Sri Lanka tour (Day 3&4)
Next morning (19/1/17) after breakfast we left the hotel in Anuradhapura with our baggage for the next leg of the tour. The first halt on the way was at Madhu church, also called Shrine of our Lady of Madhu, in Mannar district. It is a Roman Catholic church with a history of 400 years. It is also said to be the place where Sri Hanuman landed when he came searching for the whereabouts of Sita Devi. But now there is no inscription or image to commemorate this epic event. This church is visited by Buddhists and Hindus as well from all over Sri Lanka because of the belief of miraculous healing powers associated with the statue of Mother Mary and of the special mud found here. During the civil war it had housed nearly thousand refugees and has been regarded as a “demilitarised zone” for some time.
From here we travelled to Mannar coast, the place of Ram Sethu, the bridge built by Sugriva’s army across the sea to invade Lanka. This coast had been used by Liberation Tigers to smuggle fuel and supplies from India and now a naval station is there and we could wander in the coast taking in its beauty without going to the tip which is the closest point to Rameswaram. After a late lunch at a sub-standard place we made our way to Thiruketheeswaram temple, one of the five ancient temples of Lord Siva in the island. This is an ancient temple where Kethu graha is said to have worshipped Lord Siva. It is also a “padal petra sthalam” as this Lord is venerated by two great Nayanmars, Sambandar and Sundarar in their Thevaram hymns. Portugese blinded by faith and greed for temple’s wealth destroyed this temple and only 400 years later rebuilding started and the present temple is the rebuilt one. Again during civil war it was inaccessible to tourists as this area was under the control of Liberation Tigers. Here men are required to remove their upper garments before entering the temple. After offering worship at the temple we made our way to Jaffna along the causeway connecting Mannar with Jaffna peninsula enjoying the panoramic view. Our hotel of stay for night at Jaffna was Green Grass Hotel.
Next morning after breakfast, we started our usual routine of leaving for the next halt with baggage. Our first stop on the way was famous temple of Lord Muruga at Nallur known as Nallur Kandaswamy temple. Nallur is only around 2 kms from Jaffna. Here Lord Muruga is worshipped as holy Vel in the main shrine. We were disappointed as we could have a glimpse only of the Vel in the brief wave of light as Deeparadhana. The temple has an imposing Raja Gopuram, South India style. It has also shrines for Lord Ganesa, Bairavar and for Lord Muruga as Dandayuthapani in the prakara, Here also men must remove their upper garments before entering the temple. The original temple here also had suffered destruction at the hands of Portugese and this is a later construction.
After worshipping at Nallur temple we made our way to Jaffna fort. It had been damaged heavily during civil war. It is situated near a lagoon which we explored before leaving the place. We could also see a few war-damaged buildings on the way as we approached Elephant Pass where fierce battles between LTTE and Govt, forces had taken place; LTTE winning first time and taking possession of this key passage between Jaffna and northern main land. It was retaken by Govt, forces only after eight years after another bloody battle. Here there is a war memorial and also a memorial for a fallen soldier who single-handedly destroyed a tank laden with ammunition that was moving towards the army camp. Here only one has to take a deviation for Mullivaikkal and to the house of Prabhakaran. After spending some time in the memorials here, we proceeded to Kanniya hot wells after a late lunch like previous day. Kanniya hot water springs have also Ramayana connection as it is stated that here only Ravana performed last rites for his mother. Even today many Hindus perform religious rites for their loved ones here. The wells, seven in number are square in shape and not very deep. People draw water from the wells in buckets and take bath. Only Chennai Subramaniam and Narayanamoorthy took bath here.
We later went to the famous Thirukoneswaram temple. The original temple had been destroyed by the Portugese as in the case of many other Hindu temples in Sri Lanka. This has also Ramayana connections as Ravana and his mother used to offer worship to Lord Siva here. When his mother fell ill and couldn’t go to temple, Ravana wanted to move the temple to her place. As he was going to do this Lord Siva caused his sword to be dropped which made a cleft in the rock and this can be seen even today and is called ‘Ravana Vettu’. The temple is on a cliff that drops 400 ft. into the sea. This temple is hailed as “Dakshina Kailas” as it lies on the same longitude as holy Mount Kailash. The temple also finds a reference in Vayu Purana, Skanda Purana and in Mahabharatha. This is a “padal petra sthalam” as well, as Sambandar’s Thevaram hymn and Arunagirinathar’s Thiruppgazh make reference to this temple. Saint Arunagirinathar has visited this temple as well. The place Thirukoneswaram is the birth-place of sage Patanjali, author of Yoga Sutras. An imposing statue of Lord Siva greets you from a distance. Near the entrance there is a beautifully painted relief of Lord Siva with Parvathi Devi, Lord Ganesa and Lord Muruga. Besides the Moolasthanam with its shrines for Swayambu lingam and Mathumai Ammal (Uma Devi), there are also other shrines for Lord Ganesa, Lord Muruga with consorts, Lord Siva and Parvathi Devi and Bairavar besides other deities. Down the cliff overlooking the Gokarn Bay, we can descend through steps to see the statues of Ravana and Sambandar. Along the walls are painted a few scenes from Thiruvilayadal puranam. The original temple had a thousand pillared hall, like temples in South India, which was destroyed along with the temple. This temple visit was one of the most satisfying visits of the tour. From here we went to the hotel in Trincomalle, Hotel Sea Lotus Park which was on the sea-shore, the beauty of which we could appreciate next day only, as we went exploring the surroundings before departure, after breakfast.
Photos of Mannar and Jaffna in album @ https://www.flickr.com/photos/sam-sekar/albums/72157676499278793