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Thiruketheeswaram Kovil

Having its roots more than 2000 years, the Thiruketheeswaram Kovil is one of the 5 main Sivan temples in Sri Lanka dedicated to ‘Eeshwaram’ or Lord Shiva. Being mentioned in fabled texts and religious manuscripts of Hindu origin, the hallowed Hindu kovil is just one of the many ancient monuments in the North that talk of the Hindu culture and how it contributes to the melting pot of culture that thrives in the island paradise of Sri Lanka.

Best Known For

  • The Thiruketheesaram Kovil, being one of the major attractions in Mannar, is best known for its significance in Hinduism, as it is one of the ‘Pancha Eeswaram’ (5 holy kovils that are dedicated to Lord Shiva) that has its origins more than 2400 years ago, even before the first kingdom of Sri Lanka was established.

Interesting Facts

  • The origins of the Thiruketheeswaram Kovil can be traced back to more than 2400 years ago and has become a centre for religious worship ever since.
  • According to legend, the ancient temple was used by Kethu Bhagavan who worshipped Lord Shiva, hence the name ‘Ketheeswaram’.
  • The temple has been dedicated to the worship of Lord Shiva ever since and is believed to have been the centre of miracles, as it is located in close proximity to the holy waters of the Palavi Tank.
  • The temple underwent many changes during its passage of time, as it has been expanded, been renovated, been destroyed only to be renovated again.
  • It is believed that the temple structure predates the religion of Christianity, as the sea port of Manthota in Mannar was a major trading point to the Naga tribe that dwelled in the Northern part of the island, in the ancient times.
  • The temple was further expanded and maintained even during the times of the Chola Empire and resulted in quite an expansion right until the first colonisers’ arrival in the 16th Century.
  • The arrival of the Portuguese meant the systematic and unfortunate dismantling of the sacred temple to build the Hammershield Fort.
  • As a result, the temple was left in a state of decay, until the arrival of the second and third colonisers.
  • The Dutch and British were much more inclusive in their rule, allowing for other faiths to practice their religion.
  • The practice of free religion meant that in 1894, archaeological excavations were able to locate the remains of the original temple, along with the Siva Lingam.
  • In 1910, local Tamils, aiming to revive lost culture, built the present temple and was given further prominence in 1949, when the holy Palavi Tank was restored to its original state.
  • During the months of February and March, the temple is flocked by many a pilgrim who observe the ‘Maha Sivaratri’ celebration or ‘Great Night of Shiva’, as it commemorates the matrimony of God Shiva to Goddess Parvathi.`
  • Even in the present day, additions and restorations are done to the temple, in order to bring it back to the grandeur it once possessed, before colonialism.

Times, Seasons and Tips

  • The legendary temple in Mannar can be visited from 7.00am to 7.00pm.
  • It is important to keep in mind that the temple is temporarily closed from 11.30am to 3.30pm, due to religious practices that take place within the walls of the temple.
  • When visiting the temple, please keep note of the fact that it is a sacred temple that is revered by many a Hindu, therefore please follow religious tradition when in the premises, which includes attire and behaviour.
  • Taking your camera along is permitted, as the interior of the temple boasts of a number of intriguing sculptures of Lord Shiva and other deities.
  • As always please refrain from bringing any polythene or plastic to the premises.

In short, the Thiruketheeswaram Kovil boasts of ancient legendary tales that reverberate even in today’s modernized world, coupled with being one of the monuments that is intimately connected to the diverse landscape of Sri Lankan society, the temple is a place that should not be missed while travelling in the North of Sri Lanka.

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