Trincomalee -- timeless: Thiru Koneswaram Temple
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
During the chariot festival several devotees from all parts of
Colombo will congregate in large numbers to participate in this
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.