Sri Lanka, the well-known pearl of the Indian ocean is a diversified island from many perspectives. In fact, there is a visible diversity in climate, weather, landscape, environment, and even culture. However, the best part of the island is its community. They are very pleasant and humble, and you can only see smiling faces everywhere. Though the diversity you see among them is national and religious, the unity you will get to witness is unbelievable. Though it seems to be the majority is Sinhalese, all the people perceive equal importance. Thus, there are monuments that represent each and every religion, not one but quite a lot. Koneswaram Hindu Temple is one such religious monument ideally of Tamils, that attracts hundreds of both locals and foreigners annually.
Hence, we thought of focusing this read on this wonderful religious attraction. Continue reading and get to know all about the background details and the importance of Koneswaram Hindu Temple!
History of Koneswaram Hindu Temple
When it comes to most of the religious monuments except for a few, their history is uncertain. Hence, more or less the carvings, ruins, inscriptions, image houses, and sculptures in those places aid in guessing the times of those establishments. It is the same for Koneswaram Hindu Temple. Yes, its content provides a rough period for its birth.
Accordingly, the house carvings, literature on the shrine, and inscriptions at Koneswaram temple state that they are from the 5th to 18th centuries. Looking at them, the historical records get evidence to prove that this temple dates back approximately to the 1580 B.C. However, there is a belief that this famous Hindu temple came up amidst so many hassles that influenced stopping its establishment.
Besides, according to the anecdotes, Koneswaram was one of the five Iswarams of the Hindu deity, Shiva, in Sri Lanka before the 6th century. As per history, it was one of the most worshipped shrines on the island long before the arrival of King Vijaya. Subsequently, some say that it was a creation of the mercantile communities who frequently visited the island back during the 4th century from the Kalinga region in India. As evidence, it states that that particular region has the same kind of temple dedicated to the deity Shiva.
However, when reading through history, we can see that it has even been destroyed several times and restored accordingly throughout the historical kingdoms. To be specific, even the Kings of the Tamil dynasties who reigned the country for several periods; particularly in the Anuradhapura period renovated this shrine several times. As a result of these renovations, in the present day, it stands in the proper shape with maintenance rather than being limited to ruins.
Significance of the Koneswaram Shrine
Koneswaram, the great Hindu temple in Sri Lanka, is mostly famous for its architecture and sculptures. In fact, the black granite creations and gold-plated towers add a signature look to this shrine. All the building processes and creations run back to the medieval period and the features of the time can be seen on the premises. These artifacts and building structures add a different light to the temple and attract thousands of local and foreign crowds to visit it annually.
As you already know, Koneswaram is one of the most significant religious monuments that are related to Hinduism. Therefore, every aspect of this shrine has a significant bond with the Hindu culture, and this temple is one of the abodes of Lord Shiva (Pancha Ishwaram). Also, it has a relation with the Hindu deities such as Lord Shiva, Lord Ganesh, and Goddess Paravati. This too makes it a noteworthy religious monument that stands on the territory of Sri Lanka.
At the same time, the amendments and the improvements brought in by the colonial masters; the Dutch and the British as a result of the destruction done by the Portuguese made this temple more attractive and noteworthy on this island. Due to all these internal and external reasons, the Koneswaram temple has gained a vast significance within and out of the island as well.
Interesting Facts and the Stories Related to the Koneswaram Hindu Temple
Due to the iconic creation and the unique artifacts of the Koneswaram temple, there are a number of stories revolving around it. In fact, one can say that they are legends since every single story is very interesting and attention-seeking. All these stories are woven around either a remarkable character from the past or a deity of Hinduism.
The most noteworthy incidents related to the creation of the Koneswaram Hindu Temple are associated with Cholas. As per history, these tall tower-like buildings in this shrine are ‘Gopuram Towers’ and they are a creation of Cholas. They have added them during their ruling period in Trincomalee and it belongs to the Dravidian architecture seen in most of the Hindu temples across the world. Besides, even the triangular-shaped shrine rooms add some uniqueness to this wonderful architectural monument.
According to Hindu legends, the King Ravana of the epic Ramayanaya and his mother are believers of Lord Shiva. Hence, they used to worship the lingam form of Lord Shiva in the Koneswaram temple. History reveals that Ravana carried this lingam to Koneswaram from the well-known Mount Kailash.
There are some stories related to the destruction of Koneswaram as well. It says that colonial emperors tried to destroy it. However, this is true since history proves that most of the original artifacts and buildings of this temple got destroyed, and crashed. However, the stories reveal that those destroyed parts were buried in the deeper layers of the sea as well.
Similarly, even King Gajabahu had the intention to demolish the Koneswaram temple and convert it into a Buddhist temple. However, later he turned to Hinduism due to some miraculous cure of one of the Hindus for his blindness. Then he changed his mind about demolishing the Koneswar temple and instead preserved it during his reign.
Along with these few, there are dozens of stories woven around certain artifacts of this temple premises and there is quite a history in building up this temple.
Location of The Koneswaram Hindu Temple
Koneswaram Hindu Shrine is on the beautiful East coast of Sri Lanka, in Trincomalee to be specific. Precisely, when tracking towards the temple, you need to head towards the Northeastern coast in order to find the path to your destination. Riding beside the very coast a little bit, you will meet the Konesar road at the end of the street. Passing Fort Frederick, which nowadays is an army base, you need to climb up the road until you come across a huge line of shops. Walking amidst this shop line, you will meet various courtyard shrines.
Passing them at the very end of the road you will witness the giant statue of Shiva at the promontory. That is the place where you keep the first step to this sacred premises. Keep in mind to adhere to all the requests of the temple regarding the dress codes and behaviour. These are not rules but religious customs and traditions.
Erected on one of the world’s largest natural harbours, the Koneswaram temple gives jaw-dropping scenery to the spectators. Surrounded by the ocean by blending its vibrant colours with the bluish-green of the eastern sea, it amuses thousands of pilgrims annually. Hence, not only the creation and artifacts but the breathtaking scenery of the location mesmerizes the visitors.
The Layout and the Architecture of the Koneswaram Temple
The original temple in its early days looked as grand as any Indian Kovil premises. But with the intervention of colonizers, it lost its grandeur since they tried to destroy it and almost destroyed some parts of it. However, the original building, for its architecture and ornamentation, is one of the greatest of its age.
It appears as a typical South Indian temple with thousand-pillared halls and raised platforms which are key features of typical temples. However, these features are destroyed and now we cannot find them on the premises. It says that the tall towers(Gopuram towers) act as a landmark of Sri Lanka to the sailors sailing around the Indian ocean.
When it comes to the layout, it says that the temple has a unique layout with three temples. Europeans indicated the main shrine as the Pagod of Trincomalee or the Temple of a Thousand Columns. Some say that the ruins of the hall that are visible on the premises are the addition of Pallava artisans. It formed one of the major courtyard compounds of the Koneswaram temple. The other two which contain prolific gopura structures are prominent courtyard monuments on the promontory. Together these three became the Three Pagodas of Thirukonamalai.
The promontory contains the shrines of Ganesh, Murukan, and Badrakali. Koneswaram is on a diagonal path which leads to other two significant Hindu temples in Jaffna. They say that this path, which is around 225km, is often filled with pilgrims who travel from one corner to another by foot. Also, there is a belief that Koneswaram lies at the same longitude as Mount Kailash.
Festivals Related to the Temple
Since this temple is one of the main sacred places of the Hindu community in Sri Lanka, the temple prominently celebrates traditional Hindu festivals. According to the records, it focuses mainly on the following festivals.
- Traditional Ther chariot festival
These three festivals are celebrated in a grand manner with flooding devotees from all over the country. The temple turns into a complete festive mood with an unusual glamour all over the premises. During these festival periods, the devotees visit the temple daily and attend the daily Pujas. At the same time, there are food, drink, brassware, cloth, pottery, cloth, and holy images booths outside the premises. Also, the devotees visit the temple full of enthusiasm and dazzling clothes. Hence, the temple prioritizes these festivals with the intention of attracting not only the Hindus but all the Sri Lankans.
The following sections will brief you more about these wonderful festivals.
The Traditional Ther Chariot Festival
This is a festival related to Tamil New Year in April. This festival lasts for twenty-two days in line. During this festival, the temple prepares the deities and the community for the Puthandu, which they refer to as the Tamil New Year. This annual festival begins with hoisting the temple Nandi flag. This is followed by a procession of the deities carried in ornate chariots of the temple.
This procession is traveling around the whole Trincomalee District. After taking the chariots around and exhibiting them to the people, they take them to the water-cutting festival which is famous as Theertham. This takes place in the years-old place called Papanasachunai holy well on Swami Rock.
People bathe the deities and the Holy artifacts at that moment and they sprinkle the holy water on the devotees. During the final night, religious discourses and cultural items take place at the Dutch Bay Sea beach. Then early morning on the Puthandu day, the pilgrims take the chariots back to the temple premises through the Fort Frederick entrance and install them back.
The Navarathri Festival
This is a festival that honors various aspects of the presiding goddess. This also lasts for nine days as per the name itself with festivals and pujas. As the Hindus say this festival has a strong bond with the moon as well. The specialty is that most of the pujas take place at night and devotees are spending the nights on the temple premises.
The Sivarathri Festival
This is one of the main festivals that take place in the Koneswaram temple since both the temple itself and the festival is dedicated to the Deity Shiva. This is also famous as Maha Sivarathri day. This festival follows with a procession of three days.
On the first day, the devotees take the deities from the Swami rock to Fort Frederick in decorated temple chariots. Then the parade proceeds with devotees pulling them through a decorated path while singing hymns. Devotees along the route pay respect and worship at their doorsteps while the procession goes on. On the second day, the procession leads to the Pathirakalai Ambal temple. On the final day, the chariots come back to Koneswarama along the route following traditional Nadaswaram and Thavil musicians.
The Bottom Line
All these facts, prove to you, again and again, the significance of this wonderful religious attraction. Hence, if you are longing to experience the best of the Hindu culture of Sri Lanka, visiting the Koneswaram Hindu Temple is simply a must. From its looks to its cultural values, every aspect of this wonderful shrine has the power of amusing you. So, visit it yourself, and experience what we say. Happy and safe traveling!