Sri Lanka is a wonderful island with multicultural diversity. Among them, Hinduism has a long tradition in Sri Lanka and Hindus make up about 13% of the Sri Lankan population. The highest Hindu population is in the northern province of the country. Thus, in the northern province of Sri Lanka, you can find a number of Hindu temples and religious monuments that reveal the Sri Lankan Hindu culture’s unique identity to the world. Among those Hindu Temples, Nallur Kandaswamy Hindu Temple is one of the greatest and most sacred places for Hindu people.
There are many specialties with regard to this Nallur Kandaswamy Hindu Temple, which is also famous as the Nallur Kovil. Owing to those significances, as well as because it is standing just a few miles away from the Jaffna town, many travelers tend to visit it as they explore Sri Lanka.
Still, wondering why this place is that special? Continue reading to know more about this wonderful religious attraction!
History of the Nallur Kandaswamy Hindu Temple
Nallur Kandaswamy Temple is a fascinating religious site with a long history. As per records, this temple was first established in 948 AD. As mentioned in the Yalpana Vaipava Malai, Buwanika Bahu built this temple. He was a minister of a King in Kotte in the 13th century. At that time, Nallur was the capital of the Jaffna kings. Therefore, the Royal Palace was also situated very close to this temple.
However, Senpaha Perumal who is also famous as “Sapumal Kumaru”, the adopted son of the King of Kotte, built the temple for the third time. Yet, the Portuguese destroyed the third temple in 1624. Later, they built a number of churches over the ruins. The St. James Church now covers the original land of this temple. However, again, Don Juan built the present temple.
This temple, topped by a gilded gopura (or monumental tower), was rebuilt four times by the Dutch in 1734 after being destroyed by the Portuguese. The gilded age of the Nallur temple began in the late 1890s when Arumuga Mapana Mudaliar took over the administration of the temple. With his administration, several renovation projects took place to bring this Hindu temple back to its former glory.
The temple has been gradually renovated from time to time by its successors till today. Since 1964, when the current and 10th custodian, Kumaradas Mapana Mudaliar, took over, capacious improvements have been made, virtually revamping the entire complex, physically making it the largest Hindu temple structure in the country.
The Significance of the Nallur Kandaswamy Temple
This temple holds both religious and social significance for its Tamil-majority Hindu devotees.
Mainly, as this temple is in the ancient capital town of Jaffna, it automatically grabs so much attention of any traveler, despite their religion. The city center was more like a swarming marketplace in the past. A square fort with country buildings for kings, Brahmin priests, and soldiers surrounded this area. The old Nallur Kandaswamy temple functioned within this ancient fort amid a city laid out like a traditional temple town according to Hindu tradition. So, this temple structure indeed added a light to that ancient city.
Apart from that, the Nallur Kandaswamy Hindu Temple also holds amazing artistic values. Scroll down to learn more about them!
Artistic Values of the Shrine
Nallur originally had four gated entrances. Hence, there were two main roads and four gated temples. However, when you are entering this Hindu temple, you will witness magnificent artistic values at Nallur Kandaswamy Hindu Temple.
If you enter through the main entrance of the temple, you will see an ornately carved five-story tower in Dravidian architecture, which faces east. In addition to that, the surrounding of the inner yard consists of shrines for Lord Ganesh, Vairavar, Sun, and Sandana Gopala.
Another attractive artistic architectural creation that you can see here is the golden pillars. Amid the arid landscape, golden pillars shine brightly at the temple entrance. As you walk through the archway, a high ceiling and spacious hallway will greet you.
On 21 August 2011, the temple inaugurated its new nine-storied Raja Gopura. It has the name ‘Shanmuha Raja Gopuram’ with an entrance called ‘ Swarna Vaasal’. On September 4, 2015, another new royal gopura emerged in the temple, creating a new northern entrance to the temple complex. It is famous as ‘Gubera Raja Gopuram’ and the entrance has the name ‘Kubera Vaasal’.
This tower slightly surpasses the south tower. There is also a belief that it is the largest gopuram on the island today. ‘Guberan’ is the god of wealth and he protects the north. Locals believe that this gopura will attract more wealth to the people of Jaffna and this new Royal gopura can be considered as a huge artistic value that we can see at Nallur Kandaswamy Hindu Temple.
Religious Monuments and Idols in the Temple
This temple is dedicated to Lord Murugan, the god of war, love, and beauty. The central headquarters which is also famous as a shrine is where you will find the prominent idol of Lord Murugan and many other idols of the main deities in its company.
The main deity who is Lord Murugan is in the form of the holy ‘Vel’ at the primary shrine. Furthermore, you can find it in other forms, like Shanmugar, Muthukumaraswamy, Valli Kantar with consorts Valli and Devayanai, and Thendayuthapani without consorts in the secondary shrines of the temple.
On the southern side, you can see the holy pond and Thandayuthapani shrine. Hindus dedicate those things also for Lord Murugan.
Other Specialities of the Nallur Kovil
There is a belief that there are 10th-century Chola bronzes in a locked underground chamber of the shrine. As per history, Lord Murugan who is presiding the temple, and his idol goddess received those Chola bronzes as a gift from Chola Queen Sembiyan Mahadevi in the 10th century.
The Present Status of the Temple
The fourth and present temple came up in 1734 AD. As mentioned earlier, ‘Don Juan’ Raghunatha Maapaana Mudaliyar, built it. He was a shroff of the Dutch Kachcheri during the Dutch colonial period.
At first, materials like bricks and stones were used for the construction of this temple. It has also a ‘vel’ in the middle and a cadjan roof. At the earliest stage, the temple had only two small halls. Descendants of Raghunatha Maapaana Mudaliyar ruled the temple as custodians for the past centuries and they took the lead with many additions, to bring the temple to its present eminence, glory, and acclamation today.
Later, Kumaradas Maapaana Mudaliyar also made many new additions to the temple. He introduced the annual ritual of ‘Tiruppani’, which indeed was a reason for the sharing to get its present grandeur.
However, at present, the temple has four gopurams and six bell towers, with its fortified walls giving it the appearance of a castle at Nallur. Today, the temple dazzles with its golden edifices. And yes, it is simply a substantial yet impressive place of worship where millions flock to seek blessings.
Guide to Visit the Nallur Kandaswamy Hindu Temple
As this place is too important, and sacred, for the Hindu religion, you should be mindful about how you behave on this premises. It is important that we behave and dress in a way that honors the Hindu religious values and culture. So, we are ready to answer some of the frequently asked questions, in providing you with a guide to visiting the Nallur Kandaswamy Temple.
How to Dress When Entering the Temple?
First thing is, don’t forget to remove your shoes and wash your feet at the outer well before entering the temple. Men are not allowed to wear any clothing above waist level inside the temple. It has been a Hindu custom since ancient times. Women are encouraged to wear non-revealing clothing below the knee.
What to Bring When Visiting the Temple?
Usually, folks are bringing items such as flowers, fruits, camphor, and much to offer to the sanctum. Visitors can even buy them from the shops in front of the temple, but everything except camphor and frankincense must be washed outside before offering.
What are the Other Restrictions inside the Temple Premises?
You should not take photographs inside the shrines. Other than that you should switch off your cell phones within the temple premises as it may cause disturbances to other devotees. Apart from that, keep an eye on the notices on the temple premises, and follow them in order to avoid any undesirable circumstances.
How to Take Part in the Religious Activities at the Temple?
As this is an honored place, you have to behave respectfully. Keep your palms together and hold your chest high while worshipping. Keep remembering to respect all the traditions and rituals too. By following these guidelines, you can have the best and most honorable experience inside the temple.
What is the Best Time to Visit the Nallur Kandaswamy Hindu Temple?
If you come in late August, you might be lucky enough to witness the temple’s famous 25-day festival. This famous and colorful festival is observed by numerous people from all over the world. Not only this 25-day festival but there are also a number of other festivals that are taking part at the temple. So these festivals increase the importance of this place.
The Bottom Line
As you may already know, Sri Lanka is rich with numerous cultural and religious attractions. Among them, the Nallur Kandaswamy Hindu Temple is simply a highlight owing to the historical, religious, as well as cultural values that it holds. It is obvious that Nallur Kandaswamy Temple is an important relic of Sri Lanka and has been revered in many ancient texts around the world.
Having an idea about its significance will surely add more value to your visit to the Nallur Temple. So, knowing its significance and importance make sure you don’t miss this wonderful religious attraction, especially if you are visiting Jaffna. Besides, the Sri Lankan Tourism Development Authority is improving the facilities around Jaffna, simply because of such attractions as well. So, don’t miss this wonderful Hindu shrine while you are in this charming town. Happy and safe traveling!