Koneswaram Temple

  • 33

Uditha Yakdehiarachchi - Google

A medieval Dravidian style temple dedicated to God Shiva, a member of the holy trinity or “trimurti” along with Brahma and God Vishnu, is located on the edge of a cape like cliff with amazing views over the Trincomalee natural harbour and the indian ocean, and regarded as one of the five most holy Shiva temples in Sri Lanka. The history of the temple goes back to the 4th-century BC. When you walk along the road to the temple you’d notice the massive seated Shiva statue, looking strong, brave and calm welcoming you to the temple complex.

Another name for God Shiva is Ishwara. The name Koneswaram was derived from the words Konam and Ishwara. Konam means cliff in Tamil. Koneswaram stands for the Ishwara temple on a cliff.

The temple was believed to be built in 4th-century BC, and Chola King Elara who ruled the Northern part of Sri Lanka had expanded the temple in the 3rd-century BC. Elara built a complex of temples surrounding the main Shiva temple. These smaller temples spread across a large area of land and they were dedicated to God Ganesha, Vishnu, Shakthi, Ravana, Murukan and Suryan. The thousand pillared hall of the temple is among the finest attractions, it was used to host religious and cultural events and it resembles the “Aayiram Kaal Mandapam” in Madurai, India. The temple was regarded as one of the greatest architectural monuments from that period of time. Many Chola invader kings contributed to the temple after Elara.
During 1622 and 1624 the temple complex was destroyed and ransacked in the Colonial Religious Attacks by Portugese. Treasures including golden statues, gems, bronze elements were ransacked. It was recorded that in 1624 during the Tamil New Year Festival, Portugese soldiers dressed as Iyer priests under the Portugese general Constantino de Sá de Noronha entered the temple and started robbing everything they saw. Priests who managed to escape fled away and buried whatever treasures they could save in the surrounding areas and the sea.

In 1956 While scuba diving in the area photographer, Mike Wilson and science-fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke discovered ruins of the original temple in the shallow waters of the area. The relics included, carved-columns, stone carvings, images, masonry works etc, and a Shiva Lingam. The legendary Lingam discovered is one of the 69 naturally formed Lingams. believed to be brought from Mount Kailash of Tibet and installed by King Ravana, now reinstalled in the temple complex.
Following its discovery the temple was renovated and provides beautiful sights for tourists and a holy place for Hindu Devotees.
You will have to walk up the hill for about five hundred meters through various stalls selling souvenirs. Be prepared to walk barefooted when you reach the top, and wear appropriately.