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Thiru Koneswaram Kovil
Koneswaram.JPG
Siva temple front gate with the bell tower
Name: Thiru Koneswaram Kovil
Date built: Earliest date 3rd century CE (probable)
Primary deity: Siva
Architecture: Dravidian architecture
Location: Trincomalee, Sri Lanka

Coordinates: 8°34′57″N 81°14′44″E / 8.5825°N 81.24556°E / 8.5825; 81.24556 Koneswaram temple also Thirukoneswaram is a Hindu temple which is located in the town Trincomalee, Sri Lanka. It is dedicated to main deity in Shaivism namely Lord Siva and is one of the five ancient Sivan temples around the island.

Contents

Origins

Trincomalee is a natural deep-water harbor that attracted great sea farers like Marco Polo, Ptolemy and sea traders from China and East Asia from the ancient times. The local name Thirukonamalai means "Holy East Hill". Kona is a derivative of the 1st Century Tamil word Kuna meaning East. Trinco as it is commonly called, has been a sea port since the days of the ancient Kings and one of the British Empire's most important ports in Asia during the second world war. From 1941-45, Trinco had been the headquarters of Lord Louis Mountbatten Allied Southeast Asia commander.

The Koneswaram temple is believed to have been a major religious shrine since before the arrival of Prince Vijaya 2500 years ago. Many inscriptions found in the surrounding area speak of Indian Pallava, Chola and even Pandya kings making contributions to the upkeep of the temple indicating an origin in antiquity. Local legend has it that it was renovated by a Tamil Chola king from South India named Kulakottan[1]. This temple is one of the four important Saivite temple connected to the revival of Hinduism in Sri Lanka. The other three temples are situated in Ketheeswaram, Munneswaram and Galle.

There is evidence that indicates at least some of the later Sinhalese Buddhist kings too maintained the temple although Buddhist King Mahasena was reported to have destroyed it and built a Buddhist temple and Dagoba in its place.

This shrine was demolished in 1622 by the Portuguese (who called it the Temple of a Thousand Columns), who fortified the heights with the materials derived from its destruction. Some of the artefacts from the demolished temple were kept in the Lisbon Museum. The stone inscription by Kulakottan has a dual fish emblem and is engraved with a prophesy stating that after 1500s, westerners with different eye colors will rule the country for the ensuing 500 years and at the end of it, the rule will revert back to Vadugus. Trincomalee was next held by the Dutch, and subsequently by them and the French alternately, till the capture of Sri Lanka by the British in 1795.

The hill face is rugged and is called 'Ravanan Veddu'. As Trinco is full of seismic and volcanic activity as seen in Kanniya Hot Springs area, this rugged face of rock is a reminder of the movement of Earth's crust in this area.

In literature

Along with Ketheeswaram in Mannar, this temple was mentioned by one of the Bhakti era Tevaram literature by one of the Nayanmars, namely Sundarar in South India, indicating its popularity even in India.

Thirukonasala Vaipavam, written by the poet V. Akilesapillai is an important literary work in Tamil on the history of this temple.

Destruction by the Portuguese

After 1505 A.D, the temple was destroyed by Portuguese catholic colonialists (along with countless Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim places of worship around the island), while the main statue was taken out to town for a festive occasion. At this time Portuguese soldiers entered into the temple dressed as Iyer priests and robbed the temple. The temple was destroyed and its building materials were used in the construction of a nearby fort by the Portuguese.

The present statues were found when digging a well in Trinco. During the time of Portuguese rule the statues were hidden in a silted well and were later forgotten. During independence, the ancient statues were finally discovered.

Reconstruction

After a gap of almost 450 years, after the Sri Lankan independence, some Sri Lankan Tamil Hindu people of Trincomalee came together and built the present temple in 1952. In size it's very small compared to the original temple.

The annual festival at this temple attracts pilgrims from all parts of India[2].

See also

References

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