Thursday, 4 April 2013


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Trincomalee -- timeless: Thiru Koneswaram Temple

King Ravana

Koneswaram is the easternmost shrine of the five ancient Iswarams of Lord Shiva in the island, the others being Naguleswaram (Keerimalai), Thiruketheeswaram (Mannar), Munneswaram (Puttalam) and Tenawaram (Tevanthurai). Koneswaram has attracted thousands of pilgrims from across Asia and from 644-660 has been glorified as one of 275 Shiva Sthalams or holy Shiva dwellings on the continent.

The Koneswaram temple as a sacred place of Hindu worship of the ancient past would have remained in its original form upto the present day, had not the misguided seal of the Portuguese caused to be razed to the ground to procure building materials for this new fortifications which they built on the rock by the cliff and overlooking the deep blue sea. Further, there is a legendary story about the Koneswaram temple. A Portuguese soldier once entered the sanctum (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 God having fallen as the man for his unholy behaviour in desecrating the holy place, he had fallen accidentally into the sea below and drowned. It is said that the dead soldier's apparition could still being seen by the faithful when the priest after pooja holds his torch over the edge of the precipice as and when night falls. Koneswaram was flourishing as a great centre of Saiva worship and pilgrimage and religious songs are sung in honour of its presiding Deity by the Saiva Saint Thirugnasampanthar in the 7th century.


In 1622, this Shrine was attached and destroyed by the Portuguese General Constantine de sa de Noronha with the permission of the Viceroy of India Don Jeronimo de Azevedo to build a Fort.

He marched towards the Koneswaram temple with a formidable army, destroyed the sacred edifice, threw off idols into the sea and on its site built a triangular Fort and fortified it with artillery and garism. The required materials to build the Fort were collected from the debris of the destroyed temple.

The Dutch who draw away the Portuguese in 1658, demolished the old Fort and in its place built a bigger one acclaimed as the most magnificent Fort along the Eastern Coast of the island.

With the evacuation of the Dutch it was handed over to the British on August 26, 1795, which they named as Fort Frederick, the duke of York (1763-1827) who established the Royal Military Asylum in England in 1801, for the sons of the English service men. The Saga of this historic temple is said to have been described in a Tamil poem written by one Kavirajah Varojayan, an erudite and a celebrated bard of ancient Sri Lanka.

In the days of old, a king named Manu Neethi Kanda Cholan, who ruled over the country Cholamandalam came to know about the warders of Trincomalee had come over the island on a pilgriamge as he was a great devotee of God Shiva. Later his son Kulakoddu Maharajah, having learnt about the holy place from his father, had come over to Trincomalee and built this temple which is dedicated to Lord Shiva.

Freedom of worship

The British occupation of the maritime province of Ceylon in 1796, had one salutary effect on the inhabitants and this was in respect of the freedom of worship. The Koneswaram temple is well known for its celebrations of the traditional Ther festival, the Navarathri and Sivarathri functions. The Ther festival lasts for twenty two days in April and focuses on preparing the deities and the community for Puththandu (The Tamil New Year).

Statues of God Ganesha, God Shiva, Goddess Parvathy, God Muruga

Trincomalee Thiru Koneswaram Temple

Devotees visit this temple to attend daily poojas and make their offerings. Booths are erected outside for the sale of food, drink, brassware, pottery, cloth and holy images. These functions primarily attract Hindu to the Temple.

Chariot festival

The twenty two day annual Chariot festival begins with the hoisting of the Nanthy Flag. This is followed by the Temple processions of Lord Konesar and His Consort Mathumai Ambal, installed and pulled in an ornate chariot temple car while Deities Pillaiyar and Murugan with his two consorts Valli and Theivayanai are taken ahead in two other decorated chariots.

God Konesar is worshiped not only by Hindus, but also by Buddhists in large numbers. As such, let us all pray to God Konesar and receive His Divine Blessings.

Seeing Sathya Sri Sai Baaba

The body of Sathya Sai Baaba is non-existent now. But his soul is not visible on the earth although his spirit exists in the form of his valuable services to the world at large in the form of the institutions in his name. He extends his grace to those who approach him physically or mentally.

Puttapathi in the state of Andhra Pradesh in India is a village, now developing into a big town, is adjacent to the Karnataka state. The Holy Saint, generally believed to be an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, was born here in Puttapathi, where Telugu is spoken.

Since many Lankans both Sinhalese and Thamilians have faith in Sai Baaba's philosophy of love and social services, I wish to add a clarification as I see what would have been our origins. One may try to understand it or totally reject it. Nevertheless I shall try to place this view of mine. These two states are in Southern India from where most of us Lankans have come from and mixed. We have all come from two other states in Southern India - Kerala and Thamilnadu. We have come to be known as Sinhalese and Thamilians speaking two languages. This is not fantasy, but real if we trace our ancient history. Just above the Andhra state touching Bangla state is the state of Orissa. According to records available as history written later, Vijaya and his 700 odd friends were banished from a kingdom in Orissa.

Those days India or Bharath and Lanka were not separate countries. So the Indians and the natives- the Nagas and Yakkas- were mixed and became people of this resplendent island where we now live claiming to be belonging to either this ethnicity or that ethnicity. Depending on where we live we adapted the languages that were spoken. That's why DNA specialists might declare that we all belong to one ethnicity. Besides the Sinhalese and Thamilians there are Moors who speak Thamil, and Malays, North Indians and South East Asians forming a Lankan Nation.


On October 01, 1988 Nicholas Farar wrote an article that gives substantially a realistic account of the place and the 'Avatar'.

I desired to visit Sai Baaba and get his blessings. My second son Raam, who was in his early teens and my nephew, Saravanan, also a teenager then, and I made a somewhat 'adventurous' journey under trying conditions to Puttaparthi. Although the usual route to "Prashanthi Nilayam" from Chennai is to go first to the Karnataka capital, Bangaloooru and then take a bus from there, Raam wanted to get down at a place called Bangarpet and then go to Bangalooru.

We took the Brindavan Express from Chennai, got down at Bangarpet and found to our dismay that there was no direct bus to Puttapathy. Stranded and excited, boarded a bus to Kolar, where India's gold mines are found. Suddenly we realized that the language spoken in this area was not Thamil but Kannada. (Incidentally the formation of Kannada alphabets is similar to the formation of Sinhala alphabets). Anyhow we managed to reach Kolar in an hour's journey and got a three-wheeler to take us the old bust stand from where, we were told, a bus would take off to Puttapathy. We got into that bus, but it stopped halfway at a place called Pachilapalli.

The driver of that bus told us that he could not proceed any further because the roads were flooded. Stranded again in an unknown hamlet in semi-darkness, we awaited the arrival of the bus from Bangalooru. The time was after nine, and the bus arrived at last.

Thanking Sai Baba for saving us from a predicament, we got into the bus and reached Puttaparthi in the middle of the night.

Finding that the gates of the Prashanthi Nilayam were closed we managed to find a room in a lodge to sleep. It was awful and we had only a few winks of sleep. In the morning we booked into a respectable lodge and refreshed ourselves. In the meantime, the early morning Dharshan by the Avatar was over. However we hurried ourselves to the Bhajan at the main hall of the Ashram.

There was absolute serene atmosphere all around. Devotees from all parts of the world and of all ages and colour sat in the main hall in pin drop silence. The fact that such a mass of humanity could sit still for a long spell of more than half-an-hour awaiting the 'dharshan' of the avatar spoke for the faith, meditating ability and concentrated 'self-control' of the devotees.

I had no particular likes or dislikes of Sai Baaba before my first visit to see him a few decades ago. I was only curious to know whether he was like any other sage or fake or a hypnotist or really a saintly being that bestows good on you. But electrifying I learnt that seeing him seated far away from where I sat that he in fact does good I found him that I could not analyze him rationally. I could only feel him intuitively. He does well to individuals depending on their respective stages of mental development and he does that in his own peculiar ways. Although he did not look into my eyes straight both during the 'bhajan' and later at 'dharshan', he beckoned my effort to draw his attention by a simple nod. I saw him at close quarters as he walked slowly towards the mass of people sitting around.

He was ageing then and there was slight stilt in his walk, but his face was placid and cheerful. His eyes showed compassion, his movements of the right hand purposeful and his appearance effeminate Whether we accept him or not, Sri Sathya Sai Baaba was a phenomenon who did good to those who wished to grow and remain good in this birth itself.

There are a few people who were skeptical about his personification of good. They are now convinced of his magical and Godly powers. One such person was B V Raman, former Editor of the then Illustrated Weekly of India.

It was a celestial bliss on earth for me seeing in person the saint Sathya Sai Baaba

Chariot Festival of Sri Ponnambalavaneeswarar Temple

Colombo Kochchikade Sri Ponnambala Vaneeswarar temple's annual festival commenced with the flag hoisting ceremony on March 17, 2013 and the chariot festival was held on March 24 and the water-cutting ceremony on the following day. D M Swaminathan, Chief Trustee of this temple had made elaborate arrangements for the success of this festival.

This temple was built by Sri Ponnalambala Mudaliyar in 1857 who is the father of the great patriot Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan. After the death of Sri Ponnambala Mudaliyar this temple was managed by Sri Kumaraswamy Mudaliyar and thereafter by Sri Ponnambalam Ramanathan. Initially this temple was built with bricks and later it was replaced with granite stones. For the construction of this temple, he brought down the builders and sculptors from South India and the building project started in 1907 and it almost ended up in 1912. The first Kumbabisekam took place on November 21, 1912.

In 1967, a Rajagopuram was constructed and Kumbabisekam took place. In 1974, Sivakamasundari Ambal idol was installed. In 1986, a New Navagraha temple and Sandeswarar temple were built. In 1999, this temple was renovated and Maha Kumbabishekam took place. The renovations work of this temple was carried out with the profound support, assistance, advice and co-operation of Thevapichnam Jothida Kalai Mamani Uni Krishna Nayar. Dr Ganapathy Isthpathy helped in the temple architecture and designing. In fact, one of the ardent devotee of Sri Ponnambalavaneswarar Temple Govintha Swamy Sathasivam was a source of encouragement and tower of strength in the construction of this temple.


In this temple Nithiya (Daily) and Nimithya (occasional) poojas, and rituals are performed according to Saiva Agama codes and traditions. The first morning pooja starts at 5.30 am. The special feature of this pooja is that the priests grow Akini (fire) in the Akini Kundam. After the morning poojas, Uchikala Pooja takes place at 11.30 am and thereafter the temple doors are closed. Poojas are held at 5.00 pm and 6.30 pm in the evening where several devotees participate. The cosmic dancer Lord Siva is often referred to as Lord Nataraja, Thillai Koothan and Thandava Moorthy.

According to popular belief that the Dance of Lord Nataraja consists of five essential elements of the world which are collectively called Panchakirithiyam. The five important elements of the world are Fire, Water, Wind, Earth and Sky. The dance pose of Lord Nataraja consists of all these important elements. The right hand of Lord Nataraja holds the wind instrument Uduki and the right leg is rested as Demon (Muya Lavan). He holds Agini (Fire) in his left hand, and Ganga (river) in his tresses and the morn is worn in the tresses. The drum which is in the right hand of Lord Nataraja denotes creation, the fire in his left hand depicts the destruction, the right hand denotes the protection of all living things. Further, the Hindu temples are intended to instruct men in the art of removing the veil of attachment that covers their hearts. Thus, the renowned poet Thiyagarajah cried in the temple of Thirupathy to remove the veil of attachment, pride and hatred. The Hindu temples are meant for the testing of value of life and the awakening of Divinity in humanity inducing men to believe that the physical frame in which they live is the House of God. In Hinduism, the Supreme Lord is represented by Lord Shiva and His power is represented by His Consort Goddess Parvathy.


During the chariot festival several devotees from all parts of Colombo will congregate in large numbers to participate in this festival.

When the chariot carved out of pure silver and laden with gold deities, studded with diamonds and rubies and moves slowly from the temple, it symbolizes peace, communal harmony and eternal prosperity.

The chariot symbolizes the human body and the statue of Lord Shiva is the soul. In front of the chariot are the wooden horses depicted as galloping and the reins are attached to their mouths and held in the hands of the image of Lord Shiva.

The horses represent human passions and the reins symbolizes the necessity of restraining and guiding the passions. The journey of the chariot through the streets symbolizes the progress of life. This shows that throughout his life a man must control and guide his passions. These passions are the motive powers, the driving force of life, but unstrained and unguided they will wreck a man's life. This is the symbolic meaning of Chariot or Ther festival.

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