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Wednesday, 3 March 2011






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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.

Chariot festival:

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.

 Munneswaram temple

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





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