Retracing the Kannagi legend
legend has it that Kannagi, after burning the city of Madura, crossed
over to Lanka and appeared first at Sudumalai, Manipay, Jaffna. The Sudu
Malai Amman kovil for Kannagi Amman is now known as Rajeswary Amman
Sri Raja Rajeswari Amman kovil
This legend has nothing to do with the history of Pathini cult
introduced by King Gajaba when he brought a statue of the lady with the
silampu (anklet). Legends of Kannagi Amman visiting various spots in the
North and East of Lanka are passed down to generations by word of mouth.
After Sudumalai in Manipay, her next stop was Panrithalaichi Amman
kovil also in Jaffna. She then visited the East of the land. In
Batticaloa, she stopped at seven places.
According to legend she came floating in a casket. The casket reached
the shores of a place called Aarai Yampathy. She appeared in the dream
of one teacher by the name of Sinnathamy, and told him, “My casket is on
the shores of this village. Take that and set up a temple for me.”
Accordingly, that teacher went to the sea shore, found the casket, took
the statue and with the help of the people built a temple with the roof
being of ola leaves.
This teacher being a farmer too, had gone to his field and while in
the watch-hut fell asleep. Again, Kannagi Amman appeared in his dream
and said, “Here I am getting wet in the rain while you are sleeping
peacefully. Your paddy will be alright. Stop the roof from leaking.” The
teacher got up saw the paddy heaped after winnowing, and ran to the
He collected the men of the village and put up a stone structure for
Kannagi Amman. He was worried as to who could perform the poosai.
Again Kannagi Amman appeared in his dream and told one Panthan
Kaddadi generation would conduct the poosai. And so that family has been
performing the poosai from then on.
The temple festival is in the Tamil month of Vaihasi: May 15 – June
Besides Aaryampathy there are six other places which Kannagi Amman
visited. Temples were constructed for her at Puthukudyyiruppu,
Karainagar, Kokkatticholai and three other places. In all these places
legend says miracles have taken place.People throng to the temple during
the annual festival on the full moon day in Vaikasi and have ‘Pongal’.
Almost in all Kannagi temples there are the usual scenes – Cavadi, fire
walking and other penances – to fulfil a vow.
After her sojourn in two places in Jaffna, seven places in Batticaloa,
she chose Mullaitivu as the 10th place. Originally it was ‘Paththam
Palai’ (Paththam – tenth; Palai – resting place). In the course of time
it has turned out to be Vattapalai. In Vattappalai too she appeared in
person to some shepherd boys, as an old woman.
According to legend she had asked them to put up a hut for her. Later
she asked them to light a lamp. When the boys told her there was no oil,
she told them to get the sea water, and use it like oil. This tradition
continues to this day. In all the ten places where she stopped, she had
performed some miracle or other.
In Hinduism, each deity has a favourite tree. Amman prefers the neem
tree. At many of these stop-overs, she was said to have sat on a dead
fallen trunk of the neem tree and it had sprung to life.
At Vattappalai, she asked the shepherds to look for lice in her head.
And when the children did so, they saw the head full of eyes – they got
frightened she disappeared. Dead scared these children ran to the
village with news of the strange visitor. When the village folk came
running there, she was not there.
They knew it was Amman, and since she had eyes (Kann in Tamil) on her
head they assumed it must be Kannagi Amman. That was how Kannagi temple
was built at that very spot. Whether in Jaffna, Vanni or Batticaloa,
Kannagi Amman temples appeared due to Amman appearing in person or in
the dreams of ardent devotee be it king or beggar.
Thus in Lanka there were ten Palais (dwelling places) of Kannagi
Amman. In these places legend and folklore play an important part and
not history, in practising Kannagi worship.
Philosophy of Hinduism
Hinduism is a vast and profound religion. It is supposed to be the
oldest religion. It has no beginning; in fact it predates recorded
history. It should be noted that Hinduism has no human founder.
The Trimurthi: Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva
The major scriptures of the religion are Vedas, Agamas and more.
Hinduism is embraced by nearly one million people, mostly in India, Sri
Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Malaysia, Indonesia, Africa, Europe,
North and South America. Hinduism has four main denominations; Saivaism,
Saktism, Vaishavism and Smartism.
It worships one Supreme Reality called by many names and teachers
that all souls ultimately realize truth. It accepts all genuine
spiritual paths. Each soul is free to find his own way, whether by
devotion, austerity, meditation (Yoga) or selfless service.
The importance of temple worship, scripture and guru discipline
tradition are emphasized. Festivals, pilgimages, chanting of holy hymns
and home worship play a key role in Hinduism. Love non-violence, good
conduct and observance of the law of Dharma are the finer principles of
It says that the soul reincarnates until all the karmas are resolved
and God realization is attained. Hinduism is a mystical religion leading
the devotee to personally experience Truth within, finally reaching the
pinnacle of consciousness where man and God are one.
What is Karma
As Karma plays a major role in the life of a person the question
arises what is meant by karma.
Literally Karma means ‘deed or act’ and in a broader sense it is the
universal principle of cause and effect. Its action and reaction which
governs all life. In this context it is more appropriate to quote from
the book ‘Principia Ethica’ authored by GE Moore who says that all
actions are governed by cause and effect relationship.
Karma is a natural law of the mind just as gravity is a law of
matter. In the real sense karma is not fate for man acts with free will
creating his own destiny. The Vedas say that we reap what we sow.
If we do good we will reap goodness. In fact karma refers to the
totality of our actions and their concomitant reactions in this and
previous lives, all of which determines our future. How to overcome
karma? It lies in intelligent action and dispassionate action. All the
karmas do not react at once.
Some of Karmas accumulate and return unexpectedly in this or other
births. It is interesting to note that there are several kinds of karma.
They are personal, family, community, natural, global and universal.
Ancient rishis perceived personal karmas as of threefold order.
The first is sanchita the sum total of our past karmas yet to be
resolved. The second is prarabdha, the portion of sanchita to be
experienced in this life. The third type is kriyamana is what we are
In the follow up the next question paused is: is there good karma and
bad karma. All experience offers opportunities for spiritual growth.
Selfless acts yield positive, uplifting conditions. Selfish acts yield
conditions of negativity and confusion.
Good loving actions bring to us lovingness through others Mean
selfish acts bring pain and suffering. Kindness produces sweet fruits,
called punya while unkindness yields spoiled fruits called papa.
As we mature, life after life we go through much pain and joy.
Actions that are in tune with Dharma help us along the path, while
Adharmic actions impede our progress. The divine law whatever karma we
are experiencing in our life is just we meet at the moment and nothing
can happen but that we have the strength to meet it.
Even harsh karma when faced in wisdom can be the greatest catalyst
for spiritual unfoldment. Performing daily Sadhana, keeping good
company, pilgrimages to holy places, seeing to others needs – these
evoke higher energies, direct the mind to useful thoughts and avoid
creation of troublesome new karmas. The Vedas explain: According to ones
acts so does he become one becomes virtuous by virtuous action, bad by
Athma and Paramathma
Our soul was created in the image and likeliness of the Primal Soul
God Siva but it differs from the Primal Soul, in that it is immature.
When Siva is unvolutionary perfection, we are in the process of evolving
it is less resplendent than the primal Soul still evolving while God is
The soul can be compared to an acorn, which contains the mighty oak
tree but a small seed yet to develop. The soulbody matures through
experience, evolving through many lives into the splendour of God Siva.
Ultmately realizing God Siva totally in nirvikalpa Samadhi. Ultimately
the soul merges with the Primal Soul drop of water merges with its
source the ocean.
Moksha or liberation
The destiny of all souls is moksha, liberation from birth on the
physical plane. Moskha comes when earthly karma has been resolved,
Dharma well performed and God fully realized.
The soul never dies, only the physical body dies. Life, death and the
after life are all part of our path to perfect oneness with God. For
Hindus death is nobly referred to as Maliaprasthana the great journey.
When the lessons of life have been learned and the karmas reach a point
of intensity the soul leaves the physical body which then returns to
elements to the earth.
The awareness, will, memory and intelligence which we think of as
ourselves continue to exist in the soul body. Death is the most natural
experience, not to be feared. It is a quick transition from the physical
world to the astral plane, like walking through a door leaving one room
and entering another.
At death we leave the body through crown chakra entering the clear
white light and beyond in quest of Videhamukti. The Vedas affirm,’ when
a person comes to weakness be it through old age or disease, he frees
himself from these limps just as a mango, a fig or berry releases itself
from its stalk.’ After death, we continue to exist in unseen worlds,
enjoying or suffering the harvest of earthly deeds until it comes time
for yet another physical birth.
Because certain karmas can be resolved only in the physical world we
must enter another physical body to continue our evolution. The action
set in motion in previous lives form the tendencies and conditions of
the next. Reincarnation ceases when karma is resolved. God is realized
and moksha attained.
The vedas say he who has desires continues subject to birth.
Vaishnavism in a nutshell
Vaishnavism is a tradition of Hinduism, distinguished from other
schools by its worship of Vishnu or his associated avatars, principally
as Rama and Krishna, as the original and supreme God. This worship in
different perspectives or historical traditions addresses God under the
names of Narayana, Krishna, Vasudeva or more often ‘Vishnu’, and their
associated avatars. Its beliefs and practices, especially the concepts
of Bhakti and Bhakti Yoga, are based largely on the Upanishads, and
associated with the Vedas and Puranic texts such as the Bhagavad Gita,
and the Padma, Vishnu and Bhagavata Puranas.
The followers of Vaishnavism are referred to as Vaishnavas or
Vaishnavites. A large percentage of Hindus are Vaishnavas, with the vast
majority living in India. Awareness, recognition, and growth of the
belief have significantly increased outside of India in recent years.
Temple dedicated to the worship of Vishnu as Venkateswara
The Gaudiya Vaishnava branch of the tradition has significantly
increased the awareness of Vaishnavism internationally, since the
mid-1900s, largely through the activities and geographical expansion of
the Hare Krishna movement, primarily through ISKCON and more recently,
through several other Vaishnava organizations conducting preaching
activities in the West.
The term Vaishnavism entered the English language in the 19th
Century. It was formed by attaching the suffix ‘ism’ to Sanskrit
Vaishnava (IAST: vaisnava), which is the vriddhi form of Vishnu meaning
“relating, belonging, or sacred to Vishnu” or “a worshipper or follower
Principal historic branches
Bhagavatism, early Ramaism and Krishnaism, merged in historical
Vishnuism, a tradition of Historical Vedic religion, distinguished from
other traditions by its primary worship of Vishnu. Vaishnavism is
historically the first structured Vaishnava religion as “Vishnuism, in a
word, is the only cultivated native sectarian native religion of India.”
Although it is usual to speak of Vishnu as the source of the avataras,
this is only one of the names by which the god of Vaishnavism is known.
The other names include Narayana, Vasudeva and Krishna; each the name
of a divine figure with attributed supremacy, which each associated
tradition of Vaishnavism believes to be distinct. For example, in the
Krishnaism branch of Vaishnavism, such as the Gaudiya Vaishnava,
Nimbaraka and Vallabhacharya traditions, devotees worship Krishna as the
One Supreme form of God, and source of all avatars, Svayam Bhagavan, in
contrast to the belief of the devotees of the Sri Sampradaya.
The principal belief of Vishnu-centred sects is the identification of
Vishnu or Narayana as the one supreme God. This belief contrasts with
the Krishna-centred traditions, such as Vallabha, Nimbaraka and Gaudiya,
in which Krishna is considered to be the One and only Supreme God and
the source of all avataras.
The belief in the supremacy of Vishnu is based upon the many avataras
(incarnations) of Vishnu listed in the Puranic texts, which differs from
other Hindu deities such as Ganesha, Surya or Durga.
The latter are instead classified as demi-gods or devas. Vaishnavites
consider Shiva, one of the Hindu Trimurti (Trinity) as subservient to
Vishnu, and a Vaishnava himself. Swaminarayan, founder of the
Swaminarayan faith, differs with this view and holds that Vishnu and
Shiva are different aspects of the same God. Notably, the Swaminarayan
view is a minority view among Vaishnavites.
A few Vaishnava schools also identify the God of the Abrahamic
religions with Vishnu; this is problematic in instances where YHWH/Allah
is viewed as a single eternal being, outside, beyond and separate from
his creation. Vishnu is viewed through the panentheistic lens of
Hinduism where all existence is a part of God, and God includes all
Another distinguishing feature of the Vaishnava teachings, is that
God (Vishnu and/or Krishna) “is a real person and His variegated
creation is also real”. This diffusion of God in creation is also
evident in many Abrahamic traditions. Kabbalistic teachings regarding
YHWH as Ayn Sof are more compatible with Vaishnavism.
Vaishnava theology includes the central beliefs of Hinduism such as
pantheism, reincarnation, samsara, karma, and the various Yoga systems,
but with a particular emphasis on devotion (bhakti) to Vishnu through
the process of Bhakti yoga, often including singing Vishnu’s name’s (bhajan),
meditating upon his form (dharana) and performing deity worship (puja).
The practices of deity worship are primarily based on texts such as
Pańcaratra and various Samhitas.
Within their worship Vaishnava devotees consider that Vishnu is
within them, as the Antaryami or the God within and as the foundation of
their being; which is a part of the definition of the name Narayana.
Unlike other schools of Hinduism whose goal is liberation (moksha),
or union with the Supreme Brahman, the ultimate goal of Vaishnava
practice is an eternal life of bliss (ananda) in service to Vishnu, or
one of his many avatars, in the spiritual realm of ‘Vaikuntha’, which
lies beyond the temporary world of illusion (maya).
The three features of the Supreme as described in the Bhagavata
Purana—Brahman, Paramatma and Bhagavan—are viewed as the Universal
Vishnu, Vishnu within the heart, and Vishnu the personality
Vaishnavas commonly follow a process of initiation (diksha), given by
a guru, under whom they are trained to understand Vaishnava practices.
At the time of initiation, the disciple is traditionally given a
specific mantra, which the disciple will repeat, either out loud or
within the mind, as an act of worship to Vishnu or one of his avatars.
The practice of repetitive prayer is known as japa. The system of
receiving initiation and training from a spiritual master is based on
injunctions throughout the scriptures held as sacred within the
‘Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master.
Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The
self-realized souls can impart knowledge unto you because they have seen
the truth.”(Bhagavad Gita)
“One who is initiated into the Vaishnava mantra and who is devoted to
worshiping Lord Vishnu is a Vaishnava. One who is devoid of these
practices is not a Vaishnava.”(Padma Purana)
The scriptures specific to the Gaudiya Vaishnava group also state
that one who performs an act of worship as simple as chanting the name
of Vishnu or Krishna can be considered a Vaishnava by practice:
“Who chants the holy name of Krishna just once may be considered a
Vaishnava. Such a person is worshipable and is the topmost human
Attitude toward scriptures
Vaishnava traditions refer to the writings of previous acharyas in
their respective lineage or sampradya (see below) as authoritative
interpretations of scripture.
While many schools like Smartism and Advaitism encourage
interpretation of scriptures philosophically and metaphorically and not
too literally, Vaishnavism stresses the literal meaning (mukhya vritti)
as primary and indirect meaning (gauna vritti) as secondary: sakhad
upadesas tu shrutih - “The instructions of the shruti-shastra should be
accepted literally, without fanciful or allegorical interpretations.”