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Koneswaram Temple

Dating back to more than 3000 years, considered as one of the more historically significant Hindu temples in the country, feeling the scourge of colonialism, restored and lavishly redecorated to resemble its former glory, the Koneswaram Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Located in Fort Frederick, it is an exemplary monument that personifies the cultural and religious significance that Sri Lanka is famed for. In other words, the sacred temple is a treasure trove of unique culture and heritage of the country, making it an important destination to visit, should you be journeying across the Paradise Island of Sri Lanka.

Best Known For

  • The Koneswaram Temple is famed for its elaborate history and its close connection to the Hindu religion in Sri Lanka, making it one of the Pancha Ishwarams (one of the five abodes of Shiva), thus being an important pilgrimage site for many Hindus on the island.
  • The sacred temple is also known for being one of the few land based platforms in Sri Lanka that enables an individual to view the exquisite marine wildlife, especially the Blue Whale, making it perfect for the nature lover too.

Interesting Facts

  • The Koneswaram Temple is an ancient temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, believed to have its beginnings in 400 BC, although its birth still remains to be vague due to conflicting records of the temple.
  • Ever since the temple’s construction, the temple has come under the administration of many kingdoms, including the ancient Anuradhapura Kingdom, the Chola Empire, the Pandyan Kingdom and the Jaffna Kingdom until its history rapidly pivots away to one of mayhem and destruction.
  • It was during the 17th Century colonising period of the Portuguese that the original Koneswaram Temple, known as the ‘Temple of a Thousand Pillars’ was taken down to make way for the construction of Fort Frederick, in order to control and protect the Trincomalee Harbour from other European empires.
  • Many historians claim that the destruction and looting of the temple is the biggest ever witnessed in the whole of Asia, as gold, pearls, precious stones and silks collected for more than a millennium was robbed in a few hours.
  • The 18th and 20th Century, however, saw the slow reconstruction as the colonial powers, namely the Dutch and the British thereafter, allowed for freedom of religion in the country, making many Hindu devotees take the journey to where the temple stood and perform various rituals.
  • It was during the mid-20th Century that many of the artifacts that once decorated the temple was discovered underground, while digging for a water well.
  • Many gold and bronze statues of Lord Shiva, Goddess Parvati and Lord Ganesh were unearthed dating back to various eras, leading many to confirm that many of the monuments within the original temple were hidden by priests just before it was destroyed.
  • It was during the year of 1963 that the sacred Hindu temple was rebuilt to what it is now and it is adorned with a colossal statue of Lord Shiva, due to the Koneswaram Temple being a designated ‘Pancha Ishawaram’ (one of the five abodes of Shiva).
  • The present Koneswaram Temple has been restored to a great extent, however, it lacks many of the features it was famed for, such as the Gopuram (ornate tower) and many interior decorations.
  • There have been numerous archaeological projects that have contributed to restoring the current temple to reflect the original one, including some under water projects too, near the Swami Rock.
  • The temple plays host to, many religious festivals too, especially the ‘Ther Chariot Festival’ that lasts for 20 days in the month of April, the month of the Tamil New Year.
  • The sacred temple is an exemplary monument that talks of Sri Lanka’s unique cultural and religious significance in all its glory, along with showcasing the defiant nature of Sri Lankan culture.

Times, Seasons and Tips

  • The sacred Hindu temple can be visited throughout the year and does not have a particular season for visits.
  • Although there is no entrance fee, giving a small donation is considered customary when entering the temple.
  • Keep in mind that this is a place of worship, therefore it is imperative that you come clad accordingly and please do not behave disrespectfully within the temple premises.
  • During the months from February to November, the Swami Rock of the temple doubles up as a platform to witness the majesty of the largest mammal on earth, the Blue Whale. Therefore, making it quite the spot for the nature lover too.
  • Since it is also a site of pilgrimage to many Hindus, please give due respect to the various rituals when visiting, with responsible non-distracting photography.

In conclusion, the Koneswaram Temple is just one of those places of worship that really cannot be entirely described in words. It has to be seen with one’s own eyes to in order to believe that such a history exists within its walls.

Title image by: Tharindu Karunarathne The information displayed is provided by Koneswaram Temple
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