After the parinirvana of Gautama Buddha, the tooth relic was preserved in Kalinga and smuggled to the island by Princess Hemamali and her husband, Prince Dantha on the instructions of her father King Guhasiva They landed in the island in Lankapattana during the reign of King Kirthi Sri Megawarna (301-328) and handed over the tooth relic.
During the reign of King Dharmapala, the relic kept hidden in Delgamuwa Vihara, Ratnapura in a grinding stone. It was brought to Kandy by Hiripitiye Diyawadana Rala and Devanagala Rathnalankara Thera.
King Vimaladharmasuriya-I built a two storey building to deposit the tooth relic and the building is now gone. In 1603 when the Portuguese invaded Kandy, it was carried to Meda Mahanuwara in Dumbara. It was recovered in the time of Rajasimha-II and it has been reported that he reinstate the original building or has built a new temple. The present day temple of the tooth was built by Vira Narendra sinha. The octagonal Patthirippuwa and moat was added during the reign of Sri Wickarama Rajasinha. Famous Kandyan architect Devandra Mulacharin is credited with building the Patthirippuwa. Originally it was used by the kings for recreational activities and later it was offered to the tooth relic. Now it is an oriental library. Although it was heavily damaged in the 1998 terrorist attack it has restored to its previous state.
THE SACRED PEREHERA
The Esala (July) Perahera in Kandy is believed to be a fusion of two separate but interconnected "Peraheras" (Processions) - The Esala and Dalada. The Esala Perahera which is thought to date back to the 3rd century BC, was a ritual enacted to request the gods for rainfall. The Dalada Perahera is believed to have begun when the sacred tooth relic of the Buddha was brought to Sri Lanka from India during the 4th Century AD.
The Modern Perahera dates back to the reign of the Kandyan King Kirthi Sri Rajasinha (1747 - 1781 AD). During these times, the tooth relic was considered private property of the King and the public never got a chance to worship it. However, King Rajasinghe decreed that the Relic be taken in procession for the masses to see and venerate.
After the Kandyan Kingdom fell to the British in1815, the custody of the Relic was handed over to the Maha Sanga (the Buddhist Clergy). In the absence of the king, a lay custodian called the "Diyawadana Nilame" was appointed to handle routine administrative matters.
The Kandy Esala Perahera begins with the Kap Situveema or Kappa, in which a sanctified young Jackfruit tree is cut and planted in the premises of each of the four Devales dedicated to the four guardian gods Natha, Vishnu, Katharagama and the goddess Pattini. Traditionally it was meant to shower blessing on the King and the people.
THE SRI MAHA BODHI TREE
The 'Bo' ( 'Bodhi') tree or Pipal (ficus religiosa) was planted as a cutting brought from India by by emperor Ashoka's daughter, the Princess Sangamitta, at some point after 236 BC. Guardians have kept uninterrupted watch over the tree ever since. There are other Bo trees around the Sir Maha Bodhi which stands on the highest terrace. In April a large number of pilgrims arrive to make offering during the Snana Pooja, and to bathe the tree with milk. Every 12th year the ceremony is particularly auspicious.
A board, paved path leads from the point you leave your shoes. It is shaded by a tent like structure - tasseled ropes crossing the path colored yellow, blue, red, white and orange. You can only see the top of the BO tree which is supported by an elaborate metal structure and is surrounded by brass railing which are bedecked with colorful prayer flags and smaller strips of cloth which pilgrims tie in expectation of prayers being answered .
ADAM'S PEAK MOUNTAIN
The mountain is located in the southern reaches of the Central Highlands, in the Ratnapura District of the Sabaragamuwa Province—lying about 40 km northeast of the city of Ratnapura. The surrounding region is largely forested hills, with no mountain of comparable size nearby. The region along the mountain is a wildlife reserve, housing many species varying from elephants to leopards, and including many endemic species.
Adam's Peak is important as a watershed. The districts to the south and the east of Adam's Peak yield precious stones—emeralds, rubies and sapphires, for which the island has been famous, and which earned for its ancient name of Ratnadvipa.
Access to the mountain is possible by 6 trails: Ratnapura-Palabaddala, Hatton-Nallathanni, Kuruwita-Erathna, Murraywatte, Mookuwatte & Malimboda. The Nallathanni & Palabaddala routes are most favored by those undertaking the climb, while the Kuruwita-Erathna trail is used less often; these trails are linked to major cities or town by bus, accounting for their popular use. The Murraywatte, Mookuwatte & Malimboda routes are hardly used, but do intersect with the Palabaddala road midway through the ascent. The usual route taken by most pilgrims is ascent via Hatton and descent via Ratnapura; although the Hatton trail is the steepest, it is also shorter than any of the other trails by approximately five kilometers. Sri Pada (Adam's peak) view. Sri Lanka
Once one of the starting 'nodes' of Palabadalla, Nallathanni or Erathna are reached, the rest of the ascent is done on foot through the forested mountainside on the steps built into it. The greater part of the track leading from the base to the summit consists of thousands of steps built in cement or rough stones. The trails are illuminated with electric light, making night-time ascent possible and safe to do even when accompanied by children. Rest stops and wayside shops along the trails serve refreshments and supplies.
Whilst there are many ancient monuments on the mountain, there is an important Peace Pagoda located half way up, built by Nipponzan Myohoji in 1978.
Due to its significance to the various people that inhabit the country, the mountain is referred to by a variety of names.
The often used Sri Pada is derived from Sanskrit, used by the Sinhalese people in a religious context; this name also has meaning in Pali, and may be translated roughly as "the sacred foot". It refers to the footprint-shaped mark at the summit, which is believed by Buddhists to be that of the Buddha. Christian and Islamic traditions assert that it is the footprint of Adam, left when first setting foot on Earth after having been cast out of paradise, giving it the name "Adam's Peak". Hindu tradition refers to the footprint as that of the Hindu deity Shiva, and thus names the mountain Shiva padam (Shiva's foot) in Tamil. Tamils may also use the name Shivanolipatha Malai to refer to the mountain.
Another Sinhala name for the mountain is Samanalakanda, which refers either to the deity Saman, who is said to live upon the mountain, or to the butterflies (samanalaya) that frequent the mountain during their annual migrations to the region. The name Sri Paada, however, is the more commonly used.
Other local and historic names include Ratnagiri ("jewelled hill"), Samantakuta ("Peak of Saman"), Svargarohanam ("the climb to heaven"), Mount Rohana and other variations on the root Rohana.
Sri Pada is first mentioned (as `Samanthakuta') in the Deepawamsa, the earliest Pali chronicle, (4th century), and also in the 5th century chronicle Mahawamsa, where it is stated that the Buddha visited the mountain peak. The chronicle Rajavaliya states that the King Valagamba (1st century BCE) had taken refuge in the forests of Adam's Peak against invaders from India, and later returned to Anuradhapura. The Mahawamsa again mentions the visit of King Vijayabahu I (1058–1114) to the mountain. The famous Chinese pilgrim and Buddhist traveler Fa Hien stayed in Sri Lanka in 411–12 CE and mentions Sri Pada although it is not made clear whether he actually visited it. The Arab traveler Ibn Batuta on arriving on the island in 1344 CE, and Marco Polo, have recorded their visits to Sri Pada. John Davy (1817) was the first English traveler to visit the peak, and recorded observing an oversized foot print carved in stone and ornamented with a single margin of brass and studded with gems.
Mihintale is a mountain peak near Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka. It is believed by Sri Lankans to be the site of a meeting between the Buddhist monk Mahinda and King Devanampiyatissa which inaugurated the presence of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. It is now a pilgrimage site, and the site of several religious monuments and abandoned structures.
Eight miles east of Anuradhapura, close to the Anuradhapura - Trincomalee Road is situated the "Missaka Pabbata" which is 1,000 feet (300 m) in height and is one of the peaks of a mountainous range. Geographically, the mountain range consists of three main hills: Ambastala, Plateau of the Mango, Rajagiri, Mountain of the King, and Aanaikuddy, the Mountain of the Elephant. The word 'Aanaikuddy' is Tamil. Thus, this mountain range should have some connection with the Tamils, probably the Tamil Buddhist Monks.
According to Dipavamsa and Mahavamsa, Thera Mahinda came to Sri Lanka from India on the full moon day of the month of Poson (June) and met King Devanampiyatissa and the people, and preached the doctrine. The traditional spot where this meeting took place is revered by the Buddhists of Sri Lanka. Therefore in the month of Poson, Buddhists make their pilgrimage to Anuradhapura and Mihintale.
“Mahinda” was the son of Emperor Ashoka of India. King Ashoka embraced Buddhism after he was inspired by a very small monk named “Nigrodha.” The King who was in great misery after seeing the loss of life caused by his waging wars to expand his empire, was struck by the peaceful countenance of such a young monk. Meeting this young monk made a turning point in his life and he thereafter, renounced wars. He was determined to spread the message of peace, to neutralize the effects from the damages caused by him through his warfare. As a result both his son and daughter were ordained as Buddha disciples, and became enlightened as Arahats. In his quest to spread the message of peace instead of war, he sent his son Mahinda, to the island of Lanka, which was also known as “Sinhalé”. This island was being ruled by his pen friend King Devanampiyatissa. Thus, “Mahinda” was the exclusive Indian name which in Sinhalé, became commonly known as “Mihindu” in the local vernacular “Sinhala”.
In Sinhala Mihin-Thalé literally means the “plateau of Mihindu”. This plateau is the flat terrain on top of a hill from where Arahat Mihindu was supposed to have called King Devanampiyatissa, by the King’s first name to stop him shooting a deer in flight. Hence, “Mihin Thalé” is a specifically Sinhala term. This is how the place has been called and still is, in the local vernacular “Sinhala”. A study of the local vernacular will give ample proof for this. Therefore, the supposition that this name “Mihin Thalé” was derived from the Tamil name Mahinda Malai is erroneous and unfounded.
This is said have been called Cetiyagiri or Sagiri, even though it was more popularly known as Mihintale - the cradle of Buddhism in Sri Lanka.
From ancient times a large number of large steps were constructed to climb Mihintale. It is stated that King Devanampiyatissa constructed a vihara and 68 caves for the bhikkhus to reside in. At Mihintale there gradually grew a number of Buddhist viharas with all the dependent buildings characteristic of monasteries of that period.
Nagadeepa (Nagadipa) or Nainativu is one of the islands of the cluster of islands in the Palk Bay off the Jaffna peninsula.
The access to Nagadeepa is from the village of Kurikattuwan (Kurikadduwan) of the island of Punkudutivu: by a 20 minute boat ride over the Palk Bay. The island of Punkudutivu is connected by a causeway over the Palk Bay to Kayts, the largest island of the cluster. Kayts is in turn reached by a longer causeway, again over the Palk Bay from the city Jaffna. The total distance (land+ sea) from Jaffna to Nagadeepa 30 km.
Jaffna city located 404km north of Colombo in the northernmost Peninsula of Sri Lanka is reached by A3 main road that link to A9 main northern motor road.
On the motorable coastal road running past the Hindu Kovil and Buddhist Temple is a string of stalls that has formed a mini bazzar stretching for about hundred meters between the two shrines. While the population of the island is approximately 2,500 Sri Lankan Tamils and about 250 Muslims, the islands sees thousands of Sinhalese Buddhists on pilgrimage to the Buddhist temple, which is considered as one of the 16 holiest Buddhist Sites of Sri Lanka by virtue of being a location Buddha had visited in the 6th century B.C.
Naka Tivu / Naka Nadu was the name of the whole Jaffna peninsula in some historical documents. There are number of Buddhist myths associated with the interactions of people of this historical place with Buddha. The two Tamil Jain and Buddhist epics of the second century - Kundalakesi and Manimekalai - describe the islet of Manipallavam of Naka Tivu/Nadu, this islet of the Jaffna peninsula, from where merchants came to obtain gems and conch shells. The protagonists of the former story by Ilango Adigal visited the island. In the latter poem by Sithalai Sattanar, the sea goddess Manimekhala brings the heroine to the island, where she worships Lord Buddha. She is also told of the petrosomatoglyph atop the mountain of the main island and a magic bowl Amudha Surabhi (cornucopia bowl) that appears once every year in a lake of the islet.
The Manimekhalai and the Mahavamsa both describe Buddha settling a dispute between two Naga princes over a gem set throne seat on Nainativu. The Tamil language inscription of the Nainativu Hindu temple by Parâkramabâhu I of the 12th century CE states that foreigners landing at new ports must meet at Kayts and they must be protected, and if ships to the islet carrying elephants and horses get shipwrecked, a fourth of the cargo must go to the treasury.
Nagadeepa Purana Viharaya is an ancient Buddhist temple situated in Jaffna district of Northern Province, Sri Lanka. It is among the country's sixteen or seventeen holiest Buddhist shrines (Solosmasthana). According to contemporary history, the Gautama Buddha visited the site after five years of attaining Enlightenment to settle the dispute between two warring Naga kings, Chulodara and Mahodara.
Ancient history according to the Mahavamsa chronicles and the Tamil Buddhist epic Manimekalai mentions a gem-studded throne and a stone with the Buddha’s footprint at the island Nainativu, (also known as Nagadeepa) which pilgrims from India visited.
Shrine of Our Lady of Madhu
The Shrine of Our Lady of Madhu is a Roman Catholic Marian shrine in Mannar district of Sri Lanka. With a history of over 400 years, this shrine acts as a center for pilgrimage and worship for Sri Lankan Catholics. The site is considered as the holiest Catholic shrine in the island and is a well known place of devotion for both Tamil and Sinhalese Catholics. The church has been a symbol of unity not just between Tamils and Sinhalese, but also between people of different religions, including Buddhists, Hindus and Protestants. Attendance for the August festival at times touched close to a million people before the outbreak of the Sri Lankan Civil War.Situated in the heart of the conflict zone, pilgrimage to this shrine was dramatically affected by the Civil War with the presence of refugee camps around the shrine complex. It was shelled a number of times.
Christianity in Sri Lanka is not well known before the 16th century although some local traditions claim that Saint Thomas the Apostle was active in the island. The Portuguese missionaries from India, especially under the authority of Saint Francis Xavier are known to have brought Roman Catholicism to the Kingdom of Jaffna, which comprised the northern peninsula of Sri Lanka. The newly converted Christians were under persecution under both the king of Jaffna and the Dutch. During this time the Catholics regrouped to form a church in Mantai installing a statue of Our Lady of Good Health in a shrine.
The Dutch invasion and the persecution of the Catholic Church in 1670, led to 20 Catholic families fleeing from Mantai, along with the statue of Mary in that church to a safer locale of Madhu. About the same time another 700 Catholics migrated from Jaffna peninsula into Wanni forests. When these two communities met in Madhu they installed a new shrine with the statue.
With the revival of Catholic faith by missionaries such as Blessed Joseph Vaz, Oratorian priests expanded the small shrine in late 17th century. With the arrival of British to the island, the persecution ceased, but the number of Catholics remained small, with just 50,000 members in 1796. With such a small community the shrine at Madhu started to attract pilgrims from all over the country. The stifling of Jesuit authority which had started in 1773 in the subcontinent built-up as a problem and eventual suppression of the Congregation in Madhu by 1834.The building of the new church was initiated by Bishop Bonjean in 1872 and his successors built a facade, the spacious presbytery, the restful chapel of the Blessed Sacrament and the grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes.
In 1920 Bishop Brault, who was very devoted to Our Lady of Madhu, obtained the Pope's sanction for the historic solemn coronation of the Statue of Our Lady of Madhu. Bishop Brault with the clergy and the laity had petitioned the Vatican Chapter through the Apostolic Delegate Cardinal Van Rossam, Prefect of the S.C. of Propaganda and he personally presented the request to the Pope, who in his audience of April 7, 1921, granted the request. In 1924 it was officially crowned by the Papal Legate who came in the name of Pope Pius XI.
Koneswaram temple of Trincomalee or Thirukonamalai Konesar Temple – The Temple of the Thousand Pillars and Dakshina-Then Kailasam is a classical-medieval Hindu temple complex in Trincomalee, a Hindu religious pilgrimage centre in Eastern Province, Sri Lanka. Built significantly during the reign of the early Cholas and the Five Dravidians of the Early Pandyan Kingdom atop Konesar Malai, a promontory overlooking Trincomalee District, Gokarna bay and the Indian Ocean, its Pallava, Chola, Pandyan and Jaffna design reflect a continual Tamil Saivite influence in the Vannimai region from the classical period. The monument contains its main shrine to Shiva in the form Kona-Eiswara, shortened to Konesar and is a major place for Hindu pilgrimage, labelled the "Rome of the Gentiles/Pagans of the Orient". Connected at the mouth of the Mahavilli Ganga River to the footprint of Shiva at Sivan Oli Padam Malai at the river’s source, the temple symbolically crowns the flow of the Ganges River from Shiva’s head of Mount Kailash to his feet.
Developed from 205 BC, the original kovil combined key features to form its basic Dravidian temple plan, such as its thousand pillared hall – “Aayiram Kaal Mandapam” – and the Jagati expanded by King Elara Manu Needhi Cholan. Regarded as the greatest building of its age for its architecture, elaborate sculptural bas-relief ornamentation adorned a black granite megalith while its multiple gold plated gopuram towers were expanded in the medieval period. One of three major Hindu shrines on the promontory with a colossal gopuram tower, it stood distinctly on the cape’s highest eminence. The journey for pilgrims in the town begins at the opening of Konesar Road and follows a path through courtyard shrines of the compound to the deities Bhadrakali, Ganesh, Vishnu Thirumal, Surya, Raavana, Ambal-Shakti, Murukan and Shiva who presides at the promontory’s height. The annual Koneswaram Temple Ther Thiruvilah festival involves the Bhadrakali temple of Trincomalee, the Pavanasam Theertham at the preserved Papanasuchunai holy well and the proximal Back Bay Sea (Theertham Karatkarai) surrounding Konesar Malai.
The complex was destroyed in colonial religious attacks between 1622 and 1624 and a fort was built at the site from its debris. A 1632 built temple located away from the city houses some of its original idols. Worldwide interest was renewed following the discovery of its underwater and land ruins, sculptures and Chola bronzes by archaeologists and Arthur C. Clarke. It has been preserved through restorations, most recently in the 1950s. Granted ownership of villages in its floruit to form the Trincomalee District, Trincomalee village is located on the cape isthmus within the compounds. The modern temple has been a source of conflict between the majority Sinhalese and minority Tamils due to its position in a geostrategically important area. Revenue from the temple provides services and food to local residents.
Koneswaram has many strong historical associations. The shrine is described in the Vayu Purana, the Konesar Kalvettu and Tevaram hymns by Sambandhar and Sundarar as a Paadal Petra Sthalam along with its west coast counterpart Ketheeswaram temple, Mannar, it is the birthplace of Patanjali, the compiler of the Yoga Sutras and was praised for its tradition by Arunagirinathar upon his visit. The Dakshina Kailasa Puranam and Manmiam works note it as Dakshina/Then Kailasam (Mount Kailash of the South) for its longitudinal position and pre-eminence, it lies directly east of Kudiramalai west coast Hindu port town, while it is the easternmost shrine of the five ancient Iswarams of Shiva on the island. Mentioned as a widely popular bay temple of the island in the Mahabharata, Ramayana and Yalpana Vaipava Malai, the Mattakallappu Manmiam confirms its sacred status for all Hindus. Kachiyappa Sivachariar’s Kanda Puranam compares the temple to Thillai Chidambaram Temple and Mount Kailash in Saivite esteem. Konesar Malai may have been the site where Yoga originated; some scholars have suggested that the worship of the almighty god Eiswara on the promontory is the most ancient form of worship existing.
Munneswaram temple is an important regional Hindu temple complex in Sri Lanka. It has been in existence at least since 1000 CE, although myths surrounding the temple associate it with the popular Indian epic Ramayana, and its legendary hero-king Rama. The temple is one of five ancient temples (Ishwarams) dedicated to Shiva in the region.
The temple complex is a collection of five temples, including a Buddhist temple. The central temple dedicated to Shiva (Siva) is the most prestigious and biggest, and is popular amongst Hindus. The other temples are dedicated to Ganesha, Ayyanayake and Kali. The Kali temple is also popular with Buddhists, who frequent the complex. Post-19th century, most of the devotees of all temples in the complex belong to the majority Sinhala Buddhist ethnic group; the temples, excluding the Ayyanayake and the Buddhist temple, are administered by families belonging to the minority Hindu Tamils.
The temple is located in Munneswaram, a village with mixed Sinhala and Tamil population situated in the historic Demala Pattuva ("Tamil division") region in the Puttalam District. The main Shiva temple owns extensive property in the surrounding villages, ownership of which was affirmed when the region was part of the medieval Kotte Kingdom. The temple was destroyed twice by the Portuguese colonial officers, who handed over the properties to the Jesuits. Although the Jesuits built a Catholic chapel over the temple foundation, locals reconstructed the temple both times. Due to religious and demographic change after the late 18th century, most surrounding villages and towns are not directly associated with the temple administration and maintenance. However, the villages of Maradankulama and Udappu are associated with organizing the main temple festival.
The main festivals celebrated at the temple include Navarathri and Sivarathri. The former is a nine-day long festival in honour of the presiding Goddess, while the latter is an overnight observation in honour of Lord Shiva. In addition to these two Hindu festivals, the temple has a festival of its own, the Munneswaram festival, a four-week long event attended by Hindus and Buddhists.
Munneswaram temple is situated in Munneswaram village, the center of the spiritual and religious life of the people dwelling in a medieval administrative division called Munneswaram Pattuva ("Munneswaram division"). For most of the temple's existence, Munneswaram Pattuva has had over 60 villages for which Maradankulama provided political leadership. The Pattuva belonged to an even bigger medieval division called Demala Pattuva ruled by semi-independent Tamil chiefs subject to Sinhalese kingdoms.The presiding deity is called Sri Munnainathar ("Lord of antiquity" alluding to its ancient roots) and the goddess is called Sri Vativampika Devi ("goddess of beautiful form" another name for Mother goddess Ambal).
The temple has historically been associated with the nearby pearling and fishing town of Chilaw, as well as the landed gentry of the surrounding villages who provided the resources to maintain the temple. Proximity to the trading routes and to the port provided an opportunity for transmission of ideas and people from India to Sri Lanka. The Pattuva has many temples dedicated to the higher echelons of Hindu or Buddhist deities, and to village guardian deities such Ayyanar or Ayyanayake, Viramunda, Kadavara and Bandara. Anthropologist Rohan Bastin speculates that the main Siva temple was once a minor shrine dedicated to village guardian deity Munisvaran that was transformed into a major Siva temple due to royal patronage. The temple was already an established temple by the 11th century CE, as it had issued coins by then. The temple began under the patronage of Pattuva chiefs and was probably constructed during the early part of the 10th century CE. A ferry transported traders, pilgrims and chroniclers such as Ibn Battuta from Tenavaram temple, Tevan Thurai to the Chera and Chola kingdoms of Tamilakam, stopping at Puttalam of the Jaffna kingdom and sailing the Gulf of Mannar during the 14th century CE.
Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil or Nallur Murugan Kovil is one of the most significant Hindu temples in the Jaffna District of Northern Province, Sri Lanka. It stands in the town of Nallur. The presiding deity is Lord Murugan in the form of the holy Vel. The idol of the Nallur Devi or goddess was given to the temple in the 10th century CE by the Chola queen Sembiyan Mahadevi, in the style of Sembian bronzes.
The Nallur Kandaswamy Temple was founded in 948. According to the Yalpana Vaipava Malai, the temple was developed at the site in the 13th century by Puvenaya Vaku, a minister to the Jaffna King Kalinga Magha. Sapumal Kumaraya (also known as Chempaha Perumal in Tamil), who ruled the Jaffna kingdom on behalf of the Kotte kingdom is credited with either building or renovating the third Nallur Kandaswamy temple. Nallur served as the capital of the Jaffna kings, with the royal palace situated very close to the temple. Nallur was built with four entrances with gates.There were two main roadways and four temples at the four gateways.
The rebuilt temples that exist now do not match their original locations which instead are occupied by churches erected by the Portuguese. The center of the city was Muthirai Santhai (market place) and was surrounded by a square fortification around it.There were courtly buildings for the kings, Brahmin priests, soldiers and other service providers. The old Nallur Kandaswamy temple functioned as a defensive fort with high walls.In general, the city was laid out like the traditional temple town according to Hindu traditions. Cankilian Thoppu, the facade of the palace of King Cankili II, can still be found in Nallur.The third temple was destroyed by the Portuguese Catholic colonial Phillippe de Oliveira in 1624 CE.
The temple is a socially important institution for the Sri Lankan Tamils Hindu identity of north Sri Lanka. In the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora, many temples have been built in Europe and North America using the same name as a cultural memory. Nallur is the epitome of punctuality, order and neatness, and provides a model for all Saiva temples. Above all it is the manner in which religious ceremonies are conducted with such impeccable timing and strict discipline that makes it a favourite amongst devotees.
The temple hosts the annual festival which begins with the hoisting of the flag – the Kodiyetram. The cloth for hoisting is obtained ceremonially from the Saddanathar Temple in the neighbourhood. This temple was patronized by Ariyachakravarthi – a king of Jaffna.
The festival is spread over a period of twenty five days during which various Yagams Abishekams and special poojas are conducted. The major religious festivals people flock to witness are the Manjam, Thirukkarthikai, Kailasavahanam, Velvimanam, Thandayuthepani,Sapparam and Ther. The Ther Thiruvila (chariot festival) the most popular of all events is a very colourful ceremony and commences at the auspicious hour – the Brahma muhurtham. The glamorously dressed Lord Murugan is brought out and placed on an elaborately designed silver throne. The huge and heavy chariot carrying the statue of God Murugan is paraded along the streets of Nallur. The chariot pulled by a rope of thousands of devotees, rich and poor, old and young stand shoulder to shoulder in pulling it giving God Murugan the opportunity to witness the sincerity and purity of the devotees.
Kataragama is a pilgrimage town sacred to Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and indigenous Vedda people of Sri Lanka. People from South India also come there to worship. The town has the Ruhunu Maha Kataragama devalaya, a shrine dedicated to Skanda-Murukan also known as Kataragamadevio. Kataragama is in the Monaragala District of Uva province, Sri Lanka. It is 228 km ESE of Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka. Although Kataragama was a small village in medieval times, today it is a fast-developing township surrounded by jungle in the southeastern region of Sri Lanka. It houses the ancient Kiri Vehera Buddhist stupa. The town has a venerable history dating back to the last centuries BCE. It was the seat of government of many Sinhalese kings during the days of Rohana kingdom. Since the 1950s the city has undergone many improvements with successive governments investing in public transportation, medical facilities, and business development and hotel services. It adjoins the popular Yala National Park.
The general vicinity of Kataragama has yielded evidence of human habitation at least 125,000 years ago. It has also yielded evidence of Mesolithic and Neolithic habitations.
During the historic period, the general area was characterized by small reservoirs for water conservation and associated paddy cultivation. Kataragama village is first mentioned in the historical annals known as Mahavamsa written in the 5th century CE. It mentions a town named Kajjaragama from which important dignitaries came to receive the sacred Bo sapling sent from Ashoka’s Mauryan Empire in 288 BCE.
It functioned as the capital of number of kings of the Ruhuna kingdom. It provided refuge to many kings from the north when the north was invaded by South Indian kingdoms. It is believed that the area was abandoned around the 13th century.
Based on archeological evidence found, it is believed that the Kiri Vehera was either renovated to build during the first century BCE. There are number of others inscriptions and ruins. By the 16th century the Kataragamadevio shrine at Kataragama had become synonymous with Skanda-Kumara who was a guardian deity of Sinhala Buddhism. The town was popular as a place of pilgrimage for Hindus from India and Sri Lanka by the 15th century. The popularity of the deity at the Kataragama temple was recorded by the Pali chronicles of Thailand such as Jinkalmali in the 16th century. There are Buddhist and Hindu legends that attribute supernatural events to the locality. Scholars such as Paul Younger and Heinz Bechert speculate that rituals practiced by the native priests of Kataragama temple betray Vedda ideals of propitiation. Hence they believe the area was of Vedda veneration that was taken over by the Buddhist and Hindus in the medieval period.
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