Tirukkovil on the Eastern coast of Batticaloa (Madakalpuva)
Posted on May 16th, 2013

by Gam Vaesiya, Ontario, Canada

I would appreciate an opportunity to comment on the town named `Tirukkovil’  situated on the Eastern coast of Sri Lanka about sixty kilometers south of Madakalapuva (Batticaloa), that Mr. .Selvarajan Rasiah had discussed in the Daily News, 16th of May, 2013.

The `Citira Velayuta Cuvami Kovil’ has been located here at least since the 13th century and commented upon by various writers including  the Portuguese historian de Queyroz. The temple has been used by Vedda, Hindu and Buddhist people. The Hindu kovil is referred to as  “tricoli” by de Queyroz probably because it had three Gopurams. The old Skanda (Murugan) temple associated with the Buddhist-temple complex was destroyed by the Portuguese General Jeronimo de Azevedo who killed  the Buddhist “ganinanses’ of the temple. It is also marked in the Dutch map from 1695  (http://dh-web.org/slpol/maps/Beeldbank-archivs-map.jpg) available at  the Beeldbank National Archives, the Netherlands. At that time this  was a Sinhala settlement -probabaly Sirikovila or Thirukovila. The Buddhism practiced by the  people included, as is the case today, significant Hindu elements.

The 3rd century BCE Greek conqueror Alexander the Great (or `Iskander’ in Persion and `Skanda’ in Sanskrit) has always had a strong presence here, closely linked to legends about Ravana.  Mr. Selvarajan Rasiah says that “According to one myth, King Ravana is said to have worshipped here on his way to Koneswaram in Trincomalee and it was he who originally erected a Civan temple at this site”. Mr. Rasiah has has correctly noted this to be a myth.  Most stories involving Ravana cannot be given an empirical foundation. Furthermore, if we take the  epoch of the Ramayana which mentions the Rama-Ravana story, no hard evidence exists for a Kovil at Gokanna (modern Trincomalee).

The place-name “Kanda-panan thuari’ (Kanta-panan Turai)  has, in our view,  been mis- interpreted as  the port (`thurai’) or `port of   Skanda’s weapon’ –  allegedly Skanda’s arrow.   Mr. Rasiah has also followed that discussion.  However, the name “the port of Skanda’s arrow” does not make much sense, and there is no legend about such an arrow locally or in other folk lore.  In any case the word `panan’ cannot be interpreted as `arrow’ in old Tamil (as may also be checked from the Madras Tamil lexicon or the Cologne old-Tamil dictionary). Most frequently, `panan’ in Tamil is attributed to mean  `palmyrah’, while in old Tamil it may also have been assigned to castes of musicians or tailors, but  not to an arrow. Thus there is no etymological or historical basis for the claim that `Kanta-panan Turai’ means `port of Skandha’s arrow’ in Tamil.

Noting that the `p’ and `v’ sounds easily interchange in place-names, the place name is more likely to have arisen from from the “Kanda-vanan thara”, where`vana’ is `forest’ in old Sinhala (Elu)  as well as modern Sinhala . Thus “Kanda-vanan thara” is best understood as a Sinhala place name which refers to the `portal to Skanda’s forest’.

While the apotheosis of Alexander the Great to the deity `Skanda’ probably dates to pre-Christian times, the Hindu/Pandyan kovil is believed to be  from the 13th century. Hindu, Buddhist and Veddha people patronized the temple since ancient times, as this is a stopping point for the `Paadayaathra’  pilgrims going  to and from Katharagama (Kathirkamam).

Finally, we should not forget that the massacres of some 600 police officers were supposed to have been carried out around Sirikovila (Thirkkovil), as reported in, say, the Globe and Mail, Toronto, June 15, 1990. Piyaratne Ranaweera of the Kalmunai (Galmunna) police post  escaped from the group and witnessed the LTTE re-negation of Balasingham’s promise to President Premadasa.

Further details about other place names in the East coast and the North may be found at the

website http://dh-web.org/place.names.

 

6 Responses to “Tirukkovil on the Eastern coast of Batticaloa (Madakalpuva)”

  1. kavdayako Says:

    It is extremely fortunate that there are some people like Gamvaesiya who keep an eye on articles written with a specific ethnic slant, often ignoring the old heritage that existed in the Ruhuna and the Digamadull area long before Cholas and Pandyans came to Sr Lanka. The Buddhist temple complex of Sirirkovila is not even mentioned in the Daily News article. I hope the author sends this to the Daily news where it should appear as a resonse to the Rasiah article. There should be information plaques at these sites, in the town etc., evoking the history of these places, for example at the entrance to the city (if the Hindu swamy doesn’t allow the sinhalese t put up this type of information near the Kovil), so that tourists and vistors will know the real truth.

    We also need archeological excavations at these sites.

    This type of article, and the dissemination of this information is absolutely necessary if we are to counter the “Exclusive Tamil Homeland Myth” that the LTTE and its supporters have been spreading.

  2. herman Says:

    Gam Vaesiya, are there any specific references to be found that the Greek conqueror Alexander the Great did indeed visit SL ? If so, please do kindly provide such references.

  3. Lorenzo Says:

    A well written article. Thank you.

    It is better had the writer used his correct name Chandre Dharmawardena instead of Gam Vaesiya, etc. Then it carries more weight and can be QUOTED in scientific articles. Selvarajan Rasiah to his credit used his correct name which can be QUOTED anywhere. I don’t want to create a conflict but think about it.

    Anyway good that TE theorists are NOT allowed to get away with BS.

  4. Fran Diaz Says:

    Thanks to Gam Vaesiya for pointing out some home truths.

    GoSL ought to have Laws in place to PREVENT name change of AREAS, ROADS, etc. unless done by the Parliament itself. Sri Lanka is very lax in formulating proper Laws to protect herself and also IMPLEMENTING these Laws.

    Frankly, we think all names of areas and roads that have been changed in a surreptitious manner should be changed to the original and why this has been done widely published in all media, in all languages used here.

    Sri Lanka has yet to adapt herself completely to the Democratic way of governance to protect the country and the People here.

  5. Senevirath Says:

    READ PROF WIMALA WIJAYASOORIYA”S BOOKS TO SEE HOW THE SINHALA NAMES WERE CHANGED TO TAMIL NAMES

    PROVINCIAL COUNCILS EVEN WITHOUT POLICE AND LAND POWERS CAN CHANGE THE HISTORY

    IT IS A SHAME THAT SINHALA MAJORITY POLITICIANS ARE NOT BOTHERED ABOUT OTHERS DISTORTING SINHALA . HISTORY.
    IF MAHINDA HAS NO BACK BONE TO ABOLISH THESAVALAMAI WHY CANT HE RESTART TEACHING ABOUT DUTU GEMUNU….. ANAGARIKA DHARMAPALA ….ETC ETC. WE CAN UNDERSTAND WHY CHANDRIKAAND UNP DIDNT LIKE THOSE CHARACTERS. BUT WHY THIS MAN MAHINDA?

  6. Fran Diaz Says:

    Re: Prov.Councils powers : This is the drawback – our giant neighbor and her bothersome sub-state Tamil Nadu ….

    “INDIA ASKS SRI LANKA NOT TO TAKE ANY STEP REGARDING PROVINCIAL POWERS May 17, 2013 04:33 pm, DAILY MIRROR
    Concerned over reports of Sri Lankan government considering removal of land and police powers from the provinces prior to the elections in the Northern Province, India today asked it not to take any step against their own commitments relating to the 13th Amendment.

    India’s External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid telephoned his Sri Lankan counterpart G L Peiris and also raised the issue of 26 Indian fishermen who are in detention in his country while seeking their early release.

    According to official sources, the conversation also focused on the elections that are to be held in the Northern Province with Khurshid expressing his concerns regarding media reports referring to some consideration being given to removal of land and police powers from the provinces prior to the polls.

    “In this context, he urged the Sri Lankan Government not to take any step in the light of its own commitments relating to the 13th Amendment and their expressed intention to build upon it,” the sources said.

    According to reports, a key nationalist ally of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa is planning legislative action for the abolition of the country’s provincial councils while opposing local elections in the Tamil-dominated north.

    Udaya Gammanpila, the deputy secretary of JHU, said his party’s policy making central committee last night decided to move parliament within the next two weeks to abolish the thirteenth amendment (13A) to the Sri Lankan constitution.

    “We shall move parliament within the next two weeks to abolish the thirteenth amendment,” Gammanpila said.

    The 13A and the provincial councils entered Sri Lanka’s statutes in 1987 as part of the India-Sri Lanka Peace Accord which envisaged devolution of powers to the island’s provinces in an effort to end the civil war there involving LTTE and government forces. – PTI”

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