Nallur festival turns Jaffna into spiritual town

[TamilNet, Sunday, 24 August 2003, 11:44 GMT]
"Expatriate Tamils are invading Jaffna in astonishing numbers to attend the annual temple festival at Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil. Tamils in other parts of Northeast and the South are also making use of the prevailing atmosphere of peace to make their annual pilgrimage to the Nallur festival," said a delighted street vendor who has seen a marked rise in his business.

Nallur Temple The Annual Festival of Nallur Kandaswamy (Lord Murugan) Temple located in Nallur Jaffna, which started on the 3rd of August and continues for 26 days, is on its 22nd day today when the Thandayuthapaani Ceremony is due to take place. The festival culminates in the Sapparam ceremony, Car (Ther) ceremony, Theertham (Water cutting) and Poonkavanam in the last four days virtually turning Jaffna into a spiritual town.

The Temple situated on the outskirts of Jaffna traces its origin back to A.D 948 and has emerged as one of the most revered Hindu shrines. The sound financial backing for the temple by its devotees across the world and the resourcefulness of the temple administration have transformed the temple into an architectural masterpiece. In a changing world, the temple keeps pace with modern times without sacrificing its age-old rituals.

Nallur Temple
View from side entrance to the temple reflecting the newly expanded inner section of the temple

Historians say that the history of the Nallur temple is closely intertwined with the history of Jaffna. Prof.Gunrarasa of Jaffna University in his book on the Temple says that the Temple was originally constructed in a place called Kurukal Valavu in A.D 948. The temple was destroyed in AD 1450 during the invasion of the Sinhalese King Shenpakaperumal (Sapumal Kumaraya).

The same king resurrected the temple and the environments in Muthiraichanthai in 1467. The temple was again destroyed at its foundation by Portugese commander Philip De Olivereira in 1621. The Dutch rebuilt a Christian Church at the same premises. In around 1734 Krishnaiyar Suppier established a smaller shrine in Muthiraichanthi in rememberance of the destroyed Kandaswami temple.

During the same period Muslims had constructed a mosque and a statue for the multi-religious sage Sikander at Kurukkal madam. Krishnaiyar Suppier and Maapaaner with the assistance of the Government removed the statue and the mosque and rebuilt the present temple in 1749.

Nallur Temple
Devotees chanting at an alternate smaller entrance to the temple

The festival calender for this year follows:
  • First Day : Kodi Etram (Flag Hoisting) took place at 10:00 on the 03th of August 2003.
  • Tenth Day : Mancham at 17:00 on the 12th of August 2003.
  • Eigteenth Day : Karthigai Festival commenced at 17:00 on the 20th of August 2003.
  • Twentieth Day : Santhana Gobalar Festival and Kailasa Vahanam took place at 07:00 and 17:00 respectively on the 22nd of August 2003.
  • Twenty First Day : Velvimanam will take place at 17:00 on the 23rd of August 2003.
  • Twenty Second Day : Thandayuthapaani Ceremony will take place at 07:00 on the 24th of August 2003.
  • Twenty Third Day : Sapparam Ceremony will take place at 17:00 on the 25th of August 2003.
  • Twenty Fourth Day : Car Festival will take place at 07:00 on the 26th of August 2003.
  • Twenty Fifth Fay : Theertham Ceremony will take palce at 07:00 on the 27th of August 2003.
  • Twenty Sixth Day : Poonkavanam Festival will take place at 17:00 on the 28th of August 2003.

The highlight of the year will be the "Ther" (chariot) festival. From early morning the Temple bells will ring out their message filling the area with a spiritual atmosphere. The "Ther" is taken round the outer-yard by hundreds of devotees, and accompanied by instrumental music and devotional songs. The festivals end with the Theertham Ceremony , which symbolises the cutting of the knots of worldly attachments by devotees.

Nallur Temple
Helpers from local schools assisting in maintaining order during temple festival

A unique feature in all Murugan temples is that of devotees arriving with Kavadies . On the last two days of the Annual Festival at this Temple, pilgrims carrying Kavadies converge on its precincts. Several varieties of Kavadies can be seen and a number of devotees have their tongues and cheeks pierced with a Vel while carrying the Kavady.

Nallur TempleNallur Temple
Nallur templeNallur
An album of street vendors at the Nallur Temple

Many Temple ceremonies commemorate events in mythology, which symbolise the destruction of forces of evil. To many Hindus myths and symbols are the foundation of their reality.

Related Articles:
10.08.03   Priests champion revival of HSZ Hindu temples
18.03.03   Government urged to declare Keerimalai in HSZ sacred area

External Links:
: Nallur Kandaswamy Temple


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