colours of Hinduism
Text and pix by W A M
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
Some 60,000 pilgrims attended the annual temple
festival in June-July.