OUR CHERISHED MEMORIES OF TWO LORD SRI KARTHIKEYA TEMPLES AT MAVETTAPURAM & NALLUR,
JAFFNA PENNINSULA, SRI LANKA
G.Pathmanathan (Dept of Anthropology, Panjab University, Chandigarh, India) And Raghavan Pathmanathan
(School of Archaeology & Anthropology, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia)
THE OUTBREAK OF “HELL” BY THE PORTUGUESE ON JAFFNA
Colonial era Map of the Jaffna kingdom. 1619
Ancient Ceylon was ruled by Portuguese, Dutch and British. Among the rulers who ruled the primeval Ceylon – The Portuguese, Dutch and the British – the Portuguese rulers were brutal.- besides levying heavy taxes on the local populations they also spread religious fanaticism. They forcefully converted people of other religions to Catholicism. Even the Dutch were religious fanatics but more tactful than the Portuguese in handling the locals. They permitted the Jaffna Hindus to carry on their religious affairs with restrictions. Compared to these earlier invaders the Britishers were more intelligent administrators. They gave local more freedom to the local population during their tenure. Even though they involved in conversion of religion but they did it with utmost care. There was no forceful conversion of Hindus into Christianity reported during their regime. They lured the people into religious conversion by offering education, powerful jobs and money.
Portuguese traders reached Sri Lanka in 1505. Their main interest was on were the southwestern coastal Kotte kingdom, which enjoyed a lucrative monopoly on the spice trade. Later the Jaffna kingdom attaracted the attention of Portuguese officials in Colombo for the following reasons, 1. The supportive Roman Catholic missionary activities 2. The anti-Portuguese factions within the Kotte kingdom like those of the chieftains from Sitawaka plus the lucrative markets and strategic benefits of Jaffna’s Vannimai chieftaincies. By the late 16th century, Portuguese influence strengthened in the courts of the Kandyan and Kotte kingdoms and some of Jaffna’s Vannimai chieftaincies were subdued by these kings. The Jaffna kingdom functioned as a logistical base for the Kandyan kingdom, located in the central highlands without access to any seaports. They gained access to the Tamil seaports of Trincomalee and Batticaloa in the east, but the Jaffna peninsula proved more convenient as an entry port for military aid arriving from South India. Furthermore, it was feared by the Portuguese that (due to its strategic location) the Jaffna kingdom might become a beachhead for Dutch landings.It was king Sankili I who resisted contacts with the Portuguese, and even massacred six to seven hundred Parava Catholics in the island of Mannar. These Catholics had been brought from India to Mannar to take over the lucrative pearl fisheries extending to Puttalam from the Jaffna kings.
With the death of Pararasasekaran in 1617, Sankili II, a usurper, took control of the throne after killing the regent nominated by the Ethirimanna Cinkam. Unable to secure Portuguese acceptance of his kingship, Sankili II invited military aid from the Thanjavur Nayaks and allowed corsairs from Malabar to use a base in Neduntivu, hence posing a threat to Portuguese shipping routes through Palk Strait. By June 1619, there were two Portuguese expeditions; a naval expedition that was repulsed by the Malabari corsairs and another expedition by Phillippe de Oliveira and his land army of 5000, which was able to defeat Sankili. Sankili, along with every surviving member of the royal family, was captured and taken to Goa, where he was hung till death. The remaining captives were asked to become monks or nuns in the holy orders, and as most obliged; their celibacy avoided the production of further claimants to the Jaffna throne.]Although the Portuguese attempted to eliminate the Jaffna royal family through celibacy, a number of families of Sri Lankan Tamil origin claim descent from the royal family today”.
The majestic western Rajagopuram of Sri Mavettapuram Skanda Temple
We distinctly remember our childhood days in Jaffna .They were just like R.K Narayanan’s “Malgudi days”. We were brought up in oriental rich Hindu culture of Jaffna. We belong to a family with immense love for Lord Shiva family- the First Family of Hinduism, especially for Lord Sri Skanda and Goddess Lok Mata Parvati/ Ma Kali / Ma Durga.
Often our father and maternal grandfather (who came from Periya Velaan Dist KKS) took us to Sri Mavettapuram & Sri Naguleswaram Temples. On the way from Thellipallai to KKS ( Kankesan Thurai), we used to compete with each other to watch the grand and giant tower of Sri Mavai Skanda Temple. We both left Jaffna way back in 1977 and the entire family shifted finally in 1989. Except our elder brother who is an engineer cum civil contractor stayed back in Jaffna. Since we lived in the vicinity of Nallur Skanda Temple, we miss our presence during the grand annual Brahmotsav of our beloved Prince of Nallur – Sri Karthikeya. Mavettapuram Skanda Temple is famous among the Hindu devotees for miracles. Who ever visits that Temple got cured of their ailment by Lord Sri Skanda. We were thrilled to watch “five grand carts “ or “Panch Raths” festival of Kaliyug Varda of Mavai.
The thrill and happiness, I had when I visited Maavai Temple after 30 years was tremendous. I, (RP) was accompanied by Sri Dharmalinga Gurrukkal of Sri Kanchipuram. Since my elder brother was a popular figure, we never had any problems in visiting the Temple. Although that time the Temple was surrounded by army barracks as it came under strict security vigilant zone. We could see the random movements of wild bores, cattle and goats.
We were greeted by the Chief Temple Pandit and a battery of other priests. They took us around and narrated the entire history, shastra – sambradaya (Socio- Cultural sequences), origin of the Temple, religious conflicts during the Portuguese regime, annual Maha Brahmotsav and other festivals.
When we started our discussion about the origin and development of this miraculous Sri Mavai Temple, the chief Panditji narrated many things. It seems that the Temple has a wonderful backup combined history of both…..Mythological as well as Historical.
According to Mythological concepts, the ancient Ceylon was governed by three different clans. They were Yakkas, Nagas and Vedahs. The last aboriginal or indigenous population which governed ancient Ceylon was Vedahs. Kuveni was their Princess. Vijaya was a Kalinga Prince. He and 200 odd his friends were driven away by his father who was the King of Orissa, India. Prince Vijaya married the aboriginal Princess Kuveni. According to Shanmuga Priya (2005), later, Prince Vijaya built up five Lord Shiva Temples in the ancient Ceylon (Sri Lanka). They are, Thiruketheeswaram in the Northwest, Thirukoneswaram in the East, Sri Muneswaram in the West, Sri Naguleswaram in the North and the Chandraspkaram in the South. And he also built up a temple for Lord Skanda in the North called “Sri Mavettapuram Kovil”.
However, this claim has fanned serious debates and doubts as historical evidences point out that Thiruketheesawaram at Mannar was built by the one of the mighty Chola Kings called Rajendra Chola. Which is also supported by Archaeological evidences which point out the recoveries of many Chola artifacts, unearthed from the present location. Further some records indicate that the Demon King Ravana, who was a Pujari or Priest to Lord Shiva built the SriKoneswaram and Sri Muneeswaram Temples. According to another story, Prince Vijaya first arrived at Maathottam / Manthai ( Mannar) in 4th century .BC or 2400 yrs .B.P. This claim coordinates very well with the early Iron Age of India. It is mentioned that Prince Vijaya paid obeisance at Thirukeetheswaram. History also says that the Original Thirukeetheswaram Temple was little bit away from the present location. According to Idhihas, Sri Koneswaram was built by the mighty demon King Ravana for his God Lok Nayak, Sri Maha Eshwar (Lord Shiva).
An engraved statue of Pandiya Princess Sri Maragatha Valli with horse like face ( prognathism) before blessed by Lord Sri Skanda: Photo by R.P
Nowadays we witness that the real history is often twisted /altered with a pseudo story for political mileage. Unbelievable alterations are created under the instructions of selfish politicians for their own political gains. As per the historical & archaeological evidences, we strongly believe that this Temple was built by the Cholas. We have many evidences to proof our claim.
Sri Keerimallai is another historically and religiously important holy place for the Tamil Hindus of Sri Lanka. Antim Ardas (final death rites) of Hindus are conducted here for the many centuries. According to some of the historical documents, a hunter – gatherer disturbed the meditation of Saint Sudama. He was cursed by St.Sudama to have a face of mongoose. Shaken by St.Sudama’s curse, the hunter asked for mercy and remedy. St.Sudama has directed him to visit and take the bath in the holy water of “Gangadi Dheerdam” at Keerimallai. The hunter’s face changed into human after taking the bath at Keerimalai.. Here, Lord Shiva is known as Sri Nagulaswar and his Devi (Goddess Sri Parvati) at this place is known as Sri Naguleshwari Ambal or Sri Ngulambigai. The Temple which is devoted to Sri Lord Shiva family at Sri Keerimalai is known as “Sri Naguleshwaram”. Nagulam in Sanskrit is known as Mangoose (Nevula in Hindi).
Maavettapuram: The term Mavettapuram can be divided into three:Ma means Horse; vetta means changed or cured; puram means area or location. According to some Hindu epics, an Oriyan Princess named Kanagasundari often visited many religious & spiritual places. Once she visited the mount of Pothigai (India) – the abode of Saint Agasthiya. She laughed loudly at the horse like facial features of Saint Hayakriva. Angered by her action the Saint cursed her to have a horse like face. Princess Kanagasundari pleaded for mercy and eventually she was cured by the saint after conducting an elaborated Yaag for Lord Sri Skanda. After centuries Princess Kanagasundari reborn as a Princess Maragathavalli alias Maruthapuraveekavalli of Pandya Kingdom at Madurai in 7th century. She was born with a facial deformation or prognathism. Princess Maragathavalli visited the holy lagoon of Sri Keerimalai and Sri Mavettapuram Skanda Temple. There her horse like face changed into a beautiful human face. She stayed there and reconstructed the Mavettapuram Temple and installed new idols made of granite, gold, silver and five metal amalgam. Most of the construction material and idols were transported from South India. She was also a regular visitor to Sri Naguleswar Temple at Keerimalai.She named the Lord Sri Skanda’s Temple area as “Duragagana Vimoshanapuri” (in Sanskrit).In Tamil it is known Maavettapuram. Lord Sri Karthikeya’s Mavettapuram Temple was expanded and flourished mainly during the early Iron Age period. King Pandiya has sent a large number artisans including famous builders, artists, musicians, singers, poets, priests / pundits and thousands of helpers to build the temple as per Vatsu and Ahama Shastras.
Engraved staute of Princess Sri Maragatha Valli : after the changes occurred on her face. Soon after she was blessed by Lord Sri Karthikeya of Sri Mavettapuram Temple .Photo by R.P
King Pandiya himself led this holy mission for constructing this magnificent Hindu temple in Northern Ceylon (Sri Lanka).The deities both Mulasthana murthis (Sri Garbagraha) and Utsav murthis or Eluntharilis including Lord Sri Karthikeya, Goddess Sri Valli Sri Devyani , Sri Ganesh and Sri Maha Laxmi were made in Thellai Sri Natraj Temple at Chidambaram. Besides the expensive metallic material , highly precious gems also embossed on the temple walls. Ancient sea port of Gayathurai was renamed as Kangesandurai / Kangesanthurai. The new named has been acquired after installation of Lord Sri Karthikeya at Mavettapuram. Sri Kankeyan is another name of Lord Karthikeya.The installation of deities were under the supervision of a Maha Pandit or Dikshidar of Sri Chidambaram temple who accompanied them from India.
Engraved statue of Lord Sri Maha Vishnu on one of the interior pillars at Sri Mavettapuram Sri Skanda Temple Photo by R.P
Photo by R.P
Wonderfully crafted old temple Rath of Sri Mavettapuram. All vedic and purana stories are magnificently crafted by the ancient carpenters of a bygone era. Sri Meenakshi –Sundarasar’s holy wedding ceremony can be seen on the left side.
Many purana episodes are crafted on the wood of the ancient Rath at Sri Mavettapuram temple Photos by R.P
Lok Mata Sri Parvati, Lord Sri Ganesh, Lord Sri Karthikeya and Lord Sri Bairav Murthi.Photos by R.P
Lower & middle parts of the ancient holy cart / Rath of Sri Mavettapuram Temple
The main entrance of the Holy Mavettapuram temple was converted as a Catholic Church by Portuguese invaders during the mid 1500s A.D Photos by P.R
King Ugrasena who was on a pilgrimage was captured by the beauty and charming nature of the Princess Maragathavalli and tried to have a forced marriage. The Princess down rightly rejected his proposal. But her father, King Pandiya was keen to get his daughter married to King Ugrasena. Princess Maragathavalli agreed to marry King Upgrsena on one condition – that was after the completion of the sacred mission only she would marry. King Ugrasena agreed to this condition and worked together with the Princess in completing the construction work and the series of installation ceremonies at Mavettapuram Temple.
The entire Temple work was completed with a MahaKumbabishek(am) on “Aani Uttra Nakshatra” Eventually Princess Maragathavalli married King Ugrasena and went along with him to his country.
Who was this King Urgrasena? According to Wikipedia, Ugrasena (Sanskrit: उग्रसेन) was a King of Mathura, of Yadava clans, i.e., Vrishnis and Bhojas. It was decided that the dividing states would be united and the succeeding leader would be chosen by a simple majority, thus, a semi-democracy was established. It was unanimously decided to throne Ugrasena as the king due to his skills and policies.
According to the Vayu Purana, Ugrasena belonged to the Kukuraclan(Kukurodbhava), was son of Ahuka.Ugrasena married to Queen Padmavati. He was father of Kamsa and Rajimati who was to get married to Neminath but later got initiated as a nun. Due to the continuous insistence of Kamsa, Ugrasena declared him as the crown prince and the commander in chief of the army of Mathura, therefore guaranteeing the succession of kingship after his retirement or death. However, due to Kamsa’s ruthless actions and merciless behavior the father was about to dethrone Kamsa. Sensing this, Kamsa overthrew his father with the support of his father-in-law, King Jarasandha of Magadha and his immense military. After the coup, Kamsa imprisoned his father and kept him in the deepest pits of jail for a long time.
Later Kamsa was killed by Lord Krishna, and Ugrasena was reinstalled the King of Mathura and ruled over the kingdom for a while. Vasudeva the father of Lord Krishna was the crown prince under his second reign.
Princess Maragathavalli is Padmavati.and King Ugrasena was the King of Mathura in Uttar Pradesh- the birth place of Lord Krishna.
emple’s Peahen at Sri Mavettapuram: Photographed was taken on 6th Dec,2011 by P.R
THE SACRED AFFILIATION WITH LORD SRI KARTHIKEYA’S HEAVENLY BIRD PEACOCK: AN AMAZING EXPERIENCE AT SRI MAVETTAPURAM KOVIL
According to the historical records the Mavettapuram or Mavai Temple was often attacked by the foreign invaders mainly by the Portuguese who converted the front potion of the Temple into a Catholic Church. Later on, it was re-established by the Hindus during the British regime (200 years ago). Even during the recent armed conflicts between the Tamil militants and the Sri Lankan army, the Temple was partly damaged. Later on it was repaired and renovated by my elder brother Giridaran with the help of the government.
Our devotion to Sri Skanda
My siblings and I have unconditional love and commitment towards the wild and stray animals and birds. This is probably due to our early childhood grooming. We lived in a huge house with a large compound as a joint family. We had various animals and birds as pets. Unlike humans, animals never attack you unless they are provoked to do so. My sister Gayatri says that they let you know their tolerance limit. Since 2000, everyday without fail we have been going through a road which leads to a park next to the sector 16 cricket stadium at Chandigarh. In earlier days Sister and I walked with our little cocker spaniels Money, Rui and Smarty to feed the peacocks with ground nuts.
After a tireless effort, the wild peacocks started accepting our goodwill gesture. They are large heavenly and most beautiful birds of the planet. Till this day, they keep on waiting for our morning treat. Most of them used to sit on the large branches of the eucalyptus trees and give us friendly calls. Often they come down and dance by opening their multicolored tail feathers in front of us. Even during the severe winters and heavy down pours they come down and wait for us at a particular time. Like the dogs, they also communicate with us with mimic gestures. After many years they have started accepting the feed at very close distance. Although two year ago, sister Gayatri had shifted from Sector -16 but still she visits them every day. It is really amazing that these heavenly birds recognize and give us friendly calls even during our night walks. Many times sister prayed to our beloved Lord Murga to provide a place very close to his peacocks. Believe it or not Lord Karthikeya has answered her prayers by granting a very beautiful and independent house just opposite to the jungle which is only few steps from the house inside the Panjab University campus. The day we shifted we could hear their friendly calls from the jungle. There are many wild animals freely roam inside the compound as well as in front of her house. The most astonishing fact is that there are ample number of peacocks, peahens and wild fowls. We started giving the peanuts and other cereals to them also.
With the time passage our beloved pets cocker spaniels died one after another. It is something amazing that our pets died in front of my eyes as I am always on move in between to Australia –India or India to South and Southeast Asia, or India to North America. I am highly grateful to God Sri Karthikeya and Lok Mata Parvati that I had my peace of mind that they passed away during my presence in India. It is also another surprising fact that these unknown peacocks started accepting our feed without any hesitations. I distinctly remember that sister brought Smarty (my most affectionate pet) to her new house and I used to take her a little inside our jungle. I used to call Smarty by a shortened name as “Seemu” and then all these peacocks and peahens responded by repeating a mimic gesture as “Seemu”. Even after the Smarty’s demise on the Pongal day in 2011, they keep on calling me as “Seemu” during my presence at Chandigarh. During my journey in Dec, 2011 to Sri Lanka and other Southeast Asian countries, I went to the historically famous Sri Mavettapuram Skanda Temple at Jaffna peninsula. I visited this temple on 6th December during the Sri Kritika/ Thiru Karthigai festival day. This Lord Karthikeya Temple is famous for its miracles. During this Sri Krithiga festival there was a large crowd gathered inside to make the temple Prasad called “Mavillakku” – made out of Thinai powder, ghee and jaggery. The temple is now opened for the public after many decades of civil war. The Temple is also keeping a pair of peacock and peahen.
I was watching the old ruined structures and the unused old magnificently crafted Temple Rath. Oh! It has got wonderful wooden crafted statues and I was looking and appreciating them one by one. My brother’s son a young lad in his late teens teased me by saying that if you are a true devotee of Lord Murga, then these Temple peacock and peahen should call you by your famous cat call “ Seemu”. Then only I could observe that there were two big cages where the temple birds were kept. They were almost 200 yards away from me. All of a sudden the peahen whose photo is attaced above, stood up and stared at me and called me at the top her voice “Seemu”. Immediately the peacock which was few yards away also came at the edge and looked at me and called me “Seemu”. Not only was I, even my nephew was also speechless. She danced in front of me for some time and came close to me with a friendly gesture. I gave her and the peacock the Kritiga’s special Prasad called “Mavillaku”. Surprisingly she took it from hand very gently and had it. The Temple people were amazed to see her extremely friendly behavior towards me. Otherwise she is known for her proud and dominant behavior with everyone. From there I rang my sister at Chandigarh, as it was being a holiday she was at home. At the same time the peacocks around her house also started calling “Seemu Seemu.”Lord Karthikeya has immense love and care for his devotees and he is with them day and night.
Sri Kandaswamy Temple at Holy Nallur
The history and the Great Battle of Nallur:Nallur Skanda Swamy Temple is another life line for the Sri lankan Tamils. Sri Skanda of Maavai ( Atputha Skanda) , Sri Nallur Skanda ( Alankar Skanda) and Sri Karthirkama Skanda – Manavaala Skanda are three most important Puniya Stalams of Tamil Hindus of Sri Lanka. They are together function as Soul, Breath, and Body of the devotees. Another miraculous “self –origin” Sri Karthikeya temple is Selvasanithi’s Sri Murugan temple ( also known as Anna Skanda) in Jaffna Penninsula.
We were very lucky among the few who spent our childhood at the vicinity of Nallur’s Skanda Swamy temple. This temple has a wonderful history. The historically old and geo- politically important Lord Sri Karthikeya Swamy’s beautiful grand temple at Nallur – Jaffna Peninsula, Sri Lanka. It recounts the philosophy, history and importance of the Hindu settlers who migrated to the island of Sri Lanka almost 1800 years B.P (during middle and late Iron Age periods of India). The preservation of Hindu culture in Jaffna in a very sophisticated and well protected manner against various cultural and political invaders from Europe is an interesting factor. It also discussed the facts with historical documentations about the successful introduction of Hindu culture during the ancient maritime trade followed by frequent invasions across the Pak strait. This was done by the triple Sangam kings called Cheras, Cholas and Pandiyas. The wonderful combinations and successful co-existence of Hindu Ahamashastras embroiled with locally groomed Sambradhayas ( socio –cultural sequences) for the past many centuries by the people of Jaffna and the historical records about these episodes are interesting. The most interesting fact is that originally 9th Century A.D old Nallur Sri Karthikeya temple is committed by its unique and complicated Hindu cultural preservation, systematic services to the divine power and its pinpoint punctuality made itself as an outstanding Hindu temple of the world.
Original Nallur’s Sri Skanda Temple at Muthurai Chanthai was destroyed by the Portuguese and rebuilt as a Catholic Church- St.James Church. Later on the British colonizers converted it into an Anglican Church. Photograph at the right shows the Original Mulasthanam / location of Sri Garbagraha.Photos by R.P in Dec, 2011.
Modification of the Nallur Sri Skanda Swamy Kovil through time
During the late 19th and early 20th Centuries
Mid 20th Century (above) : Current appearance since Late 20th Century
Facelift occurred in 1970s
Latest addition: Southern Gopuram opened during the Mahautsav in August,2011
Rebuilding the temple for the fourth time:
The temple of Sri Skanda was again re-built in 1734 during the Dutch regime. But according to the records of Dutch from the Jaffna Secretariat, the present grand temple was built in 1793 and was referred as Sri Ambalavanar Kandappa Chetty’s garden. The permission for building this Hindu temple again was granted by the Dutch regime. Don Yuan Maapana Mudaliar was working as a Sheriff at the Civil Secretariat was one of the main person who behind in obtaining the permission.
According to Idhihas and Yarlpana Vaibaha Malai (Mala) (Jaffna’s Garland of Rituals), firstly it was built 948 A.D at a place called Poonagari Later on it was again built at Jaffna City’s Nallur in 1248 A.D at a location called Gurrugal Vallavu ( Chief Pandit’s land) –according to Jaffna Tamil Litreature. 3rd time it was rebuilt at a place known as Muthirai Chanthai (Market) during the period of 1450-1467 A.D. It was destroyed by the fanatic Catholic European Colonial ruler (Portuguese) and a Church was built at this place.
In 1734 A.D the Nallur Skanda temple was again re-built as a Madalaya near Yamunari Lake. The current structure of the Nallur Temple was finally built in 1749 A.D. The exact date of the temple structure still remains a mystery. According to poems of Kailash Mala (1939), the first structure of Sri Skanda temple at Nallur was built in 870A.D by Sri Bhuvanega Bahu.- a chief minister of a Sinhala king who was in charge for Jaffna. Muthuthambi (1933) reaffirmed the date as 870A.D and he was a Buddhist origin belonged to Tri Sanga Bodhi sector of Buddhism.
The entire thanks giving holy praise called Katiyam is recited by the Chief Pandit or Pradhana Gurrugal who conducts the annual Maha Utsav before the beginning of the utsav murthi procession.It was formulated by Sri Vishva Natha Shastri,.
“ Sriman Maha Rajathi Raja, Ahanda Poomadala Priya DiyatiSundra Victhrantha Kriti Sri Gajavalli Mahavalli Samatha Subramanya Badara Venda Janathiruda Sodaha, Maha Dana Surya Kula Vamsothpa Srisanga Bodhi Bhuvaneya Bhahu”
(reproduced by Kulasabanathan, 1971)
Holy powers of Devis, Sri Devyani and Sri Valli are gathered together along with Sri Subramanya Swamy. The one who bowed his head before the holy feet of these deities , king of kings, accompanied with all kinds of richness, and also having the control of big land mass , also having the fame spread to all four directions, he also considered as people’s leader, he has done many charity activities , born in Surya Vamsam or Shatriya and also he is holding the title of Sri Sanga Bodhi ..that is Sri Bhuvanega Bhahu. ( Sivaswamy, 1971)
According to John(1882), evidences from written records and inscriptions of the rocks and giant stones of Northern Province, the king called Singairayan, his chief minister named Bhuganaya Vaghu and a Kashi Tamil Kuluthgunga Brahmin called Sri Gangadhar Iyer reached Jaffna and captured that kingdom.Sri Bhuganega Bhagu built the Nallur Skanda Temple and Sali Vahana Sagaptham in 870 A.D- Yarlpana Vaibava Malai,1949.According to the ancient Hindu temple deeds and acts (1882) found at Jaffna Civil Secretariat, Nallur Sri Skanda temple was built at Gurrukal Vallavu ( Sri Maha Pandit’s land) in 884 by Sri Bhuganega Bhagu ( Kulasabanathan, 1971). Further it was again confirmed by Johnson Alexander, 1916/17 that the name of the first chief Pandit or Bradama Gurrukal was Supiah Iyer. There are contradictory statements and confusions about the origin of Sri Bhuhanega Bhagu.
According to John, 1882, in the year of 944.A.D, Bharathga Chola King conquered the Northern Province and killed the King of Singai Nagar and deputed one Bhuganega Bhahu to represent the Jaffna Kingdom ( Rajanayagam, 1933). According to another historical record, during the 10th Century A.D, the Persian King Dobark sent his deputy Kaysaph to conquer the Northern Ceylon. He defeated the Chola representative one Vahu. Historians feel that it might have been the same Bhuganega Bhagu.
Further Vaiba Mala (1949) states that one Asathi Bhagu who was attached to the Dikshigar of Sri Skanda temple of Mavettapuram would have been the same Bhuganega Bhagu.
Destruction of the temple: During the period of Sri Kanga Singa Rayan – king of Northern Ceylon, there was a Sinhalese king who governed Southern Sri Lanka whose Rajthani was at Kottai ( present day Colombo). He sent his adopted son and chief of the armed forces called Sampumal Kumaraya alias Chembaga Perumal with a grand battalion unit. Eventually, he destructed the entire Northern Ceylon by killing, looting and destructing the lives and the buildings. The beautiful Singai Nagar and Jaffna kingdom which were completely destroyed by their invasion. Sri Skanda Temple which was built by Sri Bhuganega Bhagu in 1248 A.D was also destructed in 1450. Later he regretted his action, Sampumal Kumaraya re-built the Jaffna City and Sri Skanda Temple ( Pathmanathan 1970) Since Sampumal Kumaraya’s father was a Tamil from Kerala and was an expert in martial arts and weapons.His expertise in various arts was appreciated by King Paragrama Bhagu who married him to a Royal lady from Sinhalese community. Since Sampumal Kumarya or Chembaga Perumal had half Dravidian eventually he was attracted to Tamil customs and Hindu religion too (Gna Prakash, 1938).
Second re-construction of Sri Skanda Temple
Sapumal Kumaraya alias Sri Sanga Bodhi Buganega Bhagu rebuilt this Temple during his period in between 1450 A.D to 1467 A .D at various location than its original site where the first Temple was built. He built this temple at a place close to the Royal Places and Bungalows. This place was known as Pandara Vallavu and later on it was known as Sangili Thoppu. It was again destroyed by the fanatic Catholic invaders from Portuguese during their invasion and they built a Church after destroying this Hindu temple. It was occupied as a Fort by a Portuguese Commander named Phillip Olivera before its destruction and rebuilding of the church. The ruined walls and lakes are still be seen. The temple statues and ancient written metal plates are displayed at Jaffna Museum.
After the end of 17 years of governance, in 1467 A.D Sri Sanga Bodhi Buganea Bhagu went back to Southern Ceylon after the demise of his foster father. Later on he killed Prince Vijay Bhagu ( Grand Son of King 6th Parakirama Bhagu) and took the Kottai Kingdom. At this point of time, Sri Kanaga singa Rayar and his two sons returned back to Jaffna Kingdom and captured it. His elder son Sri Singai Pararaja Skekaran became the King of Jaffna. He was the one who established the Jaffna Kingdom and the Nallur Skanda Temple in a grand manner in 1478.A.D
In the year of 1591 A.D the Portuguese conquered the Jaffna Kingdom after their third attempt.The fierce battle between Portuguese and Jaffna Tamils took place in between the Sri Veer Maha kali temple and the old Sri Skanda Temple.. During that battle the chief priest of the temple and other Hindu Brahmins also got killed. A highly respected Muslim Sadhu known as Sikandar was popular among the Hindu and Muslim people. He was also murdered by the Portuguese at the battle field. His Samadi is still found at the temple garden. Unlike other parts of the world, Nallur was a place where Muslims and Hindus lived together in harmony. The Arab origin Muslims came from South India particularly from Kayal Pattanam.They adopted Tamil as their mother tongue ( Vaibava Malai, 1949). According to the history, there was a mosque built at the western road of the current location of the Nallur Skanda temple( Muthuthambi Pillai, 1933). During the invasion of Portuguese led by Costhanthunu Prakansa, killed many South Indians and Muslims who fought along with the Jaffna Tamils (Gnaprakash, 1928). One of the Portuguese, Colonel named Androboorthad executed 800 South Indians and Muslims (Rajanayagam, 1933).On 2nd February, 1621, Sri Skanda Temple was completely destroyed by the invaders along with the foundation. In 1620, Phillip De Olivero – a Portuguese army commander again invaded Jaffna Penninsula and destroyed all Hindu Sivalayas and Buddhist monasteries. This was the last invasion by the Portugese. According to Quyros, 1930. This fanatic Catholic Christian played hell with Hindu devotees’ sentiments. His actions brought all ill feelings among the various sections of Hindus , Buddhists and Muslims. Thus, most of the Jaffna population started looking at the invaders as devils of the humanity and frequent revolutionary protests by the natives were common (Rajanayagam, 1933). When Sri Skanda temple was destroyed the Pandits /Priests and temple administrators ( Dharmhartas) took the deities and other important documents including the metallic yantras kept them in their water wells.
Before the destruction and desecration of the sanctum, the main guard of the Nallur temple known as Sangli took the copper plates containing the temple Vidhans and Mantras and ran to Batticoloa. The temple deities both Mulasthana Murthis ( Garbaggrahas) and Utsav Murthis were taken by the temple priests and hid them in the temple pond of Pootharayar Kovil. The fanatic Catholic regime started their physical abuse on Hindus – they were forced to wear cross like symbols. So instead of wearing the metallic or wooden small pendants of cross, the Hindus tied their turbans with a border of cross pattern.
Instead of public Hindu temples, they kept the religious symbols and pictures engraved on rocks and metals trees which are considered sacred such as Neem, and Banyan. Most of the Hindu houses in Northern Sri Lanka still have small temples built in their premises with tridents and Trishuls as the main deity. The trishul with dog vahan indicates the presence of Lord Bhairav or Sri Swaneshwar ( Swan in Sanskrit means Dog) .
According to a Catholic father named Baleaus Phillip, the Portuguese built a Catholic Church out of clay with coconut tree leaves as roof. In the year of 1658 A.D the Jaffna Kingdom was conquered by the Dutch or Hollanders. They were Protestant Christians and hated the Catholics of Jaffna. They were very busy in converting the Catholics into Protestants.They also modified or structurally altered Catholic Church structures into Protestant architecture. They were mild in religious practice and tolerance. They were friendly with the local population and permitted to practice the Hindu religion with limited liberties.( Rajanayagam, 1933). According to Johnson Alexander (1916) there was a Brahmin Pandit called Krihna Iyer, Supaiah Iyer was the main person behind in re-establishing a Mada- Alaya of Sri Skanda Swamy Kovil. He was the one who installed ( Prathikshai) the main weapon of Lord Karthik called “Vale” or “Spear” and created the Madalaya.
According to Hindu Ahamas, the basic Hindu temples structures and their religious discipline can be divided into three. They are Dev Aalya with Main Deity or Mulavar as Garbagraha, Thaanthori Mulavar – the main deity came on its own in the form of structures engraved on wood or stone , and the last one is called Mada Aalaya- a temple built upon or at the vicinity of Samadi(s) of Saint(s) – Johnson Alexander , 1916.
Rebuilding the temple for the fourth time:
The temple of Sri Skanda was again re-built in 1734 during the Dutch regime. But according to the records of Dutch from the Jaffna Secretariat, the present grand temple was built in 1793 and was referred as Sri Ambalavanar Kandappa Chetty’s garden. The permission for building this Hindu temple again was granted by the Dutch regime. Don Yuan Maapana Mudaliar was working as a Sheriff at the Civil Secretariat was one of the main persons in obtaining the permission.
Surprisingly, the Hollanders granted the permission to re-built the temple at its original location at Nallur where Sri Bhuvanega Bhagu built it many years back. There were two main reasons for that. Firstly they wanted that keeping the Hindu temple away from the Church locality. This will keep the Hindu devotees from reminding the atrocities created by the Catholic Portuguese regime and secondly the present location of the temple was occupied by the Muslim traders who were considered as arch enemies of the Dutch in business deeds. Therefore somewhat the Hindus can pursue the Muslims to go away from Nallur locality.
Many feel that Don Yuan Maapanar Mudaliar was a believer in Catholic sector of the Christianity but we defer their views as Europeans have a habit of changing the Eastern and Muslim names into typical biblical names for easy usage. Later on Raghunath Maapanar – the elder son of Don Yuan took in charge of temple management with the Chief Pandit Sri Krisha Iyer, Suppaih Iyer. Later on, the temple management was taken over by Sri Arumuga Maapanar Mudaliar and subsequently it was given to his great grandson called Sri Raghu Natha Maapana Mudaliar. After his period the elder son Sri Shanmuga Das Maapana Mudaliar took over it. Due to the sudden death of this trustee, the temple administration is being carried out by his younger brother, Sri Kumara Das Maapanar Mudaliar till date. The caste Mudaliar falls into the high class category of Jats or farmers group of Jaffna. Jats are economically, politically and socially stand number one among the Jaffna Tamils and caste wise they are next to Brahmins.They were formerly incorporated “Shatriyas”. According to Kulasabanathan, 1971, the sketches of Sri Raghunatha Maapana Mudaliar and his wife are painted on the maha Mandap wall towards the western direction. Since, Pt. Kirishna Iyer was the Chief Pandit, thus, only Maapana Mudaliar family got the honor of the inclusion their mane into Katyam during the Utsav period.
“Sriman Maha Rajathi Raja Ahanda Poomandala Rathiyathigentha Vishraatha Kirti Sri Gaja Valli Maha Valli Sameda Sri Subramanya Bathara Ventha Jana Thiruda Shivagore Diroth Bhawaha Ragunatha Maapana Mudaliar Samuga “
There are 16 versions of Katyam recited during the Maha Utsav- both morning and evening sessions.
The British captured the entire Sri Lanka during the year of 1798 A.D and they were very liberal in granting permission to the public to practice their various faiths. During their period numerous broken temples were re-built. Unfortunate incident of conflict related to the temple administration between the trustee Sri Raghu Natha Mudaliar and Sri Supiah Iyer took place during that time. Eventually in 1851, the entire temple administration was given to Maapanar Mudaliar family.
A magnificent photograph of Lord Sri Karthikeya, Goddesses Sri Valli & Sri Devyani on Sri Kailash Vahan- Mount Kailash of the mighty Himalayas was carried by Demon King of ancient Lanka cum Lord Shiva’s Pujari Sri Ravaneshwar. Photograph taken byR.P during the Maha Brahmotsav of Nallur Skanda Temple in 2010.
Murugan shlokas and mantras for prayer:
(1) om jaya jaya mahāvīra bhagavān śrī skanda namo namaḥ
Aum! Victory, Victory (to Thee)! Salutations to the Great Hero, Lord Skanda.
(2) muruga muruga veḻ veḻ muruga, muruga muruga vetri veḻ muruga
This is a popular shloka in the Tamil language, it glorifies Lord Murugan and His Vel (a.k.a. shula, meaning ‘lance’), which represents His Shakti. Vetri means victory.
(3) jñāna śaktidhara skanda valli kalyāṇasundara |
devasenā manaḥ kānta kārtikeya namo’stute ||
om subramaṇyāya namaḥ ||
Unto Skanda, who holds the power of spiritual knowledge,
The Beloved of Valli and Enchanter of the mind of Devasena,
Praiseful salutations to Thee, O Kartikeya.
Aum! Salutations to Subramanya.
(4) mayūravāhanaṁ vīraṁ tārakāsura mardanam |
vande ṣaḍānanaṁ devaṁ kārtikeya śivātmajam ||
To the brave One, whose mount is the peacock,
That Destroyer of the demon Tarakasura,
Obeisance to Lord Shadanana, born of Shiva’s own Self.
Skanda Gayatri Mantra(s):
There are two Skanda Gayatris, the only difference between them is the name by which Murugan is referred to – Shanmukha or Skanda.
tatpuruṣāya vidmahe mahāsenāya dhīmahi |
tanno shanmukha pracodayāt ||
~ Mahanarayana Upanishad I.26
~ Taittiriya Aranyaka X.1.6
May we know that Divine Person,
And meditate upon Mahasena;
May Shanmukha impel us.
tatpuruṣāya vidmahe mahāsenāya dhīmahi |
tanno skanda pracodayāt ||
May we know that Divine Person,
And meditate upon Mahasena.
May Skanda impel us.
Aum Śaravaṇa Bhavaya Namaḥ.
References: All references are therein the book written by Dr.K.Gunarasa – The Jaffna Dynasty and Yarlpana Vaibava Maalai by Mayil Vagana Pulavar 1736 A.D translated by C.Brito 1879.
Our FIRST GOD : LORD SRI NATRAJ of Thellai Chidambaram
Kunnitha Puruvamum; Kowai Chevayil Kumel Sirupum; Pawalam Pon Meniyil Paal Venoorum; Panitha Jadaiyum; koditha edaiyum;…..Dewaram ( Holy Garland)