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Eye


The rich colours of Hinduism

Text and pix by W A M Wijesinghe
When you walk in narrow streets and countryside of Jaffna peninsula, you will come across ubiquities Hindu temples spanning from the plain landscape with hundred of colourful miniature carvings.
These temples are dedicated to various Hindu Gods and goddess.
The impressive religious and decorated paintings inside the temples are based on Hindu religion and are painted in vibrant colours.
During my journey to Jaffna, I visited several Hindu temples in the peninsula.
The community of Nallur, an integral part of Jaffna city located three kilometres from Jaffna Fort on the Point Pedro road, was where the last capital and the kingdom of Jaffna was. It was founded by Sempaha Perumal in the mid-15th century, and remained the centre of the kingdom until Sangili Kumara was defeated by the Portuguese in the battle of Vannarpannai in 1619.

Nallur festival
The most impressive religious place in Jaffna today is the Nallur Kandaswamy temple, and it has one of the largest annual festival in Jaffna.
The original temple, dedicated to Murugan (Skanda, the Hindu war god) stood in the royal compound, but was burned to the ground along with the rest of the city by its Portuguese conquerors.
It was rebuilt on its present site in 1807, and has been continuously renovated and improved since then.
Punctual pujas are offered several times a day, and a regularly recited liturgy invokes not only Murugan, the eldest son of Shiva, but also King Bhuvanaika Bahu, regarded as the founder of the temple.
During the so-called ‘Nallur season’ this temple puts on its most colourful face.
Another important temple in the North is Maviddapuram Kandasamy Kovil, whose annual July festival draws pilgrims from India.

Gratitude
Maviddapuram means ‘city where the horse face vanished,’ and a legend explains this odd appellation. An 8th century Chola princess, named Marutapiravikavalli was laden not only with an unpronounceable name but also a face like a horse.
She beseeched a Shaivite sage to help relieve her condition, and he advised her to bathe in the freshwater springs at Keerimalai, about two kilometres northwest of this Kovil. Daily obeisance and submergence helped cure her condition, and in gratitude she arranged to have this temple, honouring God Skanda, constructed.
At the Keerimalai spring where the miracle cure occurred, statues of the horse-headed princess overlook the beachfront springs.
They pour into an artificial bathing pool opposite the small Naguleswarm Shivan Temple just off the road. There has been a Kovil on this site since ancient times, Hindus consider it is one of the original five Isvarms (divine residence) of early Shaivism.
Nestled in the dunes about seven kilometres from Point Pedro is a village of Vallipuram, reputed to be an ancient Tamil capital known as Singai Nagar, capital of the Kingdom of Jaffna before Nallur. It also is the site of the Vallipura Alvar Kovil, one of the country’s most important Vishnu temples, especially honouring the incarnation of ‘The Preserver’ as Krishna.

Nagadeepa Viharaya
The island of Nainativu, easily reached by boat from Kayts., is an important place for both Buddhist and Hindu pilgrims. Nagadeepa Viharaya, one of the Buddha’s three reported visits to Sri Lanka, is in Nainativu.
After the lapse of three decades, the Buddhist pilgrims from the south throng to Nagadeepa these days. Hindus are attracted to Nainativu’s Naga Pooshani Ammal Kovil.
Hindu parents carry their newborn children to this temple to ask the blessing of the Naga goddess Meenakshi, considered the “fish-eyed” consort of Shiva.
Some 60,000 pilgrims attended the annual temple festival in June-July.