Thursday, March 24, 2011

Koneswaram temple: sacred place of worship...!!!


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.

Koneswaram Temple

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.

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