Traditional Hindu places of worship in Sri Lanka
Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil in Jaffna
The historic Kandaswamy Temple in Nallur, not far away from Jaffna's town centre, is dedicated to Lord Murugan in the form of the divine spear Vel, a well-known symbol of Tamil religiousness. Founded in the 10th century this Skanda Temple was enlarged during the 13th to 15th century when Jaffna was a major principality of the island, particularly under Chempaha Perumal, who later on became the Sinhalese king Bhuvenaikabahu VI. in Kotte. The original Nallur temple was destroyed by Portuguese invadors and replaced by a church. But within the former temple premises, called Kurukkal Valavu, the current temple building was erected in 1749, during the Dutch colonial period. Nallur is renowned for the strict discipline, order and timing of its puja ceremonies and became a landmark of Tamil Hindu cultural pride.Naguleshwaram Temple,
Naguleshvaram Kovil in Keerimalai
Keerimalai is a village 18 kms north of Jaffna at the northern shores of the Jaffna peninsula. Its two attractions are mineral springs believed to be of healing power and the adjacent famous Naguleshwaram temple, this Shiva temple is the northernmost of the 5 Isvarams, venerated since ancient times. The sage Nagula Muni was cured after bathing in the holy water of the springs and therefore built the temple for praising the Shiva Lingam.
Nagapushani Amman on Nainativu Island
Nagapushani Amman Temple is a historic Hindu temple located on the island of Nainativu, west of the Jaffna peninsula. It is dedicated to Parvati who is locally known as Nagapushani and to her consort Shiva who is named as Nayinar here. Adi Shankara, India's great 9th century Vedanta philosopher, identified the shrine as one of 64 Shakti Pithas. For Tamil people this temple for the goddess traditionally is eminently respectable. An annual 16 day Mahostavam festival of this Nagapushani Amman temple on Nainativu Island, held in June, is usually attended by more than 100,000 pilgrims.
Selva Sannidhi at the northern coast
Selva Saniddhi is the most northern temple along the famous Pada Yatra pilgrimage route. The temple is located in Thondaimanaru 25 outside Jaffna, in only 9 kms distance to Point Pedro, the northernmost spot of the island. Selva Saniddhi is a place of Vel worship. The venerated silver spear once has been brought here from its main sanctuary in Kataragama, called Katirkaman by Tamils. Selva Sannidhi is Sri Lanka's Murugan temple farthest away from Kataragama.
Thiru Koneshwaram in Trincomalee
Thiru Koneshwaram, lovely located on a rock promontory of Trincomalee, was built by Rishi Agastya on the instructions of Lord Shiva who was impressed by the devotion of King Ravana. This place is unique in this respect, the Lord building a temple for his devotee as a reward for his devotion. Lord Rama is believed to have offered his prayers here, too, in order to get rid of the malediction of killing Ravana who was a Brahmin, meaning Brahmahasthi Dosham. The famous temple built here during the glorious era of the Tamil Pallava and Chola and Pandya empires, was destructed by bigoted Portuguese Christians between 1622 and 1624.
Sri Shankari Devi Shakthi Pitam close to Koneshvaram
Adjacent to Trincomalee's famous Koneshwaram temple there is another shrine, it is small in size, but of some significance for Hindu pilgrims. Nowadays' Shankaridevi temple is a reconstruction at a new place. The original Shankaradevi temple, said to be built by Ravana, was the first in the list of Ashta Dasha (18) Shakti Pitas written down by Adi Shankara. But its whole cliff was destroyed by Portuguese cannon balls. Only a commemoration pillar is placed on that spot now. And it is believed that the original idol of the goddess has been preserved and replaced and can be venerated again now in this nearby new Shankaridevi temple.
Sri Lakshmi Narayana Perumal in Nilaveli
The Lakshmi Narayana Perumal Kovil in Nilaveli near Trincomalee is a newly restored temple complex of massive size and colourfully decorated. A bronze coloured Dhwaja Stambha, the flag mast of the temple, is erected in front of the wooden doors. As in the case of Indian Vishnu temples, a Garuda vehicle of Lord Vishnu is in front of the main shrine, which houses Lord Vishnu and his consort, Lakshmi Devi.
Kanniyai hot springs
The hot wells of Kanniyai or Kanniya are close to the mainroad to Anuradhapura, only 10 kms away from Trincomalee town. Pilgrims believe in the Kanniyai springs' healing power. There are many different versions of the myth how these curative hot water wells came into existence, most of them are connected to Ravana. One legend about Kanniyai's origin has it, that this is the place where King Ravana carried out the last rites for his mother. When he was unable to find water in order to duly perform the rites, he in anger pierced his Trishula into the ground seven times. Water started gushing out immediately. The very hot water cooled down to the present degree when Ravana's anger calmed down. The temperature of the water is different in all of the seven wells.
Kannagi Amman Kovil in Vattapalai
The Kannagi Amman temple in Vattapalai at the Nayari Lagoon southwards of Mullaitivu is the most important shrine for this highly respected goddess in Sri Lanka's Vanni area. Goddess Kannaki is the central character of the famous Tamil Epic Silapathikaram. In Sri Lanka it is believed that, after devastating South India's Madurai city in revenge for her innocent husband's execution, she settled down on the island, venerated as Pattini by Sinhalese farmers and as Kannaki by Tamils. She is said to have rested at different places in Sri Lanka, only at the tenth site she finally recovered from her wrath. The Tamil word for "tenth" is "pattham". "Palai" means "residence". The pronunciation of "Pattham-Palai" later on shifted to "Vattapalai".
Ketheeshwaram Kovil near Mannar
The Ketheeswaram temple, also known as Tirukketisivaram, is a Sri Lankan Hindu temple with a two and a half millennia long tradition as a place of Shiva worship, even claiming to be more ancient than the Sinhalese and Buddhist era of the island. Tirukketisvaram (there are many diffferent English spellings) is situated in Mannar district, but on the Sri Lanka's mainland, opposite to Mannar island. The temple was rebuilt 1903 after being destroyed by the Portuguese invaders and religious fanatics in 1575. King Ravana's wife Manthodari is believed to have been from this town, and her father is said to have built the temple. Another legend has it that the planetary god Ketu worshipped Shiva in this shrine, this is why it is called "Keteeshwaram".
Chilaw and North-West
Munneshwaram Kovil near Chilaw
The Munneshwaram Kovil close to Chilaw is one of the 5 major Shiva temples of Sri Lanka and Rameshwaram islands, called Ishwarams. According to a Tamil legend, the temple is situated at a place where king Rama prayed to Shiva after committing the worst crime according to Hindu Dharma, namely Brahmahasti, the killing of a priest, as Ravana who had to be killed by Rama in order to liberate Sita, was of Brahmin caste. Rama stopped the Vimana vehicle at Munneshwaram because of his impression the Doshana sin was not following him at this place. So he ascended from the vimana and prayed to God Shiva asking for a remedy. Shiva advised Rama to install four lingams at Manavari, Trinco, Mannar and Rameshwaram for this purpose.
Manavari Kovil north of Chilaw
Manavari, about 6 kms north of Chilaw, is the first place where Lord Rama installed a Lingam, as a remedy to Lord Shiva after commiting Brahmincide by killing king Ravana who was a Brahmin. This Shiva Lingam in Manavari is called Ramalingam because it was made by Lord Rama. There are only two Lingams in the world named after Lord Rama, the other one being that of Rameshwaram in India.
Punchi Kataragama in Madampe
This neat and courful new Replica of Kataragama temple in Madampe was dedicated to Lord Murugan in January 2012. The huge temple, situated 10 kms south of Chilaw, was donated by a local business man and land owner who is involved in the production and delivery of Toddy.
Nalanda Gedige historical tantric shrine in the Pallava style
The Nalanda gedige, geographically located in the very centre of the island, is a Buddhist temple in the first place, but exceptional in many respects. The images of this temple prove Mahayana Buddhist and even Tantric influence on this Theravada dominated island during the late Anuradhapura kingdom period (7th to 10th century). Furthermore the architectural style of this stone-built temple is obviously influenced by the Dravidian architecture of the Pallava and the Pandya kingdoms of Southern India. So the Nalanda Gedige resembles very much an ancient Hindu shrine. It could have even been a sanctuary before Buddhist times.
Shiva Devales in Polonnaruwa
Polonnaruwa was Sri Lanka's capital from the 11th till the 13.th century. Most temples are Buddhist, but more Hindu traditions were integrated in Polonnaruwa than in the earlier capital Anuradhapura, because a significant Tamil minority continued to live in this capital after the period of Chola rule in Sri Lanka. One small temple in the South-Indian Chola style is called Shiva Devale No.2, supposedly it is the only significant edifice remaining from the times of Chola occupation. Shiva Devale No.1 is one or two centuries younger, thus it was erected under Buddhist Sinhalese rule for Hindu worship of the Tamil minority. There are some more Hindu shrines for other Hindu gods in the Polonnaruwa excavation area, but mostly in ruins.
Muthumariamman Kovil in Matale
Matale is a district capital 30 kms north of Kandy. A colourful Gopuram tower, one of the tallest in Sri Lanka, marks the Hindu temple at the northern edge of the town centre. The temple was damaged during the 1983 anti-Tamil riots and renewed and embellished afterwards. It is dedicated to Muthumariamman, the most venerated goddess in rural Tamil areas in India and in Sri Lanka as well. The brahmanical tradition identifies Mariamman with Parvati as the consort of Shiva.
Batticaloa East Coast port city
Batticaloa is one of the major historic seaports of Sri Lanka. There are many Hindu temples in Batticaloa. For example Anipandi Sitivigniswara Alayar is decorated with a magnificent gopuram. The Tiruchendur Murugan Alayam Temple was built in 1984 as new stopping point for Pada Yatra pilgrims. Its Murugan image is said to have opened the eyes on its own, even before the painter began that ceremony. The 2004 Tsunami effected the temple, until the present day its gopuram leans at an conspicuous angle. Mamangam Pillaiyar Koyil is a famous hindu temple in Batticaloa close to the town center. It is believed that Rama during his search for Sita paused here and performed his prayers and placed a handful of rice for Lord Shiva. The lump of rice is said to have become a Lingam, this is why the area is called 'Mamanga-Ishwara'. The lingam is supposed to have transformed to Pillaiyar. Batticaloa's Pillaiyar temple attracts many pilgrims for its annual Thirtham festival held in June or July.
Mamangeshwara Kovil in Amarnthakali
Shri Mamangeshwarar temple in Amarnthakali, or Amirthakally, 6 kms away from Batticaloa, is a well-known holy place for Hindus, who believe that bathing in the sacred water of Mamangeshwarar tank will improve the rebirth conditions for their deceased relatives. Besides the main temple for Kali Amman there are shrines for Lord Shiva and Lord Ganesha. Amarnthakali furthermore is believed to be the site where Lord Rama and his consort Sita and his brother Lakshmana took their first meal after the war. The so-called Old or Hanuman Lake is said to have extinguished the fire set on Lord Hanuman's tail.
Mandur Pada Yatra pilgrimage station
Mandur is a village located about 40 kms south of Batticaloa city, on the inland side of the lagoon. The well-known Mandur Kandaswamy temple (Mantur Sri Kantacuvaami Kovil) is dedicated to Lord Murugan, one of the favourite gods of Tamils. Mandur is the most important Pada Yatra pilgrimage place in the Batticaloa district, even called "Cinna Katirkamam", meaning "Little Kataragama". At the end of the Mandur temple festival, after the water cutting ceremony called Theetham, young girls faint when they do Aarathi in front of Lord Murugan.
Verugal at Sri Lanka's East Coast Pada Yatra
Verugal (often spelt Verukal) is a very small hamlet in the southernmost part of the Trincomalee district. The Verugal Sri Cittira Velayudha Swami Temple, also known as Sinna Kathirgamam or Verugal Kandaswamy, is located very close to the mainroad to Batticaloa, about 50 kms south of Trincomalee, on the northern bank of the Verugal Aru river. It is dedicated to Murugan. As in the case of many other Hindu and Buddhist sanctuaries along the shores of the island the orginal temple was destroyed in the 16th century by vandalizing Portuguese Christians, but it was rebuilt later on.
Sitthandi Murugan Kovil
The Sitthandi Murugan Temple (also spelled Cittanti Murukan Temple) is one of the many shrines in the Eastern province dedicated to the veneration of Vel. This holy spear, instead of a sculpture, is an aniconic symbol of Lord Murugan. The Vel manifestation of Skanda is worshipped at many places in Tamil areas. Sri Lanka's Temples for Vel are called Tiruppatai Kovils, they were initially sanctuaries of the Vedda people, Sri Lanka's hunter-gatherer tribes. But according to one myth the temple was founded by a Siddha. In Tamil tradition a Siddha, also spelled Siddhar or Cittar, is an ascetic on the path to perfection using secret Rasayana methods to prolong meditation and life. The temple founder was a so-called Anti, too, an wayfarer without permanent residence. This is why his temple got its Siddha-Anti.
Kokkattichcholai with Svayambhu-Lingam
The temple in Kokkattichcholai is also called Tamil "Thanrhondrishwarar". This means a Shiva-Lingam "sprung up by itself". It is therefore a "Swayambhu-Lingam". Hindus believe this Shiva-Lingam to be more than 10,000 years old. Kokkattichalai likes to be counted as the 5th Ishwaram temple of Sri Lanka. But the real 5th Ishwaram temple was located at the southern shores of the island and destroyed be the Portuguese.
Thirukkovil at Pada Yatra pilgrimage route
Thirukkovil or Tirukovil is a small town in the Ampara District of Sri Lanka, located at the Eat coast main road A4, halfway between Kalmunai and Pottuvil. The Tamil name "Thirukkovil" simply means "sacred temple" or "God's temple". The local Sri Sithravalayutha Suvamy Kovil (or Citra Velayudha Swami Koil) is one more Tame Murugan temple along the Pada Yatra pilgrimage route along the East coast of Sri Lanka, but furthermore it is one of the three main coastal Tiruppatai temples of the Wedda people for worshipping the Vel, the emblematic weapon ("patai") of Lord Murugan. The Ramayana Trail Legend tells us that King Ravana's mother resided in a palace in Thirukkovil.
Okanda last Pada Yatra station before Kataragama
Okanda is a small hamlet at the eastern coast of Sri Lanka, belonging to the Ampara district. It is located at the entrance of the Kumana or Yala-East National Park. To Hindus this remote beach is well-known for its Okanthamalai Velayuda Swami shrine dedicated to Murugan. Pilgrims from the Northern and the Eastern Provinces stop over at this Murugan temple on their way to the Kataragama temple. Okanda is the last temple for Pada Yatra pilgrims at the shores of the island, from here their footpath turns to the upcountry, the inland route toKataragama crosses the national park area.
Kataragama pilgrimage site
Kataragama is the name of the god and his hometown as well. Kataragama is the Sinhalese form of Skanda, also known as Subrahmaniya. He usually is called Murugan or Kathikeya by Tamils. His local consort Valli and his Indian consort Teyvanai (Devasena) and his brother Ganesha are worshipped in their respective own shrines in the holy city of Kataragama, too. Sinhalese Buddhists worship Skanda-Kataragama as one of their four or five national gods, especially as protector of the island's south. For Buddhists Kataragama is a place additionally sanctified by a visit of the Buddha. Even Wedda Tribals and Muslim Sufis regard Kataragama as a prominent place of worshipping god. Kataragama deviyo furthermore is linked to the Ramayana Trail legend, Lord Indra is said to have given him orders to join the battle at the last day of the war to protect Lord Rama from the powerful wrath of Lanka's demon king Ravana.
Badulla Hindu temples
Badulla is the capital of Sri Lanka's Uva province. Badulla is a Sinhalese city. Because it is believed the Buddha visited this spot, the main temple Muthiyangana became a Buddhist pilgrimage place. But traditionally many Tamil traders and some families of Tamil tea plantation workers live in Badulla, too. This is why there are many Hindu temples of Badulla's Tamil minority. It is easy to join one of their puja ceremonies. Badulla's largest shrine for a god, Kataragama Devale, is frequented by Hindu and Buddhist devotees as well.
Dova Buddhist cave temple associated with Ravana
The Dova ancient rock temple next to the Bandarawela - Badulla mainroad is one of the significant rock temples in Uva province. Dova is believed to have served as a refuge of the famous king Walagambha in the first century BC. On the rear side of the Buddhist cave temples and image houses there is a small stupa inside a cave. This stupa marks the entrance, now locked, to a tunnel which is said to be 11 kms long and leading to the Ravana Ella cave and to be a part of an underground network of tunnels already built by Lanka's legendary king Ravana.
Gayatri Pitam in Nuwara Eliya
Gayathri Pitam, also spelt Gayaththri Peedam, inside Nuwara Eliya town is the first and foremost temple built for Gayathri Amman in Sri Lanka, Gayatri being an aspect of Saraswati and the Universal Mother. The temple was founded by the Gayathri Siddhar Swami Murusegu. The Shiva Lingam for this Tamil temple was brought from the Holy River Narmada. Gayathri Pitam is said to be the place from where King Ravana's son Meghanath propitiated Lord Shiva with penance and worship and in turn was granted super natural powers by the mighty god.
Sita Amman Kovil at Ashoka Vatika in Sita Eliya
The Sita Amman Temple, located halfway between the highland village Sita Eliya and the Hakgala Botanical Gardens, has become the most venerated of all Ramayana Trail sites in Sri Lanka, because it is believed to be the place where Sita spent most of the time during her captivity on the island of Lanka. After she refused to stay in Ravana's magnificent palace she was transferred to Ashoka Vatika or Ashoka Vana where she lived under Ashoka trees. It was here that Ravana's wife Mandodari visited her and that Hanuman met her for the first time, identifying himself with the finger ring of Rama. Sita is said to have bathed in the nearby stream. There are remarkable holes in the rocks at the river bank believed to be footprints of Lord Hamunan.
Sivanolipatha Malai or Siri Pada or Adam's Peak
Adam's Peak with its conical shape is Sr Lanka's most spectacular mountain situated at the south-western corner of the central highlands. It is well known for the "sacred footprint", which is a 1.8 m large depression in the rock on top of the summit. The mountain peak is a pilgrimage site held in high esteem by devotees of all world religions. In Sinhalese Buddhist tradition is held to be the footprint of the Buddha, in Tamil Hindu tradition that of Shiva, in Islamic tradition that of Adam, in Christian tradition that of St. Thomas.
Hindu Devales at Kandy's Buddhist Tooth Relic Temple
Kandy's Tooth Relic Temple is the most significant Buddhist holy place in Sri Lanka, venerated by Buddhists from Southeast Asia as well. There are four shrines for gods connected to the Buddha's Tooth Temple. These Devales, playing an important role in the processions of the Buddha's Tooth Relic, are mainly Sinhalese places of worship, whereas Tamil Hindu temples are called Kovils. But the Devales are closely connected to Hinduism in many ways. The above mentioned world-famous procession called Kandy Perahera, originates in the Ratha Yatras held for the Hindu deities. The priests of the Kataragama Devale in the city centre are not Sinhalese Kapuralas, but Tamil Brahmins.
Gadaladeniya Budhist temple with Hindu elements
The Gadaladeniya temple is one of the three Western Shrines in the surroundings of Kandy, dating from the Gampola period in the 14th century. Of those shrines Gadaladeniya is the one showing the closest relation to Indian architecture. Its outline of an Indian Shikhara-temple in a smaller size and many sculptural details prove cultural influence from the South Indian Vijayanagara empire. In Sri Lanka Gadaladeniya is famous for its paintings, particularly those at the wooden doors, for example the flower maiden. Though Gadaladeniya's main shrine is originally - and until the present day - a Buddhist sanctuary its extensions are dedicated to Hindu gods. The integration of Hindu elements into the Buddhist religion is a charakteristic feature of the Sri Lanka's Gampola period and even influenced the Kandyan art which became a pride of the Sinhalese Buddhist culture.
Lankatilaka Buddhist temple with 5 Hindu shrines
Lankatilaka (or Lankathilaka) is the most splended of the three remaining temples from the Gampola period in the 14th century. A charakteristic feature of the architectural design of this Buddhist temple is its concinnity, integrating 5 chapels for Hindu deities in an ambulatory around the main shrine under the same roof. The venerated gods are Vishnu in his Lankan appearance as Upulvan, Skanda as Kataragama, Saman protecting the sacred mountain Siri Pada, and Pattini, the Sinhalese version of the Tamil Kannaki. The fifth god is Vibhishana, Ravana's younger brother, who supported Rama and after Ravana's death became his successor as king of Lanka.
Embekke Devale for Lord Kataragama
Embekke is famous for the artful woodcarvings at the pillars of the music and dancing hall called Digge. The Embekke Devale is one of the three preserved temples of the 14th century, which is the period when the nearby town Gampola was the most important Sinhalese royal residence. In contrast to the other to temples from the same period (Lankhatilaka and Gadaladeniya) Embekke is mainly a sanctuary for a god and has a chapel for the Buddha only as an appendix. The temple is dedicated to Mahasen, a local form of Skanda-Murugan or the Sinhalese Katharagama. The regional god Devatha Bandara is worshipped in the Embekke temple premises, too.
Colombo Kovils of the Tamil Hindu community
Sri Lanka’s capital of Colombo has several Hindu Kovils, places of worship of the significant Tamil minority, celebrating pooja rituals regularly. They are in the South-Indian Dravida style, with high Gopuram towers and ornated with colourful or statues of a variety of deities. Comombo’s most ancient Kovil and one of the largest Hindu temples is Sri Kailawasanthan Swami Devasthanam, also called Kovil Veediya. The traditional commercial hub Pettah is home of Kathiresan Kovils dedicated to Lord Skanda (Lord Murugan), the god of war and victory.
Kelaniya Vibhishana Devale
Kelaniya is a Buddhist sanctuary in the first place, because it is believed to be visited by the Buddha himself. Within the temple premises there is Hindu shrine, too. It is dedicated to Lord Vibhishana who was the younger brother of Ravana but during the legendary war on Lanka a supporter of Lord Rama, because he disapproved Ravana's tresspass, the abduction of Sita. After Ravana's death Rama appointed Vibhishana as the new king of Lanka. Vibhishana is venerated by Sinhalese Buddhists as a god, they believe him to be one of the main protectors of the island, of the western territories in particular.