the Island.
The above gleaned from this valuable book that combines useful information on Saivaism and a part of Lankan history. The book will be available from the All Ceylon Hindu Congress office in the Colombo Fort.
Siva and Parvathi
Sunday, March 6, 2011
Siva Selvakulalingam has been recognized for his services to the Hindu community in S.Australia & has been awarded the OAM by AU GOVT.!!!
Lankan entrepreneur honouredby Australian Government
March 5, 2011, 6:36 pm
Mr. Siva Selvakulalingam has been recognized for his services to the Hindu community in South Australia and has on the occasion of Australia Day been awarded the Order of Australia Medal by the Canberra Government. He currently serves as the President of the Hindu Society and is the former President of the Ceylon Tamil Association of South Australia. Selva, as he is popularly known in Adelaide, arrived in Australia in 1988 as a business migrant following his education in mechanical engineering in the UK and a successful business career in Singapore and Malaysia.
Experienced in the timber industry, he set up in that field and later started his own enterprise making wine racks sold in Australia and exported to many parts of the world including Sri Lanka.
In 2002 and 2005, he was the winner of the State Government Award for Small and Medium Industries.
Selva’s Hindu upbringing in Jaffna made him very passionate about his religion and related temple activities and he was active in the Adelaide Ganesha Temple from the time he arrived in Australia.
He was quoted in the Australian press saying that his wife, Sivanes, musts share this honour as she has helped him immensely doing ``the hard work of organizing and cleaning at the Hindu Society of South Australia."
In a letter to Selvakulalingam, Mr. Mike Rann, Prime Minister and Minister of Social Inclusion, South Australia, had described the award as "a much deserved recognition."
The Governor of South Australia, Rear Admiral Kevin Scarce said that Selva’s "outstanding service to South Australia" has been recognized and congratulated him for the "well deserved honour" that has been conferred.
The investiture by the Governor of South Australia, will be held at Government House, Adelaide on April 14.
Thursday, March 3, 2011
Wednesday, 3 March 2011
Maha Shivrathri :
Night of Shiva
Unlike other religious festivals being celebrated with pomp, splendour and gaiety, Shivrathri is celebrated with more of spiritual serenity. It is an inward journey of the soul, the destination being the meeting with God. Incorporeal God from the incorporeal world is meeting his children of this corporeal world. This interaction with the Divine Being is something unique. As God takes a human medium to carry out his task, we need a divine insight and a divine intellect to perceive those pure and divine vibrations of the Supreme presence.
God takes a human medium to carry out his task
When celebrating Shivrathri, observing a fast is of great importance. Generally people believe that a fast means to abstain from or restrict your food, in order to have control over the mind from being pulled by the senses and to have remembrance of God. Some regard a fast as just abstinence from good and entertainment. But purity is the principal factor. It’s not just celibacy but being ‘Brahma-Achari’ that is following the code of conduct laid down by Brahma. People follow the fast of the main big vices, but they allow freedom to the little vices which become strong and cause harm. Some think that little vices such as anger have to happen and can’t be helped. Then the purpose of a fast is lost. The pledge of purity has to be maintained.
That God incarnates at night also has its significance. Most parts of the world pride the fact that they have achieved political freedom but the entire human family remains trapped by the slavery of the worst kind - the slavery of our own age-old weakness in the forms of lust, anger, ego, greed and attachment along with their subsidiaries.
It’s hard to find anyone absolutely free from these nagatives. But man is ignorant of the extent to which the human psyche has decayed. As is mentioned in the Bagawad Gita, God incarnates when unrighteousness in the world reaches the highest peak.
In today’s world virtues are lost and vices are rampant. Positive values like peace, love, honesty, tolerance etc. have disappeared and instead negative qualities like peacelessness, hate, dishonesty, intolerance etc. have become the order of the day. The soul, in its ignorance believes that this is his cherished world and his life the most enjoyable. This is the darkest period of the human race. Night is ignorance. Human souls are merged in the slumber of ignorance. God, the father has come to awaken the souls and end the night of darkness.
Hence on this auspicious day of Shivrathri, devotees renounce sleep and keep awake the whole night with the hope of attaining salvation or freedom from the clutches of Maya or the vices. They look up to God in prayer and remain alert to receive God’s message. The weaknesses and vices have thrown the entire human race in a whirlwind of turmoil, sufferings, diseases and death. God brings them the Light of knowledge to liberate them from this sorrow, caused through ignorance. Knowledge reveals the Truth and the souls become enlightened. The darkness of ignorance is dispelled.
Till now the souls were ignorant of - Who am I? Where did I come from? Where do I go next? How can I regain my original deity life? God’s knowledge gives them answers to these questions. He also shows the path to attain salvation. So they are very alert not to allow the sleep of ignorance, the sleep that comes at the wrong time.
During the whole night intense effort is made to enhance their spiritual awareness. They become aware of the soul, Supreme soul, matter and time.
They keep their aim and objective before them. To see God, to experience God, to become elevated and attain salvation is the goal of the devotee.
Another aspect of Shivrathri is linking with God. The soul seeks the company of God to become elevated. It has to regain the noble ‘sanskars’ diminished through maya’s company. True to the saying “We are coloured by the company we keep”, in God’s company we naturally have visions of our own highest self, that is the most virtuous stage of consciousness. It is a wonderful experience to have the awareness of our taking a spiritual birth with the incarnation of our Supreme Father God Shiva.
Devotees have visions of Shiva in three main forms
Shivrathri is linking with God
Devotees affirm this communion with God through prayer and meditation. They look up to God as Creator, Sustainer of life and Destroyer of evil. The five fold task of God is depicted in the - Nadarajah statue - Dance of Shiva.
The little drum in one hand symbolizes the awakening of souls. The sounding of that drum is to invoke souls and make them part of creation. The hand of blessings symbolises God’s sustenance of the souls.
The fire symbolises knowledge through which souls become enlightened and burn away the impurities. It is called the fire of knowledge. The foot placed on ‘Muyalagan’ symbolises the supremacy over Maya. The raised foot symbolises the upliftment of the souls. Their sins are absolved and are taken into God’s kingdom.
The Jyothirlingam in Shiva temples is worshipped with religious fervour by the devotees during Shivrathri.
Devotees have visions of Shiva in three main forms namely Nithyananda swaroopam, Gyan swaroopam and Prakash swaroopam.
It means He is Blissful, Knowledgeful and Light. Devotees believe that Shiva appeared before Brahma and Vishnu as a beam of light. That God is light could be experienced through yoga, the link with God. God Shiva, the Almighty Authority has come down to earth to salvage His children.
His method of upliftment is through spiritual knowledge. Understanding of the soul, Supreme soul and world drama will redeem the world from further degradation and sorrow. God the Father is unique. He has no image or body of His own or physical organs to perform His task.
So He takes the body of a mature corporeal being whom He names Brahma. Merciful God grants liberation and salvation to all souls. God the father descends to earth, at the end of every cycle which is 5000 years. It is called the confluence age, the period when Shiva descends to earth. It’s also called the Diamond Age because of its importance. The souls receive knowledge, realize the purpose of life and set a definite aim and objective for the future. To achieve this goal God is teaching Raja Yoga, a way of meditation that makes one self-sovereign, free from the fetters of karmic bondages.
The children enjoy total happiness through this meeting with the father. God always remains happy and we get the awareness that we too become happy with pure and positive thoughts.
You make God, the Almighty Authority your friend and all obstacles fizzle to nothing. This is the true benefit of Shivrathri. You may be weak, but when the Almighty Authority is combined with you - then use Him at the time of need. Do not use Him just for namesake.
We all have the faith that Shivrathri festival is a pure desire to celebrate with love the anniversary of God’s re-incarnation, sharing the joy of a new consciousness, new learning and an elevated peaceful life. May everyone on earth receive the boon of an Ever-Healthy and Happy Life, full of prosperity, as a well-deserved Godly Birthright.
Brahma Kumaris Raja Yoga Centre
Munneswaram temple, Chilaw Chelvatamby Maniccavasagar
The Chariot or Ther festival of the ancient and historical Munneswaram Shivan temple was held on February 17, 2011. In fact, this temple is situated at nearby pearling and fishing town of Chilaw.
Further, Munneswaram, along with Koneswaram (Trincomalee), Naguleswaram (Keerimalai), Thiruketheeswaram (Mannar) and Rameswaram (India) forms the five Ishwarams dedicated to Lord Shiva.
The Portuguese, after the arrival in Sri Lanka in 1505, began a campaign of forced conversion and destruction of many Buddhist and Hindu Temples around the Island. They destroyed the Munneswaram temple completely in 1578 with the exception of the basement and used the core of the building as a Roman Catholic Chapel.
They used iron bars to destroy the presiding Deity. According to a 1640 Portuguese records, they were able to convert 500 people from the village of Munneswaram as Roman Catholics. However the locals and temple administrators were able to hide many of the idols of the Temple Complex before the destruction.
Following the destruction, the Munneswaram village came under the control of the expanding Kingdom of Sitawaka, led by its King Rajasingha I (1581-1593), who continuously harassed the Portuguese during his reign. Rajasingha I rebuilt the Temple again, but due to continuous conflict most of the area around the temple was depopulated and proper cultivation of lands abandoned. Irrigation tanks, which provided water for cultivation, fell into disuse.
The Portuguese again destroyed the Temple in the early 17th century, but the temple was rebuilt by the local people. It was nominally in usage when Kirthi Sri Rajasingha (1742-1782) of the Kandyan Kingdom had to superstructure rebuilt in the 1750s. The Kalasam on the top was made of silver, a work of Art displaying affinity to South India’s Dravidian Architecture.
The Kumbabhishekam (Consecration) ceremony was performed in the year 1753 and for the performance of Daily and special riots of the temple Kirthi Sri Rajasingha made a grant of lands to the priests.
It was recorded that in 1830, the temple festival attracted thousands of people from the surrounding village, but by 1870 the temple was abandoned again. One of the reasons was the depopulation of the village, due to various causes and the convention of paddy lands into plantations from subsite farming. By 1816, Munneswaram village had hardly 64 people and the entire Munneswaram division had 1008 people in 63 villages.
A Tamil family from Munneswaram village controls the priestly position of the Kali Temple. The Shiva temple was renovated in 1875 by the personal efforts of Cumaraswamy Kurukal. Improvements were effected again in 1919 and 1963 through public support from Tamil Hindus from Colombo and Jaffna.
The temple has become very popular amongst the Sinhalese and they make up over 78 percent of the pilgrims to both Shiva and Kali temples.
The presiding Deity Lord Shiva is installed in the form of Lingom in the sanctum sanctorum. The Shiva temple’s architectural details conform to what is written down in the Hindu Scriptures known as Agamas.
The Shiva temple faces East and has three pathways around it. A Sacred pond is situated in front of the Shiva Temple and a Fig tree stands by the side of it. Furthermore, the Shiva temple is surrounded by various other temples and shrines. To the South East of the Shiva temple is a shrine dedicated to Lord Ganesha.
The popular temple dedicated to Kali stands in the Northern part of the pathway. In the South West of the outer courtyard is another temple dedicated to Ganesha. Within the Shiva temple there are shrines dedicated to Navagraha (Nine planets), the sixty three Saivite Nayanmarsaints.
Indeed, Munneswaram temple is well known for its celebrations of Navarathri and Sivarathri functions. Navarathri lasts for nine days and is dedicated to various aspects of the presiding Goddesses, whereas Sivarathri is dedicated Lord Shiva. Both these functions primarily attract Hindus to the Temple.
The Annual Munneswaram festival is an important part of the Temple and it attracts Hindus, Buddhists, Catholics and even Muslims. Until 1830s the Festival lasted upto 18 days, but since the 1960s it lasts for 28 days.
This was followed by 13 days of internal temple processions conducted in the outer pathways of the Siva Temple. On each day of the festival, the images of Ganesha, Skanda were paraded around the temple.
Devotees visit the temple to attend the Daily poojas and make their offerings. Booths were erected outside for the sale of food, drink, brassware, pottery, cloth and holy images.
On the final day of the festival, two large chariots were drawn by the devotees to the Deduru oya, a local river for Thirtham (Holy Bath) ceremony when the images were dipped into the river. At the same time thousands of devotees also jumped into the river.
After the Holy Bath, the procession went back to the temple along a route through Chilaw, accompanied by traditional Nadeswaram and Thavil Musicians. The procession then passed through Kali temple prior to entering the main temple.
Hence, let us pray the Guardian Deity Lord Shiva at Munneswaram Temple and receive His Divine blessings for everlasting peace and eternal prosperity in Sri Lanka.
The foundation stone laying ceremony for the new kovil of Sri Maha Lakshmi and Subramaniar attached to the Sri Bala Selva Vinayagar Moorthy Kovil, Captain’s garden Maradana, Colombo 10 took place recently. Here chief priest Rev S Radhakrishnan Kurukkal, Sculptor Sri Kandadas Ravindraraja and the Trustees Board members participate in the Pooja.
The annual ‘ther’ chariot festival of the Sri Muthumariamman Kovil Kotahena Colombo 13 was held under the patronage of a large number of devotees last week. Here the chief priests along with the trustees board committee conducting the special pooja, before the commencement of the chariot procession.
The commemoration music festival “Sri Thiyagaraja Aradhana” to honour devotional music composer, Saiva Saint Thiyagarajar Swamigal took place at the Indian Cultural Centre Colombo 7 last week. It was organised by the Indian High Commission. Here an item in progress. Pictures by A Maduraveeran