Ketheeswaram in disrepair says MP
[TamilNet, Monday, 06 March 2000, 21:13 GMT]
The group of Tamil devotees from the Sri Lanka's capital who went to observe the Saivite festival of Maha Sivarathiri at the ancient Shiva temple at Thiruketheesawaram occupied by the Sri Lankan army until last Friday returned to Colombo today with reports that the shrine was in disrepair and its sanctity had been defiled.
The temple is in the Mannar main land on the northwestern coast of the island. The government promised last week to withdraw troops from the precincts of the temple following protests by Tamils locally and internationally. A former UN consultant threatened to fast unto death if troops were not withdrawn from the temple.
The group of devotees led by Colombo District Parliamentarian R.Yogarajan (Ceylon Workers' Congress) undertook the pilgrimage following an assurance by the Sri Lankan government that the army would pull out in time for the Maha Sivarathiri vigil on Saturday.
On his return from Thiruketheeswaram with 46 Tamil pilgrims today, Mr.Yogarajan said that most parts of the shrine except its sanctum sanctorum had been desecrated and that the temple was in state of disrepair.
Nine families who were engaged in temple duties had been evacuated from the area by the SLA. The houses of these temple employees and about thirty five pilgrims' rests ('madams') are dilapidated and overgrown with shrub jungles said a pilgrim who returned with the MP today. SLA personnel are still around the temple premises he added.
|A limited number of devotees were taken to the Thiruketheesawaram temple in busses. The windows of these busses were shut and completely covered with paper, denying the passengers of any outside view during the trip. Photo:TamilNet|
The SLA took only a stipulated number devotees in buses on Maha Sivarathiri day to Thiruketheeswaram temple. The windows of these buses were shut and were completely covered with paper. (see photo)
Members of the group that went from Colombo said that the SLA treated them better than the local pilgrims.
Devotees from Mannar were allowed to go to Thiruketheeswaram only after being finger printed and videoed by the SLA.
The Mannar devotees were then issued special identity cards and travel passes by the army before they were taken in the covered buses to the temple to observe the Maha Sivarathiri vigil and bathe in the Palaavi river the morning after.
The temple drew thousands of Tamil pilgrims from all over the island during this time of the year before the army moved into its precincts in 1990.