The Sri Lanka Travel Specialists
The Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil is one of Sri Lanka’s most prominent Hindu temples and a fascinating religious site with a long history.
It was first built by the adopted son of a Sinhala King, Parakramabahu VI of the Kotte Kingdom, to please Jaffna’s Hindus after he had defeated the Vijayanagar invasion from south India. Since its original construction in 948 AD, this imposing Hindu temple, topped by a gold-encrusted gopuram (or monumental tower) has been rebuilt four times, most recently in 1734 by the Dutch after it had been destroyed by the Portuguese.
Seven times daily, offerings are made to the temple’s sacred deity, Lord Murugan (or Skanda), the God of war. Skanda’s brass-framed image and other Hindu deities like Ganesh ring the inner sanctum.
Enter through the kovil’s main entrance – one of four gateways to this extensive religious complex – which is framed by an ornately-carved five-storey tower made in a Dravidian architectural style, and explore the inner courtyard which has shrines for Lord Ganesh, Vairayar, Sun and Sandana Gopala.
In the southern wing, you will find the Thandayudhapaani shrine which is dedicated to Lord Murugan and a holy pond. There is also a locked underground cellar which contains several Chola bronzes from the 10C which were donated to the shrine by the Chola queen Sembiyan Mahadevi.
Several priests are happy to explain the temple’s history and traditions in English. Visitors must remove their shoes and men also need to remove their shirts and enter bare-chested. Visitors are also encouraged to say a prayer at the sacred tree in the southern courtyard while wrapping coins in gold-threaded cloth.
The temple is the centrepiece of the spectacular Nallur Festival which takes up most of August and attracts thousands of Hindu devotees as well as tourists attracted by the spectacle.
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