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Tondeswaram temple was situated south of the main town of Galle and in a place called Dondra Head [1] is supposedly one of the five ancient Shiva temples around the island of Sri Lanka. It is one that is yet to be properly identified and rebuilt and venerated by Hindus, because it is situated in an area that is mostly Sinhala Buddhist in orientation.

Contents

Origin theories

Dondra Head also known as Devinuwara, Devundra, Dondra was an important entry port in medieval Sri lanka and housed merchants from around Asia. Amongst them South Indian traders from Tamil Nadu were prominent. Merchant guilds from India are known to have newly built or maintained previously built cultic shrines across South and South East Asia.

Many epigraphic evidence in Sinhalese, Tamil, Pali and Sanskrit found in the vicinity during the last 100 years speak of an area that housed many Hindu temples including one dedicated to Shiva.

Destruction by the Portuguese

After 1505 ACE along with countless Buddhist and Hindu temples around the island, it was destroyed by Portuguese colonialists. It is noted that prominent Hindu temples were destroyed by 1588 ACE in this area. After the destruction the locals rebuilt a temple but it was a Vishnu temple built according to Buddhist traditions and it venerated solely by the Buddhists today. Hence after the destruction, this formerly multi religious and multi ethnic city has ceased to be one.

Recovery idols

The following news item appeared in the London weekly journal News Lanka, of 5 November 1998: Tondeshwaram Nandi unearthed in November 1998 at Dondra Head. Shiva Linga found at Devinuwara.

A sculptured Shiva Linga or phallus symbol was found in the foreground of Othpilima Vihara in the historical Vichitrama Vihara. A person who was weeding the temple garden traced the sculpture. It is 4 ft in height and 2 1/2 feet in width. At an earlier occasion too a similar sculpture was found at the same premises.

As Hindu Temples have not been known to have functioned in that region in recent years, the unearthed Shiva linga may obviously be a deity from one of the Tondeshwaram Temples. As the Lingam is said to be comparatively large in size, it could even be the principal idol of the ancient temple.

What have been unearthed are extremely interesting. The Avudaiyar or the pedestal of the Shiva linga appears to be a thin slab; the upright or vertical portion is tall and slender. The Nandi ishapam appears to be of coarse finish, showing lack of suitable implements. These can therefore said to be of very ancient origin, probably of about the Pallava era.

If this Shiva linga idol now unearthed, was indeed from the ancient Tondeshwaram Temples then the event is a revelation, Shruti Laya Sangam of Great Britain has managed to acquire the photograph of this lingam and is the first institute to publish it in 500 years.

If the news item is correct, then it would indicate a Buddhist Vihara or temple has been built over the previous Hindu temple that was destroyed by the Portuguese.

See also

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